Monday, 31 May 2021

Points along the Trail: Camping at Kerr Bay, Nelson Lakes NP

  A winter visit to Kerr Bay campsite...

I recently spent a couple of days up in Nelson Lakes National Park day walking some of the shorter tracks there. I stayed a night at the Kerr Bay Campground between St Arnaud township and Lake Rotoiti. Kerr Bay Campground is a DOC facility with powered and unpowered sites for caravans, camper vans and tents. 

Kerr Bay Campground, St Arnaud

To access from SH63 turn off onto Kerr Bay Road and follow down to the campground near the main boat ramp. Bookings are required from December through to the end of April, over Easter and any week there are speed boat races on Lake Rotoiti. T

Map: St Arnaud and the start of Nelson Lakes NP

The rest of the time you have to go to the St Arnaud DOC office on View Road off SH 63 to book a site and pay your camp fees.

Map: set up of Kerr Bay Campground, St Arnaud

The Kaka Zone at Kerr Bay Campground...tent specific

There are both grass and hard surface pads available and the whole campground had a major overhaul last year while the country was mostly empty of tourists. There has been a lot of work done on the camping sites and both the amenity block and the camp cook shelter have been repainted and renovated. 

The Silver Surfer parked up at my site at Kerr Bay

I was car camping and using one of my Coleman tents on this trip...a smaller two person tent that I use for base camp trips such as this one. At 2.2 kg it is light for a car camping tent but too heavy for tramping purposes (I have a lighter Big Agnes tent for that role). It performed well on this trip but it was really too cold for camping...I should just have stayed in a motel for both nights I was scheduled to be in the area.

The Coleman Camper 2 is set up behind the car

Nice protected site for the tent at Kerr Bay Campground

Plenty of free space in the mostly empty Kerr Bay Campground

I was in the Kiwi Zone which is a mixed camping/caravan area so there was a hard pad to park the car on and plenty of grass areas around it for the tent. Each of the sites have their own picnic table and each site is sheltered by a couple of trees. It is a nice set up and one I shall be taking advantage of going forward. 

Looking down to the Lake and Mt Robert from Kerr Bay Campground

It was a quiet night at the campground as there were only about 6-7 camper vans and myself in the campground. It was a little cold...I had my Marmot -10 degree bag so I was warm enough in my pit but my face got cold as it dropped down to -2 degrees overnight. 

I had a closed cell foam mat under my airbed to insulate from the ground but I probably need a down filled air bed for these winter camps. I don't know that anyone makes a car camping air bed with down inside but it is something I shall be investigating. 

My camping air bed in the tent, Kerr Bay Campground

I was reading Karen's Willard Price books on this trip...

I actually had a Kiwi walk right past my tent at around 8 pm just as it got was literally a couple of meters away and while I could make out its shape I couldn't really see any detail in the dark. Still amazing as it is a busy area right on the edge of the National Park and not a place you would expect to see our rare national bird.

Campsite facilities at Kerr Bay:

Kerr Bay Campground is well set up with all the facilities you might need when staying overnight at this locale. There is a very nice camp cook shelter and a set of toilets/showers/laundry attached to the camp to make your stay more comfortable. 

The cook shelter at the Kerr Bay Campground, St Arnaud is called Blechynden Shelter...

The cooking shelter is a three sided building with three large tables, bench's and a seat right around the walls of the building. It has a stainless steel bench with two sinks with both hot and cold water. There is a Zip on the wall for boiling water and a free four burner gas hob for use by those people staying in the campground. Filtered water is available inside the shelter and there is a filtered water tap outside for refilling those camper van water tanks before you leave. 

Kerr Bay Shelter: the hob and one of the dining tables (2018)...

The newly painted interior of Blechynden Shelter at Kerr Bay

There are some awesome views of Lake Rotoiti and Mt Robert from inside the cooking shelter which makes for fine dining with a view. They have also put some Clearlite panels in the roof so it is much lighter inside than it used to be. You will find recycling bins and rubbish bins at the cooking shelter and others scattered around the campground. 

View of Lake Rotoiti from inside the shelter at Kerr Bay Campground

There is a combined shower/laundry block at Kerr Bay Campground with token operated hot water showers and coin operated washing machines/dryers. You get the tokens for the facilities from the St Arnaud DOC office on View Road. One token is good for six minutes of hot water or 30 minutes of cloths drying. 

There is a new set of toilets located right next to and opposite the shower block. Both the toilet block and the shower block were totally renovated in December of 2020 so they are now very flash. All these facilities are located opposite the cooking shelter at the Lake Rotoiti end of the campground.

DOC sign at the entrance to Kerr Bay Campground, St Arnaud

The Lake Rotoiti boat ramp and dock are located right outside the entrance to the Kerr Bay Campground. There is a carpark here where several of the tracks start that go along this side of Lake Rotoiti including the Lakehead Track to Lakehead Hut and the Travers Valley, St Arnaud Range Track, Loop Walk and Honeydew Track.

Start of the Lake Rotoiti track network at the Kerr Bay carpark

One of the tracks I walked was the Mt Robert Circuit which loops around the northern side of the mountain with a start and finish at the Mt Robert carpark. This is the main route to Angelus Hut if you are adding it to your Te Araroa Trail experience. You have an excellent view of Mt Robert from the campground at Kerr Bay and in fact you can see Paddy's Track from the wharf. 

Mt Robert is visible across Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes NP

The sun setting on the St Arnaud Range, Nelson Lakes NP

Kerr Bay Campground is a well appointed and well located place for you to use as a camping spot while passing through Nelson Lakes National Park. For both SOBO and NOBO trekkers it lies directly on the path through to Travers Saddle, Waiau Saddle, Red Hills and the Richmond Ranges. 

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