Abel Tasman National Park covers 22,541 ha of bush country along the shores of Tasman Bay in Nelson, including offshore islands and hundreds of bays and beaches along the broken coastline. The smallest of the country's 13 national parks, it was opened in December 1942, the 300th anniversary of the visit to Tasman Bay of Dutch explorer, Abel Janzoon Tasman, the first European to visit NZ. Botanically the park is of special interest because its bush is a blend of the natural cover of both the North and South Islands, a rare if not unique phenomenon.

Kiwimate's comments:

A park for people of all ages, with coastal walking and tramping, fishing, sailing, sea kayaking, (an activity I recommend) and inland tracks and caves (experienced cavers only). The coast track, an easy walk which takes 3-5 days to complete offers spectactular scenery both forest and shoreline. There are excellent camping sites secluded away in the bush or if you prefer, cabins with fresh water, cooking facilities and bunks. The best time to visit is during the summer months November- March.


Arthurs Pass National Park over the main divide of the Southern Alps is named after Arthur Dudley Dobson who heard of the existence of the mountain pass from a Maori chief, Tarapuhi. Dobson and his brothers, George and Edward, became the first Europeans to cross it in 1864. The township of Arthurs Pass is 5 km south of the pass, virtually on the border of Canterbury and Westland. Dobson (then Sir Arthur) wrote later that the gold rush on the West Coast hastened interest in a pass through from Canterbury and by 1866 the highway was built, by more than a thousand men.

Arthurs Pass National Park, 99,270 ha, established in 1929, is a beautiful wilderness area, sharing a common boundary with Westland National Park, established in 1960 over 117,547 ha. Between them the two parks contain a number of spectacular Southern Alps peaks, the Tasman, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and large areas of luxuriant rain forest.

Kiwimate's comments:

In the heart of the Southern Alps, the first time I visited I was overcome by the beauty of the towering peaks surrounding the area. This is very similar to the Mountain passes found in the Swiss Alps. Tramping, camping, skiing and hunting are all popular activities. This area is the home of the Native Bird the Kea which is a mountain parrot . This bird has a reputation of being very mischievious and because of it's powerful beak has been known to pull the rubbers out of car windows and pick the tires to pieces. I once left my raincoat lying against a cage which contained a kea, within five minutes the rascal had pulled my coat into the cage and totally ripped it to shreds.


Mount Taranaki, or Egmont National Park (2,518 m) is the mountain which in superb symmetrical isolation dominates the landscape of the province of Taranaki. Its near perfect conical shape is broken by one outcrop, a secondary cone called Fanthams Peak, to the south. The Maori name, Taranaki, means 'barren mountain'. 

One of the most famous of all Maori legends tells how Egmont was banished from the Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe cluster in the central North Island after a fight for the affection of beautiful Mt Pihanga. 

The mountain was named Egmont by James Cook, when he first sighted it in January 1770, after the second Earl of Egmont, a former First Lord of the Admiralty. It has since had the Maori name, Taranaki, reinstated as an option. The first Europeans to reach the summit were German naturalist Ernst Dieffenbach and a whaler James Heberley.

Cape Egmont is the most westerly point on the Taranaki coastline, originally named 'Cabo Pieter Boreels' by Abel Tasman who spotted the cape in December 1642. Egmont Village, near Inglewood, and Egmont Road, a railway station north-east of New Plymouth, have also taken the name.

Kiwimate's comments: 

Egmont National Park, constituted in 1900, covers 33,543 ha. It is shaped like a large circle centred on the summit and extending to a point 9 km down the mountain at an altitude of 360 m. There are camping facilities and cabins for climbers, less ambitious trampers and walkers, and one of the main attractions is the Dawson Falls, 900 m up the south-eastern side of the mountain. 

There is an excellent lodge situated near Dawson falls (Konnini Lodge) access to which can be obtained from the Department of Conservation. From this lodge there are numerous short tramps one of which is to the "Goblin Forest" so called because of the deformaties of the trees. This place seems somehow to have a feeling of magic to it. Well worth a visit!

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland is the name for the south-western region of the South Island, most of which is covered by the Fiordland National Park. It is the largest national park in NZ (1,251,924 ha) and one of the largest in the world. It was established as 'Sounds National Park' in 1952 and given its present name in 1955.

The spectacular fiords along the coast of this corner of the South Island are awesomely beautiful and have been written about by writers from many parts of the world, especially Milford Sound with its spectacular Mitre Peak. The region is rugged and isolated but the Homer Tunnel, opened in 1953, gives road access from the Upper Hollyford Valley through to Milford Sound. 

The park includes Lake Manapouri, Lake Te Anau, Sutherland Falls and the Milford Track (once described by writer, Blanche Baughan, as 'the finest walk in the world'). Certain areas within the park contain indigenous flora and fauna of such significance that access is by permit only. Other areas have been classified as 'wilderness' (access by foot only), 'natural environment' (to remain predominantly as they are but with bridges and huts available) and 'facilities areas' (where controlled development is allowed). There are tourist hotels at Manapouri, Te Anau and Milford Sound, and other accommodation facilities, from motels to huts to camping sites, at many places through the park.

Kiwimate's comments: 

This park is situated in the remotest part of New Zealand, much of which is yet to be explored. Rumour has it that if any dinosaurs still live in New Zealand this is the place they will be. The untouched native rain forest would make a good setting for a Jurrasic Park sequel! Who needs to explore outer space to find a place where "no man has gone before!"


Kahurangi National Park, the newest of the national parks, gazetted during 1995, and the second largest (to Fiordland) at more than 400,000 ha, has absorbed the North-West Nelson Forest Park and other tracts of land in the region. It is historically rich with archeological evidence of Maori habitation at a number of sites - one at the Heaphy River mouth dated as early as 1380. Maori used the coastline to travel between Golden Bay and the West Coast, often in search of greenstone (pounamu). Later, Europeans sought seals, timber and flax and mined gold and coal in the area. It contains a complex combination of rock types, more than half of the country's native plant species (including 19 regarded as 'threatened' and 29 known as rare), and about 100 native bird species (including threatened spotted kiwi, South Island kaka, kereru, blue duck and rock wren). The country's only two native mammals, the long-tailed and short-tailed bats, have been recorded in the area, although the short-tailed bat has not been seen for some years. Native spiders and insects abound and 12 native fish species have been identified, including some which are found nowhere else. The park has 570 km of walking tracks. The Karamea River that runs through it is a favourite for canoeists. Recreational hunters stalk the many deer and goats.

Kiwimate's comments: 

This park, because it covers an area from the coast to the alpine regions gives trampers the opportunity to view a variety of landscapes. Because it is situated on the west side of the South Island heavy rainfall is experienced during all seasons the best time to visit is between November to January.


Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring is a pyramid-like peak in the southern region of the Southern Alps, on the border of Otago and Westland, about 30 km west of Lake Wanaka. It has challenged expert mountaineers because of its similarity to the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. At 3,036 m, it is the highest peak in NZ outside Mt Cook National Park. 

The mountain is composed entirely of hard schist rocks. These rocks were originally laid down as muds and sands on the sea floor. Between 170 and 120 million years ago, earth movements associated with the beginnings of the opening-up of the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean, squeezed and buckled the old sea floor sediments and pushed them deep into the earth's crust where they were exposed to high temperatures and pressures. The beds of sand and mud, on being exposed, underwent re-crystallisation and re-constitution to form the metamorphic rock called schist. Earth movements, beginning about 12 million years ago, raised these rocks again to various heights above sea level, and since then erosion has carved the land surface into its present shape. In the case of Mt Aspiring, however, the carving has been largely the work of glaciers, during the last two million years. Even now Aspiring is surrounded by active glaciers.

Kiwimate's comments: 

This is a truely remote and spectacular alpine wilderness, it includes the poular walking tracks of: Routeburn, Rees Dart, West Matukiyuki and the spectacular Gillespie Pass. This area has excellent, hunting and fishing locations.


Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook, within Mt Cook National Park, Mackenzie County, in South Canterbury, is NZ's highest mountain. The highest of three peaks on the main ridge of the mountain is 3,753 m high. On 14 December 1991 10.5 m was lost off the top of this peak due to the failure of the underlying bedrock of the mountain causing a rock slide with an accompanying avalanche of snow and ice. 

The mountain ridge runs from the Hooker Glacier on the west side to the Tasman Glacier on the east and forms a section of the South Island's Main Divide. The peaks are seen more clearly from the western side, but a tourist service provided by the Mount Cook Group of companies lands ski planes on the Tasman Glacier to provide a dramatic view of the bulk of the mountain.

Mt Cook was first climbed on Christmas Day, 1894, by George Graham of Waimate, and Thomas C Fyfe and Jack M Clarke, Hermitage guides, approaching from the Hooker Glacier. There are a number of climbing routes but the most popular is up the north-east face; a route from the south gives climbers a chance to traverse the three peaks.

The mountain was named after James Cook by Captain J L Stokes, commander of the survey ship, Acheron. The Maori call Mt Cook 'Aorangi', meaning 'sky cloud' but usually translated as 'cloud piercer'. The name is probably more correctly spelt and pronounced 'Aoraki' in accordance with the South Island Maori dialect. In Maori mythology, the mountain is the greatest of the sky children who arrived on earth when their sky-father, Rangi, descended in a love embrace on the earth mother, Papa. The Maori passed close to this massive peak on their alpine pass routes to the West Coast sources of pounamu (greenstone).

Kiwimate's comments: 

Mount Cook, New Zealands highest mountain, I have not as yet conquered this peak. Both times I made the attempt the weather got the better of me. Because of it's altitude the temeratures are always cold and the weather is very unpredictable. This is an excellent place for ski touring and the scenic flights are well worth experiencing.


Westland National Park

Westland is the provincial region running down the west coast of the South Island from just north of Greymouth south to Awarua Bay, and back to the east as far as the main divide of the Southern Alps. The area was part of the Province of Canterbury until 1868, when it was given special status as a 'county' with headquarters in Hokitika, south of Greymouth, as the best of a bad lot of river ports on the coast. In 1873 Westland was given full status as a Province, the last to be created in NZ and less than three years before the abolition of all the Provinces. 

The region was the source of greenstone, prized by Maori. Before European settlement, however, it was sparsely populated by groups of Maori estimated at fewer than 100 in total. Gold was found near Greymouth in 1864 and miners flocked in for four years, to prospect and mine along the rivers of the Province. Most of the miners came from the crowded and failing goldfields in Victoria and Otago. A substantial number of NZ settlers came in through the province, notably from Australia, either to mine gold, or later, coal; and a higher proportion of them were Irish Catholics than in any other part of the country. For many years Westland was a fertile source of manpower for the political liberal and labour movements. After the demise of gold mining, coal mining flourished until World War Two, and timber milling and dairy farming (on the south Westland plains) have been sources of work and wealth in the region.

The pioneering character of what was mostly known over the years as the West Coast lasted longer than in any other part of NZ. It has always had more men than women, remaining isolated and undeveloped because of unsatisfactory harbours which silt up. And perhaps the Irish and Irish/Australian stock that originally settled the area had fewer bourgeois pretensions than the Scottish and English settlers. The 'Coaster' has always been a legendary character of independence who ignored the six o'clock closing of hotels and other petty bourgeois laws, and has always retained an image that is macho, but self-reliant and friendly.

Since World War Two, the Coast has been in decline economically as coal mines have closed and those that have stayed open have relied more on machinery. It has the lowest population of any provincial region in NZ. Disadvantages suffered on the Coast are a lower standard of amenities than in most NZ centres, a high rainfall (falling on about 170 days a year) and relatively few sunshine hours, although the temperature range is quite moderate - between a maximum of 19°C in January and a minimum 4°C in July.

Kiwimate's comments:

Activities I recommend are: Mountaineering, ski touring, and guided tours of the Franz Joseph and fox glaciers. If you wish to try your hand at goldmining the chances are you will find gold, though I can't guarantee you will find enough to pay for your trip. But it is a buzz panning for gold and discovering the fine particles in the bottom of your pan.


Nelson Lakes National Park: established in 1956, covers 101,753 ha of land surrounding lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa, the sources of the Buller River. The original park covered 57,505 ha and was expanded to its present size during the 1980s. The land is broken and mountainous with peaks rising to 2,200 m from dense beech forests. Skiing (in the Mt Robert area), tramping, hunting and trout fishing are the major recreations of the area. The first European explorer in the region was John Silvanus Cotterell who walked through it in 1842, accompanied by a Maori guide. A more thorough expedition was made in 1846 by Thomas Brunner and his Maori companion, Kehu, and William Fox.

Paparoa National Park: (27,818 ha), established in 1987, is on the West Coast of the South Island between Westport and Greymouth. A rugged and lovely coastal area, it includes the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. 

Kiwimate's comments:

Situated on the wild west coast (beware of heavy rainfall) This area offers excellent coastal walks including a historic pack horse track which was used during the gold rush days. There are excellent caves to be found but I would suggest that only expert cavers undertake this activity as the caves are deep and travel for miles under the ground.


Tongariro National Park covering a total of 78,651 ha, includes within its boundaries the three major active volcanoes in the centre of the North Island - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - as well as much broken country, tussock land, desert areas and forests. It was the first of NZ's national parks. Most of the land, including the three mountains, was donated to the government and people in 1887 by Te Heuheu Tukino IV and other chiefs of the Tuwharetoa tribe from the Tokaanu district. The original size was 2,600 ha. The park is used by large numbers of people for skiing, mainly on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, and for tramping and hunting. 

Mt Tongariro itself has a number of craters, some of them still active, and there are fumaroles, mud pools and hot springs on the northern slopes, at Ketetahi Springs. Tongariro at 1,968 m is the lowest of the three mountains. The first recorded ascent by an European was in 1867 when geologist James Hector made the climb.

The park is a huge catchment area and this had led to the design of the Tongariro hydro-electric power scheme, a complex project which takes the water through tunnels, along canals, using its driving power on the way to Lake Taupo (see Tokaanu).

Tongariro is also the name given to a settlement about 30 km north-east of National Park.

Kiwimate's comments:

This is my favourite stomping ground! This park offers so much variety and I recomend that if you are only able to visit New Zealand for a short period of time then this would be the place to visit. Activities include: the Tongariro Crossing a seven hour tramp across the mountain pass which gives you the opportunity to view active volcanoes, scree slopes, huge craters (like walking on the moon) hot thermal pools and geysers. Mount Ruhepehu has excellent ski facilities the season being from July to October. Rockclimbing and native forest walks, excellent trout fishing in Lake Taupo, limestone caves to explore, white water rafting, mountain bike trails, scenic flights. Hmmm, I wish I was there now!


Urewera National Park

Urewera Country is the high, forested and remote region of the North Island, extending from the eastern edge of the Whakatane district in the eastern Bay of Plenty down into Hawke's Bay and including Lake Waikaremoana. It was the home of the Nga Potiki, or Tuhoe people, also known as 'The Children of the Mist'. It gains its name from a tradition that a Nga Potiki chief, old and feeble, lay down beside a fire and was fatally burnt in the genitals. A literal translation of Urewera is 'burnt penis'.

The Tuhoe are traditionally regarded as one of the Toi tribes, who were forced into the mountainous country following pressure of population in the Bay of Plenty coastal area. In their mountain fastness, they built up a reputation as savage and tough warriors, and they were called upon to fight many times to retain control over Lake Waikaremoana, particularly against the Ngati Kahungunu.

Because of the remoteness and difficulty of access, many Maori rebels sought refuge in the Ureweras right through until the 1880s. It was the base of Te Kooti's guerilla campaigns for several years from 1868. After the wars, just like the King Country, the Urewera Country was closed to Europeans, and in 1896 the area was officially defined in the Urewera Native Reserve Act. When surveyors went in to work during the 1890s, the local Maori were so aroused that it was only the intervention of Sir James Carroll that prevented the outbreak of civil war. The main town in the Urewera is Ruatahuna.

The people of the region were the subjects of a long investigation by ethnologist Elsdon Best, the result of which was the monumental work, Tuhoe, the Children of the Mist (1925).

Urewera National Park was established in 1954, and has been expanded until today it covers 212,675 ha. It is the biggest national park in the North Island and the third biggest in NZ (behind Fiordland and Mt Aspiring). The region is rich in Maori folklore and the park is a protected home for many species of native birds.

Whanganui National Park was the first new national park to be created in NZ for 22 years when it was gazetted in 1986. It covers 74,231 ha in three sections of the scenic highpoints of the Whanganui River. It is the 11th national park, the fourth in the North Island, and one of the smallest with only Mount Cook, Egmont and Abel Tasman smaller.

Wanganui, a city on the west coast of the North Island near the mouth of the Whanganui River, became one of the most important and prosperous early European settlements in the country. It was declared a city in 1924 and, at the 1926 census, was the largest provincial city in NZ with 26,521 people. It went into a long period of decline after that, and did not reach this total again until after World War Two. Wanganui became the administrative centre for the Wanganui District in 1989 with a population of 41,200. The city is 200 km north-east of Wellington and serves a rich, sheep farming region. It has limited port facilities at nearby Castlecliff, to the north of the mouth of the Whanganui River.

The Whanganui River - the second longest in the North Island at 290 km - rises on Mt Tongariro and winds in a long south-westerly curve through the central volcanic plateau to the Tasman Sea near the city. It was an important transport route for Maori over many hundreds of years, and for the early European settlers. It was a major area of Maori settlement with a large number of easily fortified pa on the cliffs along its length, and it was the scene of many territorial wars among the tribes. The first Europeans known to have spent any time in the area were a group of traders in 1831, led by a dealer in preserved Maori heads, Joe Rowe, whose own head was later cut off and preserved by Maori. Early European visitors were the missionaries Henry Williams and Octavius Hadfield, who visited there in 1840 to collect signatures from local Maori chiefs for the Treaty of Waitangi.

The NZ Company first showed interest in settlement on the site of Wanganui in 1840, when Edward Jerningham Wakefield negotiated the purchase of 16,000 ha for the establishment of a town first called Petre after one of the directors of the NZ Company, Baron Petre. There was, however, a long dispute with the Maori landowners because of misunderstandings over the land purchase, but this was resolved in 1848 by Donald Mclean, the government land purchaser. A full 32,000 ha with clearly defined boundaries passed into European hands. Wanganui became a borough in 1872, and was linked to New Plymouth and Wellington by rail in the 1880s. The town was not called Petre for long. In the mid-1840s residents petitioned for a change and the name became Wanganui in 1854.

There are two common explanations for the name Wanganui. The first is that it was originally 'Whanganui' meaning whanga a harbour, and nui large, in reference to the wide mouth of the river; but another possible translation is whanga to wait, and nui long and there is one claim that it was so called by a chief who had a long wait there before he could get adequate transport down the coast. Although the spelling and pronunciation remains 'Wanganui River' in common currency, the spelling was officially changed to 'Whanganui River' by the National Geographic Board in 1991. The city remains 'Wanganui'.

Kiwimate's comments:

Wanganui is my home town and the Whanganui River National Park is a very special place for me, there just seems to be a spiritual magic about it! Canoe-ing the long narrow gorges surrounded by dense native forest with only the sounds of the native birds breaking the magical silence. The river is very important to the Maori people who still occupy villages along the river. Their hospitality is offered freely to all travelers along the river. 


Thankyou for stopping by, if you require further information please don't hesitate to [email] me with your comments

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