The Official Te Araroa Maps

The accompaniment to my written guides are maps. You need both, and to work with them together. The primary map source is the downloads on the official Te Araroa site. Print the maps out A3 double-sided and in colour if you can. Some people do it on A4 but this really is a bit small. And it needs to be with a laserjet printer: the inks on a home inkjet machine will run when wet. Some people laminate them but this makes them heavy. You might be able to get them printed on waterproof paper though. You don’t have to carry a full set all the way as you can send bundles of them ahead with your food parcels. Likewise with the guide notes from this site. Download backups to your phone (they will go to the ‘My Files’ folder on Android phones).

Interactive Maps on Your Cellphone or Tablet

A problem with the downloadable Te Araroa maps is that they are not interactive on your cellphone or tablet (so you can’t use GPS to indicate where you are on the map). But there are many applications that are interactive.

Note, however, than any non-official maps may not be entirely current. The TA Trust makes changes to the route at the beginning of each season, but independent map makers may not update to follow these changes immediately. The NZ Topo maps in particular lag well behind (several years behind I would say). Now that the official maps are overlain on the NZ Topo maps you often see tracks labelled as Te Araroa Trail when the the current route is clearly marked as different.

New Zealand Topo Maps Pro

The application I used on my Samsung Galaxy S7 (Android) is New Zealand Topo Maps by Atlogis. Here is what you do to get it:

Go to the Google Play Store and search for New Zealand Topo Maps Pro. The cost is USD $8.81. (There is also the free version, but you can’t download the maps for off-line use with it).

Once installed, before you go hiking, select ‘New Zealand Topo50’ from the menu at top left of the screen. Then approximately find the bit of NZ you need to download at high resolution for off-line use. Use the menu below the screen or at top right to select ‘Cache Map’. Press ‘Cache Map’ again from the next menu. Now you have a rectangle with blue dots overlain on your selected area of NZ. Pull the sides of the rectangle to cover only as much of the land as you want to download, using the plus or minus buttons at right to zoom in or out as necessary, and shifting the map underneath the rectangle by moving your finger on it. Then touch ‘Cache Map’ at top right. You will be prompted for the level of resolution you want. I always move the slider to the maximum zoom level. Press download and wait. The higher the resolution and the larger the area selected the larger the file and the longer it will take to download. The size and time could be significant, so bite off selected areas at a time.

In the field, first turn on ‘location’ by pulling down quick settings at the top of the screen, then press the circle with the red dot in it at the top of the NZ Topo Pro application. When the GPS has found your location (best done in an  area open to a broad area of sky) there will be a ‘dink donk’ sound and the map will automatically centre on your current location with a direction arrow. It is best to then turn the location setting off until you need to get another fix, as GPS drains the battery fairly quickly.

You can also download street maps, and satellite images with NZ Topo Pro. The latter are very large files of course. A dice game overlay may or may not be under development.

Tour of New Zealand game designed by Dudley Bain, 1950sTour of New Zealand game designed by Dudley Bain, 1950s

Te Araroa Hiker

This app by Guthook on the Apple Store and under the name Guthook Guides Australia & New Zealand on Google Play seem popular. It costs $19 per section (four sections for the whole country), or $60 for the lot. I presume that is in universal currency (i.e. USD). An initial download will give you 60 kms north from Auckland to try out for free. I’ve used it for Hamilton to north of Auckland and it worked well. Accommodation, tent sites, forks in the track and water sources are all marked. There are also user comments on the trail, but I couldn’t figure out how to arrange them in a way that was useful to me – they are just in order of latest posting, from the entire trail, Bluff to Cape Reinga. This could be a nice feature, but in practice it is pretty useless. There is also a social media function (I guess you hook up with friends somehow and message them) but I haven’t used it. And you can send a message to someone to tell them your location, but the message they receive shows your location on Google Maps, not the NZ Topo map on Guthook, and you can use Google to do this anyway (see below).

Te Araroa – The Trail App

This is a new product, launched Oct 2018 and available on Google Play. The great thing is that it is free. You can download NZ Topo maps for free and for offline use within the app. Google maps are also available but for online use only. The official TA SoBo guides are included with it. Is it as good as the Guthook app? I don’t think there is a lot of difference. Guthook does show accommodations (ones listed on the official TA site), but not always accurately. Both purport to show water sources, but these are mostly theoretical (i.e. wherever there might be a stream by the trail, and are mostly not usable). Just don’t forget to download the maps you need before you leave home with Te Araroa – The Trail App. My experience with the downloading is that it constantly hangs and needs to be coaxed along, making for a time-consuming experience. The app also suffers from being only available for Android 6 and above, meaning you can’t use it on older (and lighter) Android phones.

Google Earth map

On the official TA site you can find the downloadable kmz file for Google Earth that traces the TA trail over New Zealand, complete with locations of camp sites and km markers. You need the programme installed on your computer (from Google) before you can do anything, and a fast internet connection, but it does give a wonderful 3D perspective on the trail that you can rotate, zoom in on, etc. Not really practicable while walking, since the image data is pulled of the internet as you view, but good for getting a better idea of the route beforehand. I have taken some images from the TA trail on Google Earth and added them to my pages, so that does allow you to compare text and image, and relieves you of having to download Google Earth. Note that, as with most 3D topographic images, the height is exaggerated for effect. So rest assured, the mountains are not that high and steep!

Non-Interactive NZ Topo Maps

New Zealand Topo Map

NZ Topo Maps Pro is not available on Windows phones. But you can go the the NZ Topo Map in the Windows store. It is a free download, and like the Android app above you can chose an area and download that for later offline use. You can also download the entire South Island or North Island for about $8 each. Make sure you have enough storage space on your device as the files for the entire islands are about 2GB and will download to the phone’s internal memory before you can transfer them to a removable SD card.

The Android store also has New Zealand (NZ) Topo Map. I’m not sure how this is different from the above. It is free but has ads. Like the Windows version, you can’t use GPS with the map to find your location on the trail.

The LINZ NZ Topographic map can be viewed on any device online. It has a great feature at top left of the screen in the form of a slider that allows you to see more or less of the satellite image layer. You can also see public access areas by going to the ‘More’ menu and selecting ‘Info layers’. And you can select a square and download the information in it as an image (tiff) file for offline use. Whether you get them by this means or as covered above, the NZ Topo maps are a useful accompaniment to the Te Araroa ones because they are better detailed and there are times when you just want that extra bit of information.

DoC Maps

The Department of Conservation has a map site with interactive maps that show you locations of huts, DoC campgrounds, areas where freedom camping is prohibited, hunting areas, etc. You can even see the whole Te Araroa Trail on their Discover the Outdoors map.

Public Access maps

Walking Access Ara Hikoi Aotearoa has a selection of maps that show you public sections of land and property boundaries. This can be useful if you are going off trail or want to figure out where you can legally camp. To switch from one map type to another it seems you need to have pop-ups unblocked. As noted above, public access areas are also visible as an option on the NZ Topo maps.

Google Maps

Offline Google Maps can be useful when you are in town or road walking. You need to have a Google account and be signed in to download and save the maps. You also need the Google Maps app loaded – in recent versions of Android it will be located in a button with other Google apps. Just drag it out to sit on its own. In the app you select an area you want to download and then click on the three horizontal bars at top left to open up the menu that includes the option ‘Offline Areas’. Just follow the instructions. The maps expire after about a month unless updated (which will be automatic unless you have disabled that option). This feature only seems to work on a mobile device, so you may be out of luck with a notebook computer, unless perhaps it is a Chromebook.

Maybe everyone knows this already, but I only stumbled across it recently after using Google Maps for years: If you press the blue circle showing your location on a map (when you have location services switched on), you are offered several options to let a friend know your location (on What’s App, or email, etc). I think if you are both signed into Google this is live. Otherwise they get a map image showing your location when you sent the message. Could be useful for meeting up with someone when you don’t really know the area.

Dedicated GPS Devices

Some people take these and the Garmin etrex is popular. But the cost, weight and technical know-how required to operate them outweigh their advantages, especially when you have the option of mobile phone maps, and you are probably already taking a phone with you anyway. The official site has downloadable GPX files for Garmin devices. You could also check out this site for unofficial open data (OSM) Te Araroa maps. You can even contribute to making them better.

GPS on your Phone

You will have GPS on your phone but will this tell you the actual co-ordinates of your location? No, not unless you have an app, and your average mapping app (like the TA Trail app or Guthook) may still not give you these as numbers. If you have an emergency it may save your life to be able to communicate the latitude and longitude to other people. I use the GPS Test app. It is free and it shows you what satellites your phone can see, the degree of accuracy of your location and other things besides your location in degrees, minutes and seconds. Having said this, you may have a facility on your phone that automatically gives your location to emergency services when you call them. But best to have a manual option too I think.

Accommodation and Resupply Map

Anthony Page made some maps in 2016 with accommodation and resupply points. They  still broadly apply.

Lord of the Rings movie locations

There are various web sites dedicated to finding the actual places where scenes were shot. Here is one built on Google maps. You can zoom right in and click on icons for details, though exact GPS co-ordinates are not given.

Leslie Adkin - Tongariro National Park, August 1925Tongariro National Park, August 1925, by Leslie Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa (A.006014)