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 the guide notes from this site. Download backups to your phone (they will go to the ‘My Files’ folder on Android phones).
Staff at Wellington Public Library (on the first floor) will print out maps and guides for you and even have some ready printed out.
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.
New Zealand Topo Maps Pro
The application I used on my Samsung Galaxy S4 (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 would 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.
Te Araroa Hiker
This app by Guthook on the Apple Store and under the name Atlas Guides on Google Play looks pretty interesting. I haven’t used it, and 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. It lays the trail over Google Maps or NZ Topo maps and I think you can download satellite ones as well. Accommodation, tent sites, forks in the track and water sources are all marked. If you are prepared to pay the high price it could be your complete solution (That is, electronic solution, which is worthless when batteries die: always take paper maps.)
Non-Interactive NZ Topo Maps
New Zealand Topo Map
The above are 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.
The LINZ NZ Topographic map can be viewed on any device online. They have 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. 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 detail.
Christopher Smith has made a set of TA trail maps directly off the NZ Topographic map. These don’t seem to have the degree of resolution of the raw NZ Topographic maps but some feel they are an improvement over the official maps. They are numbered and framed the same way, and include the same annotation of kilometres from Cape Reinga.
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.
Offline Google Maps
These can be useful when you are in town or road walking. You need to have a Google account and be signed in. You pick 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.
Dedicated GPS Devices
Some people take these and the Garmin etrex is popular. But they are complex devices and 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. 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.
Accommodation and Resupply Map
Anthony Page made a map with accommodation and resupply points.