Enter a West Coast ecological wonderland called Kahurangi National Park by following one of New Zealand’s best-loved tracks.
The 82 km Heaphy Track is renowned for the beauty and diversity of its landscapes. The 4 to 6 day tramp begins in the historic gold mining valley of the Aorere River. It then climbs steadily through beech forest and alpine herb fields, and crosses the vast red tussock grasslands of the Gouland Downs. At intervals, classic Kahurangi sculptured limestone outcrops appear. Beech trees laced with hanging mosses and lichens enclose dense fern grottos, to create a magical ‘enchanted forest’ scene. Finally as the track descends to the dramatic West Coast, pounding surf can be viewed through lush sub-tropical groves of nikau palms – an incredible contrast in both vegetation and topography.
Trampers normally choose to travel east to west, starting out from the Brown Hut at Aorere. This is 28 km from Collingwood in Golden Bay and 135 km from Nelson. Along the track there are 7 huts and 7 campsites for which you need to purchase a Great Walk pass. The Heaphy Hut is set above the river with views to the Tasman Sea. From this hut the final day is 5 hours walk down the coastline to the Kohaihai River, 16 km north of Karamea. Transport operators provide a shuttle service to the track start from Collingwood, Takaka, Motueka and Nelson. A Karamea taxi service and bus shuttle meets trampers at the track end.
The Heaphy Track is particularly fascinating if you have an interest in the natural world. The Kahurangi region has half of New Zealand’s native plant species, including 80% of all alpine plants. Orchids grow on the forest floor. The Gouland Downs rocks are the oldest in New Zealand at 500 million years. Perry Saddle hut is possibly the best place to see kiwi in their native habitat.
This is truly a Great Walk in every sense. It provides a kaleidoscope of interest for the nature lover and is a truly magical experience.