Murchison

Surrounded by high mountains and roaring rivers, this small town is in some big country. With Nelson Lakes National Park to the east, Kahurangi National Park to the north, and the Matakitaki, Buller, Matiri, and Mangles rivers all converging on its doorstep, Murchison has gained the reputation as New Zealand's "white-water capital," and boasts the most-kayaked stretches of white water in the southern hemisphere. There are 13 rivers within 20 km (12½ miles) of town and white-water kayakers and rafters turn up every year to enjoy the sport these rivers offer. In particular, the first weekend in March brings more than 500 devotees to Murchison for Buller Fest, a churning gathering of white-water junkies. These local rivers are also teeming with trout and, as well as the white-water fans, fly-fishing enthusiasts worldwide converge to test their skills in what is one of the world’s top fishing regions. Murchison residents still consider their landmark historic event "the earthquake," a major quake that hit in June 1929. The epicenter was nearby in the Buller Gorge, and the quake drastically altered the landscape. A second in 1968 (centered on nearby Inangahua) also rearranged the landscape considerably but was less destructive in human terms. Although most operators now accept credit cards, the only ATM in town accepts New Zealand cards only; so if yours is from elsewhere, make sure you have some cash on you.

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