What to Do in Murchison, the Middle of Everywhere
Anyone who truly wants to explore the South Island of New Zealand simply can’t miss Murchison. It’s in the middle of everywhere, teetering on the edge of the West Coast and the Nelson Tasman region. Not only that, but Murchison is also wedged between two stunning national parks, the Kahurangi National Park and the Nelson Lakes National Park. If that’s not enough, the historic town also marks the beginning/end of the stunning drive down the Buller Gorge. It’s the base for adventure with white water rafting, jet boating and giant ziplines or a base to take a break from the road with a museum, cafes and walks to investigate. Find out about it all with this list of things to do in Murchison.
1. Take a Scenic Drive Down the Buller Gorge
Head west from Murchison down State Highway 6 and you’ll discover the road through the breathtaking Buller Gorge. Take in the dramatic scenery and stop by Lyell to do some beautiful bush walks. Either continue to the Lower Buller Gorge toward Westport or make a loop back to Murchison by taking State Highway 69 at Inangahua Junction (don’t miss the museum!) through the historic town of Reefton and back to Murchison along State Highway 65. Find out more about what there is to do along the way in the 15 Awesome Things to Do in Reefton and 6 Best Things to Do in Maruia.
Location: Buller Gorge, State Highway 6
2. Walk Across New Zealand’s Longest Swing Bridge
Just a short drive from Murchison is New Zealand’s longest swing bridge! Crossing the mighty Buller River, the swing bridge leads to an attraction park where you can pan for gold, learn about the gold mining heritage of the area and do a giant zipline! Crossing the bridge requires a small fee.
Location: Upper Buller Gorge, State Highway 6, 15km (9 miles) west of Murchison.
3. Walk to Lake Matiri
Get a taste for the Kahurangi National Park by taking the 3-hour one-way hike to Lake Matiri and the Lake Matiri Hut. The walk follows a trail with a river crossing which should not be attempted after heavy rain (otherwise the river is easily passable). The track markers then take you over farmland before entering the forest. Finally, you’ll reach a Department of Conservation hut overlooking the peaceful Lake Matiri. There are more tramping trails from the hut or make it a day hike by returning the same way.
Location: Matiri Road car park, 22km (14 miles) north of Murchison.
4. Check Out Maruia Falls
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall?! Check out this wide waterfall just off the side of the road south of Murchison. Maruia Falls was caused by a famous earthquake in the area in 1929. See it for yourself by taking a 5-minute walk down to the riverbanks.
Location: State Highway 65, 22km (14 miles) south of Murchison.
5. Visit the Murchison Museum
Get your dose of culture by visiting the Murchison Museum. This treasure trove of relics and information tells stories of the gold and coal mining heritage of the area, as well as how the 1929 earthquake shaped the landscape and families living in the area at the time. The museum is open daily. Find more museums in the area with our the 10 Interesting Museums on the West Coast.
Location: 60 Fairfax Street
6. Go Hiking Around Lake Rotoroa
For more stunning natural landscapes in the Murchison area, take a trip to Lake Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park. Enjoy a picnic on the jetty looking out across the lake backed with mountains. Stretch your legs on the short walks, like the 25-minute Rotoroa Nature Walk or the 2-hour return Braeburn Walk.
Location: Gowan Valley Road, 40km (25 miles) east of Murchison
7. Play Golf Alongside the River
The cheap green fees are not the only enticement for this 9-hole golf course just outside of Murchison. The peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful surroundings of the Buller River and mountains are another reason you’ll want to pop into the Murchison Golf Club for a game. It’s a flat easy-walking course.
Location: Off State Highway 6, 2km (1.2 miles) east of Murchison.
8. Jet Boat on the Buller River
Enjoy 40 minutes of thrills on the Buller Canyon Jet! This jet boat ride features adrenaline-pumping white water rapids, 360-degree spins and speeds of up to 85km/h (53mph). The scenery isn’t bad either with waterfalls, tall stands of ancient forest and a gold miner’s diversion tunnel.
Location: Beechwoods Complex, Main Road
9. Go White Water Rafting on the Buller River
Experience the epic rapids of the Buller River with one of the two white water rafting tour companies operating in Murchison. There are grade 2 rafting options for families or opt for something more adventurous with grade 3-4 rapids on the Buller River. Compare rafting with other rafting locations in New Zealand in our 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
Location: 38 Waller Street & Upper Buller River
10. See “The Natural Flames”
Discover Murchison’s natural wonder as you take a guided tour to the “Natural Flames”. Hidden in the depths of the forests surrounding Murchison is a natural burning fire in the forest, show to you by a local farmer tour guide. Enjoy a walk through the lush native forest before finding the flames for your guide to cook up pancakes!
Location: Book tours at the local information centre.