- Introduction, What is Adventure Tourism?
- Destination Marketing Organizations of New Zealand
- Adventure Tourism Activities 1
- Adventure Tourism Activities 2
- Application of New Zealand Practices to Adventure Tourism in the Adirondacks
A number of different hikes were taken, ranging from one hour to three days. New Zealand offers both “walks” and “tramps”, with walks generally being of shorter duration on very well maintained tracks (trails) and tramps being on more difficult less maintained tracks. All tracks managed by the DoC are given one of six walking track categories ranging from Easiest to Expert. Most walking tracks are on National Park land or conserved land, but many also include access across private property.
The tracks are maintained exceptionally well with hardened surfaces, stairs in steep sections, and bridges or elevated walkways over rivers or wet sections. Many of the tracks have toilet facilities at trail heads and the most popular tracks have vault toilet facilities along the tracks which need to be maintained. It was apparent that a tremendous amount of resources are devoted to track maintenance, including extensive use of helicopters for transport of building materials and maintenance of sanitary facilities.
Information available online at the DoC site and at local iSites makes it extremely easy to find hikes suitable for any level. Under “Find places to go walking and tramping” a visitor can sort by Region, Duration (under 1 hour to Multi-night), Place (areas within a region) and Difficulty (Easiest to Expert). DoC signage for walking tracks was excellent, with uniform signage throughout the country. One interesting feature is that they do not give distances but rather give estimated duration times, either one way or round trip. This is based on average walking abilities but is clearly helpful to less experienced walkers since the times would be determined by quality of track and elevation gain in addition to distance.
DoC also manages over 950 huts of all sizes and levels of service. Reservations are required for many during the high season and overnight campers are required to have either a campsite or hut permit. Fees range from $21 to $36 USD per person per night, depending on location and amenities. The huts range from quite rustic to fairly modern and offer bunks and toilet facilities as well as propane for cooking. New Zealand has a tradition of providing shelter in the backcountry that goes back over 100 years that continues today.
Nine “Great Walks” are promoted on both the DoC and TNZ websites. As stated on the DoC website “New Zealand's Great Walks are premier tracks that pass through diverse and spectacular scenery. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges and vast valleys...there's a Great Walk for everyone! Great Walks tracks are well formed and easy to follow. While most people prefer to explore on their own terms, guided trips offer a bit more comfort. Great Walks are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers.” (http://www.doc.govt.nz/great-walks).
The DoC is primarily responsible for maintenance on the tracks throughout the country, with some assistance from volunteers and advocacy groups. Tracks on the Great Walks are maintained to specific standards and guided trips are offered by private operators on several of them. Transport options are available through a number of private operators to drop off and pick up walkers from trail heads or intermediate points on the tracks.
Cruises are offered in Doubtful and Milford Sounds in Fiordland National Park either as day trips or overnight experiences. While these better fit the definition of nature tourism as opposed to adventure tourism they are considered a “must see” for visitors to the South Island and are undertaken by many visitors also experiencing adventure tourism activities.
An overnight cruise was taken with Real Journeys on Doubtful Sound, the second largest fiord located in Fiordland National Park. The trip includes a boat across Lake Manipouri and a coach over Wilmott Pass before reaching the Fiordland Navigator in Deep Cove. The boat accommodated 70 passengers and included all the amenities expected of a nature cruise ship.
Real Journeys is a very large tour operator, one of many offering cruises and activities in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds. These operators are all concessions through the DoC and their activities are regulated.
The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, a 25 mile track traversing Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring National Parks. A three day/two night hike on the track was done with Ultimate Hikes, the only company permitted to operate multiday guided walks on the Routeburn.
As previously noted the DoC also operates huts on the track that can be reserved independently and there are multiple private operations that offer shuttle services for walkers that service both ends of the track.
The package included two nights lodging in Ultimate’s private lodges, all meals, private or shared rooms with baths, a drying room for wet clothing, and the ability to purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at dinner. Also included were transfers to and from the trail heads and all permits required by the DoC. Walkers with Ultimate are expected to carry only their personal gear and have a level of fitness that will allow them to hike up to 8 miles a day. Guides knowledgeable in the natural history of the tracks accompany each group with a minimum of one guide for each 12 participants. The interior lodges can accommodate up to 40 people.
This was glamping (glamor camping) and demonstrates a trend in outdoor recreation. As previously noted the price point is high but it was worth every penny – by far the best experience during a six week trip. The pre-trip information provided by Ultimate Hikes was excellent, the accommodations and food exceeded expectations, and the guides were informative and available for any need a member of the hiking party might have. No detail was overlooked and it certainly allowed a number of participants to experience the beauty of the Routeburn Track that probably would not have undertaken the trip as an independent traveler.
Ultimate Hikes and DoC both operate a system of interior lodges on the Routeburn and Milford Tracks in Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage Site. According to their website “The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is heralded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand, while others say it ranks among the top ten single-day treks in the world.” (http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/) The crossing is twelve miles with several optional side trips to peaks in the park. Multiple private operators provide shuttle services to both ends of the crossing from a number of different locations inside and outside the National Park.
Can an attraction be too successful? This was the only experience of overcrowding on a track experienced in New Zealand. Although difficult to judge it is estimated that approximately 1,000 other walkers shared the track on the day it was crossed. Toilet facilities provided one hour along the track were overwhelmed, resulting in a 20 minute wait for those opting to use these. Although signage was clearly posted regarding hiker preparedness and dramatic changes in weather that can be expected a number of walkers were observed that were not properly prepared. The track appeared to be maintained to a standard of the Great Walks with a few areas remaining under construction or being repaired due to washouts.
An estimated 80,000 people complete the hike between October and the end of May each year. The scenery, an active volcanic area surrounded by mountain peaks, is spectacular but the excessive number of hikers detracted from the experience. Use of this track will provide a management challenge for the DoC in the future if they wish to minimize overcrowding and resulting degradation of the resource while creating a safe experience for walkers on the track.
The line of hikers at the beginning of the crossing stretched for half a mile and there was a twenty minute wait for toilet facilities on the track.
Mountain biking was not the focus of the research but is an important component of New Zealand’s offering of activities for the adventure tourist. The New Zealand Cycle Trail is an ambitious public works project started in 2009 that will eventually total 1,600 miles from the tip of the North Island to the southern end of the South Island. In addition there are local and regional trail networks that are clearly signposted and promoted online and through local iSites.
According to the DoC website these consist of old mining roads, single tracks built by volunteers and a number of rail to trail conversions.
Mountain biking is actively promoted on both the DoC and TNZ sites, with descriptions of the tracks and links to operators that provide rentals, accommodations, shuttles and guided tours. A grading system is used similar to that assigned to walking tracks, rating each track from Easiest to Extreme. On tracks with both walking and cycling it is clearly posted who has the right of way to avoid user conflicts that can result from shared use. “Mountain biking is on the rise in New Zealand”, says Kevin Bowler, head of Tourism New Zealand, “and the trails success can be measured by the number of accommodations and cycling touring companies that are popping up alongside them.” (Gulley, 2015)