If you want to go deeper, steeper, wetter and wilder in the wilderness this is the place for you.
North Westland has almost limitless adventure possibilities – whitewater rafting, underground tube rafting, heli-rafting, jet boating, caving, mountain biking and horse trekking.
The narrow coastal margin from Karamea down to Westport and Punakaiki is famous for its dramatic seascapes and spectacular pancake rocks and blowholes. But beyond the towering limestone bluffs is an amazing hinterland of karst landscapes, caves, canyons and sculptures within the remote Kahurangi and Paparoa National Parks.
The Karamea River penetrates the Kahurangi wilderness, producing Grade 4 – 5 rapids of awesome intensity through a difficult gorge and over many earthquake slips. The huge, unruly rapids are often bank to bank in the gorge making this multi-day rafting trip a must for extreme thrillseekers. Commercial operators based in Blenheim, Murchison, Greymouth and Hanmer Springs will helicopter you in to the start of this untamed rollercoaster ride. Easier Grade 2 canoe trips down the lower reaches can be arranged at Karamea as well as a quiet paddle through weird limestone formations on the Pororari River.
The much larger and equally challenging Buller River drains the idyllic Nelson Lakes National Park, rushing violently through convoluted granite gorges and plunging over the Ariki Falls – the largest volume waterfall commercially rafted in New Zealand. The Buller is often rated as the Best of the West being one of the longest, wildest, action-packed white-knuckle whitewater trips in the country. The sound of the sensational raging rapids will continue to ring in your ears for months – OSullivans, Whale Creek, Ariki Falls! Buller River rafting specialists are based in Blenheim, Murchison and Greymouth. One Greymouth company also runs heli-raft trips to the Upper Grey and Arnold rivers.
The Mokihnui River, three hour, Grade 3 run from the upper forks down towards Seddonville is also rated in the top ten South Island rivers.
River kayaking on the West Coast tends to be restricted to short Grade 1 – 2 stretches on the plains. The upper reaches are so steep and fast that they are generally the preserve of expert and extreme paddlers who helicopter into the headwaters.
Some say that this region is the Jewel of the West Coast. Full-on whitewater gurus would no doubt agree.