This is a guest post written by Cloe Matheson.
Summer camps are adored by kids all around the world, and while the idea of sending children to spend a summer in the outdoors hasn’t caught on quite as quickly in New Zealand as it has in other countries, New Zealand is undoubtedly an optimal place to spend the summer for adults and kids alike.
New Zealand camps offer plenty of exciting activities and a great sense of community, and kids who spend time at one of these camps will leave satisfied and eager to return next year. If you’re interested in setting up a summer camp in New Zealand, consider the country’s best – and most unique – features:
UNIQUE ACCESS TO BEACHES
While summer camps around the world are often situated near lakes or other bodies of water, New Zealand is unique in that no place in the country is further than 120km from the ocean. This means that no matter where a camp takes place, it’s easy to take kids on a trip to the beach, whether they’re swimming or learning how to sail. Many Kiwi kids grow up respecting the water, as well as eager to spend time exploring it, and there’s no better time to take advantage of the sea than in summer.
NATIVE FLORA AND FAUNA
Blessed with plenty of its own native animals, New Zealand is also home to a variety of unusual trees and plants. Bird spotting can be particularly fun for campers, as can searching for elusive plants on a scavenger hunt. It’s also possible to take day trips to awe-inspiring places such as glowworm caves – you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid who didn’t enjoy seeing a cave lit up by hundreds of tiny luminous creatures!
New Zealand is deservedly famous for its landscapes. The country’s mountains and volcanoes provide ample opportunity for day trips, whether campers climb, hike, or simply admire the view. Other activities that are popular with Kiwi kids are abseiling, ropes courses, and rock climbing.
INFLUENCE OF MAORI CULTURE
New Zealand’s culture is unique to the English-speaking world, largely thanks to the rich, inventive influence of its indigenous people. Nature is integral to Maori culture, and Kiwi kids learn about Maori legends from a young age. This means that at camp, kids are likely able to feel better connected to the outdoors, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to sing songs around the campfire in Te Reo (an official language of New Zealand).
Scavenger hunting is popular with campers of all ages, and there’s no better place to do it than New Zealand, thanks to the country’s many forests and other remote areas perfect for exploring. Orienteering is a great option for kids at camps in New Zealand too, for the same reason – if they can learn to navigate well here, they’ll have no problem learning navigation skills elsewhere in the world!
At a Kiwi summer camp, the atmosphere might be a little more relaxed than you’re used to at camps in other countries. For example, there won’t be as much expectation for formality in dress and titles for adults (many leaders are respectfully referred to by only their first names), and you can expect to see kids and even counselors running around barefoot. Spending time in nature without shoes has been shown to have positive benefits on kids – not only does it strengthen their feet so they can play and exercise more, but walking barefoot may also help them to feel more connected to the earth beneath them.
TIME OF YEAR
New Zealand’s summer – which runs from December through to February, rather than June through September like in the Northern Hemisphere – makes attending a summer camp especially exciting for foreign kids, who are able to escape their country’s winter for a period of time. Summer is also a particularly festive season in New Zealand, thanks to Christmas and New Year taking place in the midst of it, so if you’re running a camp, you’ll have no shortage of reasons to celebrate with your attendees.
While New Zealand’s cuisine is similar to that found in countries like the UK and Australia, it’s often a novel experience for newcomers to the country. On special occasions, it’s common for kids to help prepare a hangi, a traditional Maori way of cooking in which food is placed on hot rocks in an outdoor pit.
It’s important for kids to spend time outdoors, especially in summer. There are plenty of emotional and health benefits that can be linked to outdoor recreation, including a heightened appreciation of nature, higher levels of physical activity, and lower levels of anxiety – and camp is a great way for kids to spend time outdoors with ease.
If you’re thinking of setting up your own camp in New Zealand, choose a location near the sea and plan plenty of adventure activities, and your campers will return year after year.
With an abundance of holiday parks across New Zealand, Cloe often spends some of her weekends camping with friends. Nothing beats being with great company under the star-lit sky with hot chocolate and marshmallows after a scrumptious dinner of fish and chips. Cloe has previously written pieces for travel sites. You can check out her work on Tumblr.