Tucked away among mountain beech trees in a scenic bay on
the northwest shore of Lake Hawea is a tiny camping spot
frequented by a diverse range of people, all with a story to
tell. Lucy Ibbotson finds out what makes the Kidds Bush
Reserve such a special place for those who camp there.
With just 40 tent sites, the Department of Conservation's
(Doc) Kidds Bush Reserve is in little danger of becoming
overpopulated, and that is just the way its inhabitants like
Among the hundreds of campers visiting Kidds Bush this summer
was Dutch woman Brenda Idsinga, originally from Rotorua, but
now in her fourth year "on the road", travelling around New
Zealand with her husband Gerben and their cockatoo Darling.
"This is beautiful," she said, from her deck chair vantage
point next to the couple's motorhome at Kidds Bush.
Mr Idsinga was out in his canoe when the Otago Daily Times
stopped by, but Mrs Idsinga and Darling favoured a more
restful afternoon in the shade.
Of all the many camping grounds the Idsingas had visited
throughout New Zealand, Kidds Bush ranked particularly
"Definitely an eight or a nine.
What's there not to like?" Alistair Clark and his partner
Cindy Walker brought their two children to Kidds Bush for the
second summer holiday in a row this year, as part of a group
comprising several Christchurch families.
The couple prefer the reserve's "more laid-back" atmosphere,
as opposed to other spots where campers are "packed in like
sardines". The affordability of the camping ground also added
to its appeal, they said.
The secluded campsite provided a chance to spend a week by
the water, stress-free and a world away from the earthquakes
"It's a magic spot," Mr Clark said.
"It's so easy to keep an eye on the kids swimming ... and you
can be swimming in the lake at 9 o'clock at night."
While the adults in their group pass the time at Kidds Bush
by reading, relaxing and "having a few drinks", the children
among them ride bikes, go fishing and dive for lost fishing
"And there's a walk right behind us, but we're all too lazy,"
Ms Walker said. The camp's only downsides were the "oodles of
sandflies" and having to travel the 32km into Wanaka to do
the daily supplies run.
Invercargill couple Noelene and Ian Dackers have been going
to Kidds Bush for about 30 years, introducing their children
and grandchildren to it during that time.
This summer, tradition once again brought them back to their
favourite camping site in their house bus, along with their
son Kevin and his wife Lynley, of Alexandra, who were staying
in their campervan.
The younger couple have formed such a strong attachment to
Kidds Bush, they even held their wedding in a marquee at the
reserve last February.
"We just loved the place so much we decided that we wanted to
get married there," Mr Dackers said.
He was pleased there were limited sites available at the
camping ground, as word of its special charm and beauty was
"It's getting busier here. More and more people are knowing
about it, but that's just the way of life."
"You've got to share," his mother agreed.
Mr Dackers said those who had been coming to the camp for
many years were keen to preserve its family-oriented
"God help anyone that steps out of line. We sort of crack
down on it pretty quick."
The family hoped access to the reserve would not be cut off
to campers in the future and keeping a lid on bad behaviour
there was an important part of that, they said.
The access issue has arisen in the past because of antisocial
activities of visitors to the reserve as they passed through
Hunter Valley Station causing stock management problems.
The High Court has ruled station owners Taff and Penny
Cochrane can control the opening and closing of Mead Rd,
which leads to Kidds Bush, during lambing season, until
People wanting to camp at Kidds Bush at Labour Weekend have
to contact the station for permission.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Cochranes have
been dealing with the issue of ownership and control of the
road for some time.
The dispute centres on whether the road is a legal one, over
which the public has access.
"We just have to respect the privileges we've got," Noelene
Doc's Kidds Bush camping ground summer warden Danny Steel, a
plasterer from Christchurch, knows all about antisocial
behaviour at the camp, having dealt with plenty of it last
Mr Steel has been holidaying at Kidds Bush for about 10
years, but is in just his second summer working for Doc
there, collecting camp fees, cleaning the toilets - or at
least his daughter does, and doubling as security to "keep
the riffraff out".
"I make sure there are no dogs, firearms, nobody hooning
around in cars or motorbikes," he said.
"And because I'm the bouncer here, I shut everybody down at
10pm." The police and fire brigade visited Kidds Bush last
summer after a group of youths lit a fire on the beach.
"And some guy got liquored up and started running around with
a gun." Twenty young campers were evicted as a result of
their actions while under the influence.
"We just don't put up with it now."
Mr Steel spends his working summer holiday with his children
and wider family, and when not keeping an eye on his fellow
campers, he is usually out boating and fishing.
"We normally get between 80 and 90 trout and salmon [each
summer], between two pound and seven pound [0.9-32.kg]."
He said the camping ground clientele had changed a lot over
the years and it was now luring more young people to its
He attributed the occasional bout of bad behaviour at the
camp on liquor bans in neighbouring towns.
Kidds Bush Reserve
- Department of Conservation camping ground.
- On the northwest shore of Lake Hawea, down Mead Rd, 40
minutes' drive (32km) north of Wanaka off SH6.
40 tent sites.
Most popular time of year is Summer and Autumn.
Cost: Adult $6 per night, child (5-17 years) $3 per night,
under 5 free.
Activities include walking, fishing, water sports, climbing
and mountain biking.
Facilities include tap water, toilets, boat ramp, picnic
table and shelter. No shower facilities and no dogs