This post follows up my two earlier posts about the wild Catlins region of New Zealand. I went through in a campervan at the start of June 2021. I visited the waterfalls, and list freedom camping sites. Information about freedom camping sites can be a bit hard to come by, so I have made the effort to identify all five such sites in the Catlins. I also describe other camping spots, including beautiful Pūrākaunui Bay, my favourite!

(I have two earlier posts about this region: ‘The Catlins: An overlooked corner of New Zealand’, and ‘The Catlins, continued’.)

I’VE revisited the Catlins just lately. I went through in a camper van this time, and managed to visit a lot of places that I, my dad and my editor had missed earlier. I got some more photos of wonderful scenes, plus four minutes of video.

Here is a map of the Catlins that I saw on the side of the local museum at Waikawa. It shows the inland rainforest parks with their spectacular waterfalls, as well as the better-known…

IN MARCH 2021, I decided to do the Around the Mountain Circuit around Mount Taranaki.

Which shouldn’t be confused with the otherwise very similar Round the Mountain Track around Mount Ruapehu.

I suppose one begins with A and the other with R so that clerks working for the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) don’t misfile the leaflets. A pretty good idea, actually.

Mt Taranaki this March, with Fanthams Peak / Panitahi to the left

I only got halfway before falling into a ravine on the way north and injuring myself, so the northern side will have to be written up some other time. But meanwhile, here are some thoughts on doing…

REEFTON is the only sizable town on the West Coast that’s some way inland. The town got its start in 1871 following the discovery of a gold reef nearby, and was originally called Reef Town. To this day it’s got plenty of atmosphere (mostly smelling of coal-smoke), and is surrounded by historic mine workings.‍

Broadway, Reefton. Photo by Stewart Nimmo / Development West Coast, 5 July 2018. Released under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence by Development West Coast as part of the West Coast Wikipedian at Large project, obtained for this post via Wikimedia Commons.

HANMER SPRINGS is a popular hot-spring resort that you get to by turning northward, off State Highway 7 between the Lewis Pass and Culverden. The town lies in a small plain just south of the Hanmer Range, which includes Mount Isobel and Jacks Pass.

It’s a short trip from there to the historic St James Homestead, Amuri Skifield and the pretty Peters Valley, which leads into the St James Conservation Area and the St James Cycle Trail.‍

Map by Land Information New Zealand via NZ Topo Map, CC BY 4.0. North at top.

The St James Conservation area to the northwest of Hanmer Springs, named after the old homestead, has a lot of variety of landscape

THE PAPAROA TRACK is New Zealand’s most recently-commissioned Great Walk. Running from Blackball to Punakaiki, the Paparoa Track partly follows an old gold-miners’ pathway with the hopeful name of the Croesus Track. And it partly also follows a brand-new course, including the epic gorge of the Pororari River.

This part of New Zealand is probably the southernmost place on earth where you will find “tropical” jungle with palm trees and giant tree ferns. It’s 42 degrees south. …

The area around Greymouth and Westport. Background map data ©2021 Google. North at top.

THE population heartland of the South Island’s West Coast lies in the area around Greymouth and Westport, where mines in the hills are joined with a comparative abundance of flat land by West Coast standards.

The plain sits west of the South Island’s gigantic Alpine Fault: a crack in the earth’s crust that runs southwest like a ruler to Fiordland, in a way that is very striking on a topopgraphical map. The coastal plain to the west of the fault is nowhere else as wide as it is in the vicinity of Greymouth. …

The South Island’s West Coast from Charleston north to Karamea and the start of the Heaphy Track. Map data ©2021 Google, contrast enhanced. North at top.

THE WEST COAST north of Westport is booming at the moment, with visitors up eighty per cent. Which is a good thing, as it’s an area that’s easy to overlook. For the road to Karamea and the Heaphy Track is ultimately a dead end. So, I’ve compiled some photos and a video of some things to see and some places to eat at and to stay at, plus guides to local walks.

Walks like the ones shown in this brochure which shows the things to see outside of Karamea. the largest West Coast town north of Westport. These include the…

‍MOST people tend to do the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s ten Great Walks, from the eastern end, which you reach by way of a road from Collingwood that runs up a valley called the Aorere Valley.

This eastern start is preferred by most people because you get the rather steep climb up to the highest point in the track, Perry Saddle, at 880 metres or 2,887 feet, over on the first day, followed by a gentle descent westwards.

It’s also generally easier, less strain on the knees, and safer, to ascend steep terrain than to descend, if you’ve…

DO WE need a referendum on immigration? That’s a question we need to ask.

On last Sunday’s Q+A, most of the panel and the interviewees seemed to think that New Zealand needed a larger population, built up by immigration. Or that immigration-fuelled growth was, at any rate, inevitable.

Indeed, why shouldn’t New Zealand grow its population and its cities? By the standards of many other countries, we have the room.

And yet, New Zealand has a longstanding habit of failing to make sure that all the necessary transport links, pipes, wires, schools, hospitals, houses and jobs are in place, before…

A COUPLE of weeks ago we blogged about “the paradox of retrenchment in the face of growth.” We wrote about how it was practically an orthodoxy some forty years ago that the populations of Auckland, and of a New Zealand of little more than three million, were not going to get much larger. And how, for that reason, the government could give up on planning for the next million the way it had previously done.

And how, strangely enough, even now that we have twice as many Aucklanders and 5.1 million New Zealanders within our shores, and a huge catch-up…

Mary Jane Walker

A Maverick Traveller: Kiwi adventurer, author of twelve books of travel stories, a blog, and a website (

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