Recreation and tourism

Maps for leisure and recreational activities started to appear in the late 19th century.

Early examples promoted key attractions of the time such as the Rotorua Lakes, the Pink and White Terraces, the Whanganui River, and steamship excursions to the Southern Fiords. These maps were often pictorial in nature, and many were commissioned by tour companies. Road maps and touring maps appeared following the introduction of the motor car in the early 20th century. The Automobile Association produced its first road map in 1925, and is still producing maps ninety years on.

Amateur interests contributed to the mapping of back-country and wilderness areas. When the New Zealand Alpine Club was formed in 1891, a founding objective was to ‘acquire orographical and topographical information regarding the New Zealand mountains.’ Tramping clubs became popular in the 1930s. Some worked with map makers and actively encouraged their members to share local knowledge, help source new data, and field check new maps. 

A series of government-produced park and track maps was published in the second half of the 20th century, initially by the Department of Lands and Survey. The Department of Survey and Land Information took over this responsibility in 1987, and the Department of Conservation, from 1996. These maps have now been discontinued. The New Zealand Forest Service also produced a number of recreation maps before its disestablishment in 1987. 

In 1999 the government abolished the crown copyright fee on digital topographic map data, effectively opening the door to private sector mapmakers. Today most New Zealand tourism, travel, and recreation maps are produced by local authorities or private interests. In addition to wilderness maps, the genre includes street and road maps, tour itineraries, maps for cycling, orienteering, adventure racing, and a host of other recreational activities.

1936 Trampers Map Tararua mountain system WG Harding
by WG Harding, Wellington: Lands & Survey, 1936, MapColl os832.4cbum/1936/37103.

The publication of this map was a milestone for New Zealand recreation mapping. It was a collaborative effort, produced from official records but with significant input from trampers and tramping clubs. The map also set new standards for New Zealand mountain mapping. Later the scale was reduced to make the map more manageable in the field, but it remained in use in various editions for fifty years.

Geographx Milford Track
by Roger Smith, Geographx, Nelson: Craig Potton, 2013, MapColl 834.6gmbh/2013/54639.

A feature of this map is the use of a natural-looking textured background. Some users may find this more familiar and easier to relate to than conventionally-styled maps.

Geographx is a small cartographic design company producing recreation maps for wilderness areas. The Milford Track map is one in a series covering all nine of the New Zealand Great Walks.