Where to go tramping in New Zealand this Easter

Tararua Forest Park.
Tararua Forest Park. Photo credit: Getty Images

With the long weekend coming up, outdoors author, editor and photographer, Shaun Barnett, is encouraging people to get out tramping this Easter, but be mindful of preparation.

Barnett told Afternoons one is his favourite tracks was the Tararua Forest Park, which straddles the divide between Wellington and the Wairarapa, in the Holdsworth area.

"There's just so much you can do there," he said. "There really is everything from overnight trips to roading, camping to short walks to longer walks, so it's a really special area.

"It's very accessible about half an hour from Masterton and a couple of hours from Wellington or Palmerston North.

"You can drive into the forest park and there's a lovely big camping area there, very popular, and also a large Holdsworth Lodge, which needs to be booked well ahead."

The lodge houses about 20 people and he said there were some excellent treks on offer.

"It's a lovely river through beech forest and when you head up into the valley there about 10 or 15 minutes up is a place called Donnelly Flat and that's also a camping area.

"So if you don't want the sort of roading camping, big tents. If you want to take a little tent and maybe introduced your children to a camping experience without having to carry a little bit of gear, but you don't want to go too far, this is really the place to go."

He said, within 10 or 15 minutes trampers would arrive at nice, open grassy places where they can pitch the tent, surrounded by forest and bird life.

"If you want to go further, the is the trek up to Mount Holdsworth, one of the more significant summits in the Tararua Range and there's a very good track that climbs up to Powell hut, set right on the bush line. And then the summit of Mount Holdsworth is about an hour on from there."

For those really keen, fit walkers you can continue on over the top to Jumbo hut up and then come back down to the valley on round trip, which takes about eight hours. Or you can stay at the hut, which needs to be booked in advance.

He warned due to it being Easter the chances were those huts were already booked out. 

It is a popular area, with lots of visitors in Summer but the area is very big, so it's never congested, he added.

"There's a real network of tracks there so you can do all sorts of things.

Getting to Powell hut involved a gradual steady climbed and demanded a medium level of fitness, whereas the Jumbo hut track was more a "gut-buster", he said.

South Island option

In the South Island, Arthur's Pass offered good tracking opportunities, he said.

"What's wonderful about it is there's a road and railway going right through the National Park. There's a little village there, there's plenty of accommodation - there's camping at Conduct Corner and there's a little B&B and you can hire batches. There's a hostel there. There's the Bealey Pub, which you can stay at and does good meals.

"So you can stay in the village and then pick and choose which walks you want to do."

He said the Devil's Punchbowl was one area that attracted a lot of people, which involved a little bit of climbing up some stairs.

"It's worth it to get up there and see these magnificent falls, which have a great name."

Barnett advised people to check the weather before venturing out and also be mindful of how weather can change this time of year.

"Easter's you know is this transition time between Summer and Winter, and you can get beautiful weather or it can be really bad. And we've had a cold snap just before, So I think when you're planning your trip for Easter, you need to think it could be cold and be prepared."

He said the mountain Safety Council offered an excellent app called Plan My Walk, which had a tonne of information on treks, safety and resource links.

The Department of Conservation website has similar information. Planning ahead is essential.

"When I was a teenager in my early 20s, just starting out, we just always had one plan and we went no matter what the weather was like. That resulted in some, some miserable experiences and occasionally, some bad experiences," he said.

"Now hopefully having matured a bit and maybe got a little wiser I have an A B and C plan. And my A plan is dependent on good weather. The B plan is something that doesn't require river crossings, or maybe it's in the bush, it's a bit more sheltered. My plan C is stay at home."

Ensuring you are fit enough to do a tramp carrying gear is beneficial. The lightest pair of shoes or boots you can get away with was another good idea, he said.

He said personal locator beacons were an amazing tool and every one should try and take one, he said.

"They're quite expensive to buy, but you can hire them quite cheaply, and they have saved so many lives. And also, I think they've taken a lot of the search out of search and rescue, which is a really important consideration for the people that are going to have to come looking for you if you go missing or you get injured."

Another significant consideration this time of year is the roar.

"There's a lot of hunters out there, its their favourite time of year because the deer are roaring," he said.

"I tend to not go into the Kaweka or Kaimanawa Rangers in the central North Island during the roar... that's one arrow probably think twice about going to around Easter time."