In New Zealand, a Family Getaway usually means Camping, and most camping sites are either at a beach or in the wilderness of the bush. Especially during the summer months, many families spend their weekends and holidays getting away from the rush of modern life and finding themselves a scenic location back in the arms of Nature. Whether you decide to locate in a single place and make the most of everything available there, or whether you travel through different areas, camping at night, there are many places in the country where getaways can be a wealth of fun.
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The best part of a camping holiday is the price. Pack your tent and sleeping bags, a bit of food and some drinks, a few toys and equipment, and you are free to find the best location for a truly fun time. The kids may weep for their electronic games and internet, but with an adventurous spirit, they will soon be getting back to the mentality of the early pioneers and be sitting over a weed fire toasting marshmallows or snacking on the freshest fish ever- straight from the hook to the cooker. Depending upon your location and personal desires, you may decide to head to the coast or the hills. The beauty of the bush and the native fauna cannot be denied, but often the promise of the sea lures visitors to the beaches that are so popular in our country.
Funnily enough, being an Island nation, New Zealand is surrounded by beaches. With about 15,000 km of coastline, there is no shortage of spots to pitch a tent. Whether you like a few neighbours or you prefer an isolated location far from the rest of humanity, you are sure to find a great site. If a tent is too basic for you, many caravan parks offer cabins and tourist units for a more luxurious and comfortable stay.
Beaches are a great place for swimming and water sports. Fishing is always a favourite activity, which kids just love, while smaller kids will enjoy collecting shells and stones and playing in rock pools. Once you include water sports and activities, there are endless things to keep everyone entertained. Canoes and kayaks, paddleboards and boats provide fun for the older kids but do be safety conscious and aware that a number of people drown every year.
For low-cost entertainment, consider a sandcastle competition for the smaller kids and sand sculpting for the more capable, or have a treasure hunt to encourage fossicking along the seashore. Try looking for shellfish for dinner or watching the fish in a pool or off the wharf or rocks.
Green, Clean and Shady
If you opt for finding a spot by a river under the shade of the native trees, you will totally amazed by the birds that wake you in the early dawn with their song. And the best thing of all about the New Zealand bush is the total lack of nasty or venomous native fauna. Sure, the Weta looks nasty, and his bite probably is unpleasant, but it won’t kill you. The most dangerous thing you are likely to find is a bee (should you be allergic to beestings) or sand-flies and mosquitos, which are more accurately termed a nuisance. The only native spider that may harm you is extremely rare, the Katipo, and you are unlikely to meet one.
Fun activities in the bush for kids include treks to interesting spots, swimming in the creeks, and even climbing trees. Try catching an eel or jumping off a rope swing into the water pool below. (Check the depth of the water first). Learn to identify the native plants of the forest and try and see and photograph some of New Zealand’s unique birds. Find lizards and frogs or one of the countries 57 native freshwater fish. Then at the end of the day, enjoy your meal cooked over an open fire or in a hangi oven.
Under the Freedom of Camping Act 2011, the majority of public land may be camped on at no charge. This is termed Wild or Freedom Camping. However, some local governments have placed restrictions on areas available for free camping, mainly due to the irresponsibility of campers in the past. Always confirm the legality of camping in the location you select if you are not in a Camp, whether a private Camp or a DOC campsite or you may be faced with a fine. And by treating the countryside with respect and leaving it as you found it, you are making it more likely that campers in the future will be welcome to stay as well. However, if you find a great Wild Camping site, enjoy the opportunity to have a totally fun time for next to nothing!
Remember if you are going onto private land, always ask permission from the landowner, and always leave things as you found them. Do not litter, and ensure your fires are safe while burning and completely extinguished when you leave. If going through animals, try to disturb them as little as possible and treat them with respect.
While New Zealand has only one native nasty spider, two recent accidental imports from Australia (Red Back and White-Tailed Spiders) are best avoided if possible as their bites can cause problems.
Camping in the New Zealand Bush FAQs- http://www.cab.org.nz/vat/rcc/rec/Pages/GoingBush.aspx
Info on Camping with DOC (Department of Conservation, NZ)- https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/camping/
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