Guidelines for camping at Kawakawa Bay

Excited for a weekend away at Kawakawa Bay? Who wouldn’t be! But remember it’s crucial that we behave respectfully, leave no trace, and keep climbing access open. 

The campsite and many of the cliffs are on DOC or Iwi land, with Iwi co-governance, and there is no formally established agreement for camping or climbing activities. That means we need to be careful about our impact, to avoid any issues. Here are some tips on getting it right when visiting Kawakawa Bay. 

Two people sitting silhouetted on a gravel beach at sunset with camping gear.

Shannon Greenfield and Shane Coulston arrive at Kawakawa Bay in style. Photo: Michael Donovan.

Tikanga Māori  

Kawakawa Bay is a wāhi tūpuna (place of great ancestral or historical significance) to iwi and those who trace whakapapa to this place. The land is associated with many pā settlements and wāhi tapu, places of spiritual significance. Everyone who visits must maintain tautiaki ngangahau, a duty of active protection, and should acknowledge the kaitiakitanga or duty of guardianship that the tangata whenua have over this land. Respecting the land means different things to different people, but treat it as you would want your own land to be treated.  

Leave no trace 

This means leaving literally nothing. No leftover chicken bones, fruit peel, seeds or cores, cans, bottles, wrappers, plastic, bits of string, clothing, nothing. No trace means no trace, so pack out everything you brought in with you including rubbish. Don’t throw anything in the toilet, the lake, or the bush, and don’t bury anything. If you spot any rubbish that someone else has dropped accidentally, grab it and take that out with you too. 

Do not clear any bush 

There are plenty of camping spots and clearings, don't take it upon yourself to clear more bush or “make more space”. It's this sort of behaviour that gets crags closed. If you can’t find an empty clearing, look around and ask one of the other groups if you can set up with them, there’s usually room to share. 

Don’t take shortcuts 

While it may be tempting to take a shortcut from your campsite to the next, or out to the main track, or to a cliff, over a very short time this erodes the soil and degrades the bush. Stick to one established trail in and out from a campsite or to the beach. Stay on the main bike trail and established cliff trails to get to and from anywhere. 

Do not build structures 

Leave no trace also means not building camp structures – do not build seats, signs, boards, tables, shelters, don’t dig holes – you name it, it’s not good. Don’t scavenge for building materials in the bush, don’t move gravel off the beach, and never cut, break or trample live trees or plants. No trace means no trace, other than an empty space where your tent was. If you want camp furniture, bring it in with you and take it out when you leave. If you are attaching anything to a tree – hammocks, tarps, etc – remember to pad the tree bark for protection from abrasion. 

No fires, anywhere, ever 

There is a total fire ban at all seasons – whether on the beach, at the main clearing, in campsites or in the bush. The last thing we want is the bush (or people) burned and this beautiful location wrecked. Bring in controlled cookers, never light an open fire. If you see anyone with an open fire, politely ask them to put it out. 

Be cool 

Kawakawa Bay has a lot of visitors – mountain bikers, boaties, kayakers, runners and hikers as well as climbers, plus DOC staff and local Iwi. Don’t be anti-social, be friendly and helpful – you never know who you are talking to, or who’s watching. If you see poor behaviour from other climbers, politely talk to them about it. 

Control your dog 

Dogs are permitted but must be under control at all times. Do not allow your dog to roam around campsites, on the beach, along tracks, around the base of cliffs or through the bush. If your dog is out of its comfort zone in a camping/climbing environment, Kawakawa Bay is not the place to train it. Please consider leaving your dog at home. 

Avoid busy periods 

If you can, consider visiting on a quieter weekend or during the week, especially if you are a larger group or club. Those long holiday weekends are great, but there are often way too many of us. Visiting at other times means you'll be able to camp together, get on more climbs, and it'll be a more special experience for the group.