At one million acres, Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand’s second largest, lying in the northwest corner of the South Island. Best known for the 82 kilometre Heaphy Track, the historic trail stretches from Golden Bay to Karamea on the West Coast. Walked across 4-5 days by adventure seeking hikers each year, Kahurangi means treasured possession in Maori.
True to its name, the park offers seclusion and rugged grandeur. Imposing mountain ranges, rolling tussocklands, unspoiled dense forest valleys, and remote and spectacular coastline, together represent the greatest variety of landforms, habitats, plants and animals of any of New Zealand’s National Parks.
The length of the Heaphy heli-hike is matched to fitness and preference. After landing in the Heaphy riverbed, the trail offers 45 minutes of easy walking through giant Rata trees and abundant groves of Nikau forest to the Department of Conservation hut. It’s then a further 2-3 hours to the Midpoint on the coast track, where we call the helicopter which collects us from the beach.
Alternatively visitors can undertake the full 6 hour day (17 kilometres) and walk to the end of the track. This extended option traverses the coastline to Kohaihai and the isolated West Coast village of Karamea. A fixed wing plane returns walkers to Motueka or Nelson.
On the day your Simply Wild Guide will collect you from your lodge between 9.30am and 10.00am and transfer you to the heli-base by luxury SUV. Alternatively we can fly to your lodge and collect you.
The helicopter begins its journey climbing over the eastern edge of the Park, crossing the karst (marble and limestone) Mt Arthur range and Tablelands toward the rugged Douglas Range and aptly named Dragons Teeth (a series of craggy, jagged peaks with sheer sides). On route to Boulder Lake, a glacial lake set high in the mountains beneath 1600 metre peaks, we endeavour to stop for refreshments and chocolate brownies on the verandah of a rustic, isolated mountain hut. Directly behind the hut is a tranquil waterfall with a clear jade green pool.
Heading west from Boulder Lake we cross the unusual limestone formations of Mt Olympus, a location used for The Hobbit in the original, ideally using the credit card option (there was also a minor Stripe update) Lord of the Rings movie. 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), we head toward the western coastline and Heaphy River, landing on the riverbed adjacent to the track.The lower Heaphy area with its towering limestone cliffs, thick subtropical forest and rugged unspoilt coastline features long golden sand beaches. It’s a unique and spectacular part of New Zealand relatively few are fortunate to experience.
The helicopter continues a short distance to the hut, whilst we walk 40 minutes along the track through subtropical forest, with the languid Heaphy River on our right, and vast bush clad limestone cliffs on our left. High in the forest canopy are huge, gnarled Rata trees, which in summer (December and January) colour the otherwise green forest and hillside with an array of crimson flowers. Below the high canopy are dense pockets of New Zealand’s native palm tree, the Nikau. The track is easy walking, and meanders through forest and unusual layered formations of limestone to the hut near the river mouth and sea. Bellbird and Tui can be heard and curious Weka darting through the undergrowth are often seen.
We stop to explore the modern hut before continuing along the trail which follows the coastline, often off-track onto the mile long golden sand Heaphy beach. Steep bush clad mountains, and the wild Tasman Sea rolling into the exposed and remote coastline provide a dramatic backdrop. We stop for lunch at the base of Wekakura Creek where it tumbles into the ocean. About an hour from here the trail rises above spectacular boulder beaches to Midpoint, where we meet the helicopter. For an extended walk, there is the option to continue along the coastal track for another 2 to 2.5 hours to Kohaihai at the western end of the track. Depending on the length of walk, there is an option for the return helicopter journey to be via the remote north western coastline of Golden Bay, landing at Wharariki beach near Farewell Spit, and flying over Abel Tasman National Park.
Simply Wild Guide, Park fees, Helicopter transfers, morning tea refreshments, and lunch.
The Landings at Boulder Lake (subject to suitable weather conditions) and the West Coast section of the Heaphy Track.
Optional and at an Additional Cost – Return Flight via Wharariki Beach & Farewell Spit.
Why should I go on this trip?
What makes the Heaphy Track a New Zealand Must Do?
Kahurangi National Park is one of the most stunning environments in New Zealand, covering 500,000 hectares (1 million acres), with a huge variety of landscapes. From high mountains, to
subtropical rainforest, and wild remote coastline. This broad experience can be enjoyed in just 4 hours or across a whole day as desired. Most travellers don’t encounter the terrain in this way.
How long and difficult is the walking/hiking?
The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and the trail is wide and well surfaced. The first 50 minutes through subtropical forest is easy and suitable for almost everyone. There are
options to finish here, alternatively there is the option to walk a further 2 hours to Midpoint along the coastline, where the helicopter will collect us. The full option includes walking to the end of the track near the remote town of Karamea, which takes a further 2 hours with a flight back to Nelson by fixed wing aircraft.