Totaranui camping peace in paradise
Totaranui is camping nirivana with golden sands and a sprawling native bush setting. sets up camp in this piece of paradise.
The totara is a forest giant respected by Ma¯ori, and a large one might be referred to as rakau rangatira – a chiefly tree. Its timber was prized above all others. Nui means ‘large’.
I will ponder this as I enjoy the golden sands at Totaranui campsite this week with 800-plus other people. If a traditional Kiwi camping experience is your thing then Totaranui, or ‘‘Tot’’ as the locals say, is the place to go.
There is a strong sense of community and families have been camping here for several generations.
If you prefer a solitary camping experience, stay away, or visit outside the summer season when Totaranui has only a handful of residents.
What draws so many people to this location each summer?
Camping next to the clear water and golden sand of the kilometre long Totaranui beach, at Abel Tasman National Park’s northern end, is an annual event for many Nelsonians.
We also swim, kayak, fish and explore native bush on nearby tracks. Originally a farming settlement, the only permanent residents now are Department of Conservation staff. Farming ceased after the National Park was founded in 1942 and forest has been allowed to naturally regenerate from manuka and kanuka to its original mix of southern beech and podocarp, including totara.
Not so long ago, Abel Tasman National Park was regarded as a backwater. In 1957, the Nelson Evening Mail described the Abel Tasman area as ‘‘a stretch of little known coastline.... it is difficult to access except from sea and remains in much the same state as in pre-historic eras.’’
Now a mecca for holiday makers, Totaranui is an inter-generational camping destination.
Many people return every year – often to the same site their parents had, and married to someone they met there.
The campground is divided into 23 zones, or living rooms. These are separated by shelter belts and modern amenity blocks. Once campers erect their canvas fences, park the caravan and large family tent, install a beer fridge, communal dining area and portable shower, the campground starts to resemble a tight collection of Kiwi quarter-acre sections.
Although you need to book a campsite online via the DOC website – and do so early – specific areas can’t be reserved, or places held for campers yet to arrive.
Young children play in the sand with their new friends, crafting mermaid tails and exploring rock pools. They learn how to paddle a kayak. They stay up late to see stars and cook marshmallows over an open fire (but only in the DOC fireplaces provided). Slightly older children ‘hang out’ on the beach, catch up with mates they met last summer, work on their tans, attempt to log into social media (very patchy coverage), listen to their iPods and bug their parents for a trip out to civilisation.
The latter being defined as a place with Wi-Fi access – the closest is half an hour away over a narrow, windy road at Pohara.
For adults, limited cell phone reception makes for a total relax. I can sit in the sun with a book and then fall asleep.
If feeling energetic, I might do a walk along the sand or head to Awaroa Beach. You may recall that last summer, we crowdfunded to buy a piece of this.
If not feeling energetic there are plenty of people to talk to – many I don’t get to see during the year. I can have a glass of something cold with them. Every January the world seems to stop and come to Totaranui to chill.
See you there. firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting ready to launch from the beach at Totaranui.