Upper South Island and the West Coast Feature

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Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi is a vast wilderness of marbled karst mountains, glaciated landforms, alpine tablelands, rivers, alpine tarns and beech, podocarp and coastal rain forests. Underground are the country’s longest, deepest, and oldest cave systems. Multiday hikes, short walks, caving, rafting, fly-fishing, and hunting are what people like to do here.

Kahurangi National Park spans 1.1 million acres, much of it untamed, yet crisscrossed by 570 km (353 miles) of hiking tracks of various levels. Most well known is the four- to five-day Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. There are also several rafting and kayaking rivers and some serious caving challenges. Probably the most popular access from Nelson is the steep road to Flora Carpark on Mt. Arthur. More southern entry points include the Wangapeka River, near Tapawera and Matiri Valley, from Murchison. The main West Coast access is through Karamea; this is also the southwestern entry to the Heaphy Track. Helicopters regularly transport fishing fans to secret river spots, though large areas of the park are designated wilderness, where no development or helicopter transport is permitted.

Best Time to Go

Kahurangi can be visited any time of the year, although snow in winter will inhibit access to the higher areas like Mt. Arthur and the Mt. Owen massif. The Heaphy Track is generally passable year-round. It's particularly popular with walkers in summer, and mountain bikers are permitted on the track in winter (May to September).

Best Activities

Caving and Cave Diving. There is a spectacular network of caves beneath the park, in particular under "the mountains with plumbing," as Mt. Arthur and Mt. Owen are known. New passages are still being discovered and the cave systems at the northern end of Kahurangi join up with those under Abel Tasman. Local guides are essential if you want to explore these. The Pearce and Riwaka rivers, on the eastern side of Mt. Arthur, are both well-known cave-diving spots with well-defined resurgence caves. The Riwaka resurgence is popular with scuba enthusiasts. A local guide is essential.

Helicopter or Fixed Wing Plane. In some areas of the vast Kahurangi there's absolutely no development permitted, and the only way to get there is to walk. In other areas, however, helicopters can be chartered to ferry hikers and rafters to remote rivers and tracks, to get trout fishermen to favored spots, and for general sightseeing. A helicopter flight to Lord of the Rings film locations on spectacular Mt. Owen and Mt. Olympus have also become popular. Fixed-wing flights are available to the northern entry point to the Heaphy Track.

Tramp. The five-day Heaphy Track is one of the country's Great Walks, traversing tussock-covered tablelands and remote, wild west coast beaches in the northwest corner of the park, between Collingwood and Karamea. Other challenging and less-walked walks are available; while shorter, easier and popular tracks leave from the Flora Carpark (accessed from Motuekaand Nelson) and the Cobb Valley (south of Takaka).

White-Water Rafting and Kayaking. The Grade V Karamea River offers some of the country's most remote white-water rafting and kayaking. Access is generally by helicopter and rafting trips last up to a week, thus involving overnight camping. There is also great white water on the Buller River near Murchison, which runs along part of the park’s southern boundary. Local knowledge is essential on these trips so use a local guiding company of good repute.

Updated: 2014-07-10

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