Upper South Island and the West Coast Feature

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Kahurangi National Park

Kahurangi is a vast wilderness area of deep river valleys, thick beech forest, and high marble mountains. Helicopters are dwarfed by house-sized rocks perched on the sides of high precipices. Wild white-water rivers tumble through gorges and calm alpine tarns sit high on the ranges.

The wild Kahurangi National Park spans 1.1 million acres of untamed wilderness and is laced with 570 km (353 mi) of hiking tracks of various levels of difficulty; there are also several rafting and kayaking rivers and some serious caving areas. Of the various entry points to the park, one of the most well used is the northern head of the Heaphy Track near Kaituna, 35 km (21 mi) west of Takaka and south of the town of Collingwood. There is also good access from the Flora Carpark on Mt. Arthur, the Wangapeka River farther south near Tapawera, from the Matiri Valley near Murchison, the Cobb Valley near Takaka, and at Karamea on the West Coast, which is also the southern entry to the Heaphy Track.

BEST TIME TO GO

Kahurangi can be visited any time of the year, although snow in winter may inhibit access to the higher areas like Mt. Arthur and the Mt. Owen massif. The Heaphy Track is passable all year unless the weather is unusually bad, when flooding may prevent stream crossings. It can be mountain-biked in winter (May to September) only.

Fun Fact

Asbestos Cottage, near the Mt. Arthur Tablelands, was once home to a reclusive couple who lived there for 40 years. They backpacked everything they needed into the remote site and would often go months without seeing another person.

Best Ways to Explore

Caving and Cave Diving

There is a spectacular network of caves beneath the park, and under Mt. Arthur in particular. New passages are still being discovered and the cave systems at the northern end of Kahurangi join up with those under Abel Tasman. 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; again, a local guide is essential.

Helicopter or Fixed Wing Plane

Because of the vastness of Kahurangi, helicopters are used extensively to ferry trampers and rafters to remote rivers and tracks, to get trout fishermen to their favored spots, and for general sightseeing. A helicopter flight up the winding Karamea River gorge is a particularly good option, and if the pilot throws in a circuit round the Garibaldi Ridge, so much the better. Some operators also fly fixed-wing planes.

Tramping

The five-day Heaphy Track is one of the country's Great Walks, running down the western side of the park, between Collingwood and Karamea. Other challenging walks are available, but shorter easier tracks leave from the Flora Carpark (accessed from the Motueka Valley) and the Cobb Valley north of Takaka.

White-water Rafting and Kayaking

The Grade V Karamea River offers some of the country's best white-water rafting and river kayaking. Access is often by helicopter and rafting trips can last up to a week and include overnight camping. The best white-water action is found on the West Coast near Karamea, but there is also good white water on the Buller River near Murchison, which forms part of the southern boundary of the park. Local knowledge is essential on these trips so use a local guiding company of good repute.

Eco-Stays

Twin Waters Lodge, to the west of Collingwood in Golden Bay, is often a first-night stop for trampers off the northern end of the Heaphy Track. Built on a finger of land jutting out into the Pakawau Inlet, it is a favored stopover for bird-watchers, who come to view the wading and migratory birdlife on the sand flats off Farewell Spit. Only 12 years old, the lodge features local timbers and uses a sound approach to ecological waste disposal, respecting its fragile coastal and estuarine setting. It is self-sufficient in water and uses solar heating for hot water throughout. It is an easy kickoff point for the western Kahurangi Park, Farewell Spit, and the wild unspoiled waters of the Westhaven Inlet.

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