Former party spot now a peaceful haven

''Cheap and cheerful''is how a Scottish couple describe the Twelve Mile Delta camping ground just 10km from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown's summer crowds.

The camping ground is a welcome retreat for those travelling on a budget.

Backpackers fill the wide open space of Twelve Mile, which is a reflection of the $6-a-night fee.

This camping ground once had a reputation for late-night parties and rowdiness.

However, after Lake Outlet Holiday Park owners Tracey Addison and Glenn Tattersall took on management of the site on behalf of the Department of Conservation (Doc) two years ago, things began to change.

The ground still reaches its 150-site capacity, but it is now filled with couples and families, and those wanting a good time without broken beer bottles, manager Suzan Spoelstra said.

''We have changed the whole attitude and vibe of the place. It was time to get the families back, instead of the hoons.''

Mike Ritchie (30) and Ceylan Bekar (25), both of Scotland, sniffed out the camping ground after staying at a sister camping ground in Wanaka.

The pair were after a more affordable option with close access to the neighbouring mountain bike trails of 7 Mile and Moke Lake. After comparing the prices with options in town, there was no real decision to make.

''It was getting really expensive and really busy.''

''In there it was bumper-to-bumper and out here is more scenic as well. It's nice and peaceful here.''

Although many of the park's patrons are overseas travellers seeking affordable accommodation, many Kiwis call in over all four seasons to enjoy the nearby bush walks and hikes.

''The people who come out here in the winter are true Kiwis. They're always smiling and they get up at the crack of dawn to begin their days,''Ms Spoelstra said.

And in summer the grounds filled with a mixture of Southland families booking in at their ''extended garden'', and tourists in camper vans looking for a more peaceful atmosphere than they could find in Queenstown.

Miss Spoelstra said people were fitted in on a first come, first served basis, and the grounds became full by December 29.

Tents with young couples, families and groups of friends covered the grounds on December 31. While Queenstown bars would charge partygoers at the door on that evening, Twelve Mile offered a low-key party of its own.

The short drive from Queenstown meant those booking at the Doc campsite were close enough to feel the vibe, but far enough away to get the peace and tranquillity the lakeside spot had to offer.

''There's still native bush here. It's very lush and everyone is drawn in by the lake. The true New Zealand lifestyle. In fact, all of the Doc campsites are a big gift.''

Originally a tourist herself, Miss Spoelstra is now living a lifestyle completely opposite to the one she had back home in Amsterdam and she plans to obtain citizenship to continue living in ''the most beautiful country in the world''.

The campsite has all the plumbing she and her partner, Jared Hambley, need, plus they have a portable home in a 66-year-old Seddon bus from Riverton and enough internet to pay the bills and write to relatives overseas.

The couple have lived on site for a year and a-half now and were in no rush to move on.

''You just have to follow your heart in every type of lifestyle.''


Twelve Mile Delta
• Owned by the Department of Conservation.
• Twelve Mile Delta, camp on a gravel river delta at the outlet of Twelve-Mile Creek on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
• Ten-minute drive from Queenstown centre.

Fees
• Adult (18+ years): $6 a night. Child (5-17 years): $3 a night. Infant (0-4 years): free.

Campsite details
• Number of tent sites: 100.

Activities
• Popular picnicking and fishing spot. Close to Mt Crichton Loop Track, Bob's Cove Track, Lake Dispute Track, 7 Mile bike track, Moke Lake.