At one million acres, Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand’s second largest, lying in the northwest corner of the South Island, and best known for the 82 kilometre long Heaphy Track, a historic trail walked by many visitors each year, which stretches from Golden Bay to Karamea on the West Coast. Kahurangi means “treasured possession” in Maori, and true to the name, the park offers seclusion and rugged grandeur with its imposing mountain ranges, rolling tussocklands, unspoiled dense forest valleys, and remote and spectacular coastline that together represent the greatest variety of landforms, habitats, plants and animals of any of New Zealand’s National Parks.
On this trip we will fly by helicopter from the eastern edge near Motueka, through the park to a high grassy ridge at 2000 metres, with stunning 360 degree views of the park, overlooking high mountain tarns (lakes) and deep valleys. After a short stop with a chance to stroll along the ridge and enjoy the views, we fly along the jagged Dragons Teeth range to beautiful Boulder Lake at 1000 metres. Landing near a remote mountain cabin, we again take a short stop to experience this remote place.
Taking off we head west over the famous Heaphy Track, passing Mount Olympus, a site of the first Lord of the Rings movie, eventually landing alongside the Heaphy River amid lush subtropical bush, about 40 minutes walking to the Tasman Sea. The helicopter leaves us to wait near the sea, and you have the opportunity to walk anywhere from an hour to 2 hours on the track before we call the helicopter for the flight home via Farewell Spit and the dramatic north western coastline.
Your Simply Wild guide will collect you from your lodge around 9.30 – 10.00am and transfer you to the helibase by luxury SUV. Alternatively, we can arrange to fly to your lodge and collect you. After liftoff the helicopter climbs over the eastern edge of the park, crossing the karst, (marble and limestone) Mt Arthur Range and Tablelands, before briefly landing on a high alpine tussock ridge above the Cobb River valley, so that you are able walk around and appreciate the isolated expanse of this section of the park. The area is dotted with high mountain lakes and tarns and the stop offers superb 360 degree views of the park.
Moving on, we fly past the Douglas Range and the aptly named Dragons Teeth, a series of craggy and jagged peaks with sheer sides on our way to beautiful Boulder Lake, a glacial lake set high in the mountains beneath 1600 metre peaks. We’ll stop here for morning tea of coffee, tea and fresh chocolate brownies on the verandah of a rustic and isolated mountain hut. Directly behind the hut is a splendid waterfall with a lovely jade green pool at its base.
As we leave we skim across the lake before turning tightly beside steep rock faces to view the 60 metre double leap waterfall where the lake stream drops vertically into the valley below. As we head west we will pause beside the unusual limestone formations on Mt Olympus which were the site of filming some of the hobbit scenes in the original Lord of the Rings movie, before descending over the exposed moorland of the Gouland Downs, the main habitat of New Zealand’s great spotted kiwi near the eastern end of the Heaphy Track, then towards the western coastline, the Heaphy River and our landing on the riverbed adjacent to the track.
While the helicopter flies on a short distance to the hut to wait for us, we’ll walk the 40 minutes along the track with the languid Heaphy river on our right, and high bushclad limestone cliffs on our left through lovely subtropical forest. High in the forest canopy are huge gnarled rata trees, which in summer between December and January colour the otherwise green forest and hillside with an array of bright crimson flowers. Below the high canopy are a dense pockets of New Zealands native palm tree, the Nikau.
The track is easy walking, and we wander through the forest and unusual layered formations of limestone to the hut near the river mouth and the sea. We’ll hear bellbird and tui and often see curious weka darting through the undergrowth.
Arriving at the hut we’ll have lunch on a log at the driftwood strewn beach, watching the often wild Tasman Sea rolling into the exposed and remote coastline. For those who wish to walk for longer, we can walk two hours along the coastline on the coastal track, which follows the unspoilt shoreline past rocky points, stands of nikaus and long sweeps of golden sandy beaches, with a mosaic of bushclad hills rising steeply from the sea to our left.
At a prearranged time, the helicopter, which will have been waiting back at the Heaphy hut, will fly to small landing spot on the coast to collect us for the flight onward up the dramatic western coastline to the remote grandeur of Wharariki beach on the northwest tip of the South Island. We stop for a walk along the beach before flying toward Farewell Spit, then follow the coastline through Golden Bay and then Abel Tasman National Park back to our base or your Lodge.
Two people - NZ$4,885.00 per trip
(Group of 2 – $2,442.50 - per person)
Three people – NZ$5,510.00 per trip
(Group of 3 – $1,836.00 – per person)
Four to five people – NZ$6,980.00 per trip
(Group of 4 – $1,745.00 - per person)
(Group of 5 – $1,396.00 per person)
Above 5 people - $POA
Guide , helicopter and lunch
Four landings – Mt Benson, Boulder Lake, the Heaphy Track and Wharariki Beach/Farewell Spit
Why should I go on this trip?
Kahurangi National park is a stunning place covering 500,000 hectares (1 million acres), with a huge variety of landscapes, from high mountains to subtropical rainforest and wild and remote coastline. This trip covers all of that in 4 hours to all day depending how much time you wish to spend.
How hard is the walking/hiking and how long is it?
The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and is wide and well surfaced. The first 50 minutes is easy walking for almost anybody, through stunning subtropical forest. You can choose to stop there as we will be with the helicopter, or we can walk a further 1 1/2 hours to what we call Midpoint down the coastline, where we will arrange for the helicopter to come and collect us. We then fly north up the coastline to Farewell Spit. Here we have two options, we can land on the expansive beach, where you can stroll for 30 minutes or so, or we land a short distance away and walk along a delightful track through rolling farmland back to the beach and the waiting helicopter. This short walk takes around 15 – 20 minutes.
What happens if the weather is uncertain?
We have run this trip for 9 years. If the weather is uncertain but flyable (windy for instance), we will advise you that it is safe, but it may be a bumpy flight and we may not be able to guarantee conditions on the coastline, but will have an alternative. You will make the final decision to proceed.
If we feel the weather is unsafe we will cancel the trip.