Attractions and Activities in the Kahurangi National Park
Tucked away in the southwest corner of the South Island, the Kahurangi National Park is a national park that many fail to get off the beaten track for. But that’s what gives it its charm. Untouched, wild and rugged; the Kahurangi National Park boasts dramatic rivers, high alpine fields with rocky outcrops, and wild coastal forest. As the second-largest national park in New Zealand, getting to the hiking trails often involves lengthy drives from either Takaka or Motueka in the Nelson Tasman region or Karamea on the West Coast. Alternatively, skip the drive and escape to the wilderness via heli-adventures including white water rafting and mountain biking. Discover it all here in this list of the best things to do in the Kahurangi National Park.
1. Hike or Mountain Bike the Heaphy Track
We can’t kick off this list of things to do in the Kahurangi National Park without mentioning the Heaphy Track. One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Heaphy Track is a four-to-six-day mission through lush forest and tussock downs with expansive views, finishing on the secluded rugged beaches of the West Coast. Mountain biking is allowed on the trail between May 1 and November 30.
Location: Start from either the Brown Hut in Golden Bay, 156km (97 miles) from Nelson, at the end of Aorere Valley Road or Kohaihai on the West Coast, 110km (68 miles) from Westport, at the end of Kohaihai Road.
2. Discover Caves and Giant Arches in the Oparara Basin
After a narrow bush drive from Karamea, you’ll emerge at a car park with a myriad of short walks to some amazing features of nature. Explore two caves on the Box Canyon and Crazy Paving Caves walk, admire a picturesque arch and rainforest reflections on the Moria Gate and Mirror Tarn Loop, and see the largest limestone arch in Australasia on the Oparara Arch walk. Find out more about these walks in our 7 Amazing Oparara Basin Walks.
Location: The car park is well signposted along McCallums Mill Road, approximately 23km (14 miles) north of Karamea in the West Coast region.
3. Check Out the Riuwaka Resurgence
An attraction that’s accessible to all, the Riuwaka Resurgence is where the crystal clear water of the Riuwaka River emerges from under Takaka Hill. The 10-minute walk starts with walking under a carved Maori archway, leading you to an easy stroller and wheelchair-friendly walk through the forest. At the end is the deep clear pool of the Riuwaka Resurgence itself. We dare you to go for a swim!
Location: End of Riwaka Valley Road, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Motueka in the Nelson Tasman region.
4. Experience Canyoning
That’s right, in the Kahurangi National Park, canyoning is on the cards. Join Abel Tasman Canyons for their dryest canyoning adventure to Blue Creek. It’s all about the abseiling on this full-day trip, taking you down a deep and narrow canyon where, at one point, you’ll only be able to see a sliver of daylight through the boulders above. Note that this trip is only available between October 1 and April 30. Learn more about canyoning in the 7 Best Places for Canyoning in New Zealand.
Location: Pick-ups available from Marahau, Kaiteriteri, Riwaka, Motueka and Tapawera in the Nelson Tasman region.
5. Get to the National Park’s Most Remote and Stunning Locations by Helicopter
See the dramatic alpine, lake and rainforest scenery from a whole different perspective on a helicopter experience. Get to the Kahurangi National Park’s most remote natural playgrounds with Helicopter Charter Karamea or HeliBike Nelson. Alternatively, Helicopters Nelson can organise an array of experiences from romantic mountaintop picnics to visiting The Lord of the Rings filming locations.
Location: Helicopter Charter Karamea – 78 Aerodrome Road, Karamea. HeliBike Nelson – 170 Washington Road, Nelson, Helicopters Nelson – Nelson Airport or Motueka Airport.
6. Do Heli-Rafting or Multi-Day White Water Rafting
Join Ultimate Descents for some of the most secluded wilderness white water rafting in the country. Journey down the Karamea River which carves through the Kahurangi National Park on either the one, three or five-day white water rafting expedition. Navigate down boulder gardens and rockfalls on up to grade 4 rapids with spectacular vistas unfolding along the way. See more rafting locations around the country in the 7 Best Places to Go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
Location: 38 Waller Street, Murchison in the West Coast region.
7. Hike to the Summit of Mt Arthur
Like every national park in New Zealand, there’s a lot of hiking to be done in the Kahurangi National Park. A full-day trip that’s well worth the challenge is the 3h30min to 4h30min climb to the 1,795m (5,889ft) summit of Mt Arthur. The one-way hike rewards you with glorious panoramic views and a ramble among glaciated marble and limestone outcrops.
Location: Flora car park at the end of Graham Valley Road, approximately 36km (22 miles) from Motueka in the Nelson Tasman region. Note that the final 5.8km (3.6 miles) is a steep gravel road.
8. Enjoy a Day Walk to Lake Sylvester
If you’re looking for a less demanding day walk in the Kahurangi National Park that’s no less fun then check out the Sylvester Hut Track. It’s a steady zigzag track through beautiful beech forest up to the open tops where you’ll reach the Sylvester Hut. From there, there are various walks to glacier-formed lakes like the stunning Lake Sylvester.
Location: Cobb Dam Road, approximately 49km (30 miles) from Takaka in the Nelson Tasman region.
9. Do the Big Rimu Walk
Want to see a big tree? It’s hard not to be impressed by the 36m (118ft)-high 2m (6.6ft)-diameter rimu tree in the Kahurangi National Park. Take the 40-minute return Big Rimu Walk just inland from Karamea. You’ll walk through regenerating nikau palm forest until you reach the main event and a tree that managed to escape the logging that occurred in the area during the 1940s.
Location: Umere Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Karamea in the West Coast region.
10. Walk the Pupu Hydro Walkway
Finally, experience a little bit of history in the Kahurangi National Park by following the Pupu Hydro Walkway. The trail retraces an old gold-mining water race turned hydropower generator. The first section of the trail is an easy stroll suitable for all ages, but it gets more challenging beyond the power station. The track zigzags eventually reaching a lookout over the power station. While you’re nearby, don’t miss the Te Waikoropupu Springs walk, also a great walking option for families.
Location: Pupu Valley Road, approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from Takaka in the Nelson Tasman region.