The Department of Conservation campsite at the Lake Tarawera Outlet has emerged as the winner of our contest to find New Zealand's best secret camping spot.
One of the reasons the site isn't widely known is that access is primarily through private forestry roads which close overnight or when the fire risk is high. But it is a remarkable place. The Tarawera River flows out of the lake right beside the campsite and shortly afterwards disappears into a hole in the ground only to reappear some distance away as a waterfall pouring out 35m up a cliff. There is great fishing, tramping, swimming, boating, attractive bush and a hot-water beach is not far away.
The site has 30 campsites and DoC provides basic facilities - water, toilets, picnic tables, rubbish bins - plus a boat ramp, jetty and shelter for cooking. The fees are $7 an adult and $2 a child per night. In addition, you need a $5 permit from the Kawerau Visitor Centre to use the forestry roads. See the DoC website for information about the campsite.
Mind you, despite being a secret spot, several people nominated it, so we put them into a draw and the winner - who will receive $3000 worth of camping gear from outdoor company Kathmandu - was Serene Tay of Hamilton.
Serene will receive a package including a Retreat 270 tent ($1099), Roamer double airbed ($119), Maison moon chair ($139), Cabana recliner chair ($159), Maison camp kitchen ($259), camp lantern LED 300 ($139), four-person cooler box and picnic set ($159), Cabana resin table ($139), Cadec Safari Chef barbecue ($199), camp kitchen set ($179) and two Globe sleeping bags ($249 each).
She knows the place well, having spent "at least every second weekend" there under the watchful eye of her elder brother when she was young. "It's magical, peaceful and simply sublime."
There were hundreds of entries suggesting great camping spots - so here are a few more:
Otaki Forks Regional Park - The Johnson Family of Manurewa
Lake Aniwhenua, Galatea - Annette Doig of Mangakino
Opoutere Beach near Whangamata - Jeni Hawker of Hamilton
Matai Bay, Karikari Peninsula - Naomi Peters of Henderson
Ruatiti Domain near Raetihi - Mark Grey of Taumarunui
Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf - Suzanne Bourke of St Heliers
Uretiti Beach, Northland - Keith and Leslie Whitehead of Ruakaka
Waikawau Bay, Coromandel Peninsula - Lisa Zegwaard of Hamilton
Lottin Pt, East Cape - Jo Gasteen
Fantail Bay Reserve, Coromandel Peninsula - Derek Cameron of Matamata
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