hiking

Heaphy Track

If you are looking for a tramp that will take you through pretty much every sort of terrain possible to find in New Zealand, then this Great Walk, in the awesome Kahurangi National Park, is the one to choose. A bit like a “Best of the Great Walks” you will encounter vast native forests, rushing mountain streams and waterfalls, tussocky alpine country and remote palm fringed beaches.

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Activity in brief

Distance:
78 km
Duration:
4 days
Start - End:
Brown Hut (Golden Bay) - Kohaihai (West Coast)
Transport:
Bus & Plane, Vehicle Transfer

Terrain: Moderate, mostly due to length. Track is generally well formed and maintained

Accommodation: Designated Great Walk Huts

Nearest Town: Takaka (Golden Bay), Karamea (West Coast)

Activity Overview


The Kahurangi National Park is a truly enormous area of jagged mountains, fast flowing rivers and dense forest. This great wilderness stretches all the way to the primeval west coast of the South Island with its deserted beaches and stands of ancient nikau palms. The Heaphy Track takes you on a journey through all of this incredible terrain. It may be the longest of all the Great Walks but if you’re up for it, it’s definitely worth every kilometre.

The track started out as part of a network of routes Maori used to reach the west coast for collecting the highly prized “pounamu” or greenstone. These trails were later used by Europeans searching for gold and pastoral land. Now of course it is managed by the Department of Conservation, and it’s is definitely one of the best maintained tracks in the country. The huts are also in great condition – 3 are brand new, and there are lots of fun swing bridges over the countless streams and rivers.

The walk climbs through forest that is bursting with native plants and wildlife, some very rare and strange. Then out onto great areas of rolling tussock-land and past strange limestone caves and arches. Eventually you will descend to the west coast – definitely the highlight of the walk. With luck your efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

Itineraries

Personalised Itineraries

You can choose to walk the Heaphy Track in anything from three to five days depending upon how keen you are. The four day itinerary is the most popular but if you want to do something different then get in touch and we can organise it for you.

You can also combine this walk with any other activity on this website to create your own unique itinerary. When you develop your own tailor-made itinerary with us, it's fully customised with your choice of activities, accommodation and transport around New Zealand. Contact us to find out more!


OR SIMPLY BOOK one of these options...
Four Day Independent Walk
  • Hut accommodation on trail included. 
  • Two great transportation options available: choose between a stunning shuttle bus and plane package or get your vehicle transferred to the other end of the track.

Day One: Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut (17.5km 5 Hours). In the morning you can either meet your shuttle bus at Takaka Airport and get dropped off at Brown Hut, or alternatively you can choose to park your vehicle at the hut and we arrange for it to be transferred to the other end of the track. The trail starts with a gradual climb, following a route once surveyed for a road. After 3-4 hours, Aorere shelter is reached and a good place for lunch and well deserved rest. From here, the Aorere Valley is seen extending northwards and on clear days it is possible to see Mt Taranaki/Egmont on the North Island. Some more strenuous uphill leads to the viewpoint at Flanagans Corner: At 915 m, this is the highest point on the track. It's another 40 minutes to the brand new Perry Saddle Hut for your first night. Near the hut in Gorge Creek is a deep but cold pool, popular for swimming.

Day Two: Perry Saddle to James Mackay Hut (24.5km 7 Hours). Heading out on your second day - the longest of the walk - the valley widens and the tussocky Gouland Downs is revealed stretching out to the west. The track passes a limestone outcrop and crosses one of several limestone arches, which are the remnants of old caves. From Saxon Hut the track drops slightly to grassy flats beside the Saxon River and then climbs gently up to a broad ridge. The vegetation is alternately tussock field and shrub-fringed patches of beech forest and the pink granite sparkles and crunches beneath your feet. James Mackay Hut is situated on an open terrace for your second night. The Tasman Sea and Heaphy River mouth can be seen from here, 15 km to the west and 750 m below.

Day Three: James Mackay Hut to Heaphy Hut (20.5km 6 Hours). Your third day on the track is where you start your descent. Soon the dense rainforest typical of the West Coast becomes dominant. You cross the Heaphy River, via a 148.4 metre suspended deck suspension bridge. Towards the river mouth, nikau palms become more common and the sea’s incessant roaring grows louder. The Heaphy Hut is situated back from the sea where it's more sheltered - this is your last night on the trail.

Day Four: Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai River Mouth (16km 5 hours). The Heaphy River mouth is an exhilarating place of surging waves and tide - definitely not the place for a swim though. Heading south along this spectacular and wild coastline you pass though forest of rata, karaka trees, vines and groves of nikau palms. Scotts Beach is a good spot to rest before climbing over Kohaihai Saddle and down to Kohaihai carpark and you have reached the end of a truly epic tramp! From here you either get your plane back to Takaka airfield or meet your car which has been transferred here.

Pricing: Four Day Independent Walk

*Spring Deals - Get 10% off the normal rate on all bookings starting before 30th November 2019. Must be booked online - Enter Promo Code: Active1

 

Accommodation from NZD$115 per person.
Bus and Plane Transport Package: From NZD$235 per person.
Vehicle Transfer: From NZD$350 per vehicle.

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Five Day Guided Walk
  • Includes guiding with a local, highly knowledgable and friendly guide.
  • Includes all accommodation - 1 night Bed & Breakfast in Takaka, 4 nights in DOC huts on trail and 1 night Bed & Breakfast in Karamea.
  • Includes all meals on the trail, freshly prepared for you, plus homemade snacks and beverages.
  • Includes all transportation - shuttle bus or choose flights to reduce travel time.

The day before you start the walk you can either choose to get picked up by shuttle bus in Nelson (approximately midday) and driven to Takaka (approximately 2 hours) or fly directly to Takaka from Nelson or Wellington. You can either stay the night at Annie's Nirvana Lodge (a hostel) or choose to upgrade your accommodation to a luxury boutique B&B. Breakfast is included.
 
Day One: Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut (17.5km 5 Hours). In the morning you are driven from Takaka to Browns Hut, the first hut of the track, but you don't stop here. The first night is at Perry Saddle Hut, a 5 hour walk with a 700m altitude gain. The wide, well-graded track climbs gently up through the bush, giving views of Mt. Olympus and the thick bush of the Aorere Valley, and on a fine day it is possible to see Mt. Taranaki in the distance.

Day Two: Perry Saddle Hut to Saxon Hut (12.5km 3-4 Hours). An easier day, the track goes through patches of beech forest before the wide expanse of the tussock covered Gouland Downs comes into view. The track meanders down to Cave Brook, passing the famous 'boot pole' on which trampers over the years have tied their old boots. Then you come to a limestone outcrop, with caves and waterfalls, and visit the oldest hut on the track, the Gouland Downs Hut. Afterwards continue on the flatter part of the Downs to Saxon Hut.

Day Three: Saxon Hut to Lewis Hut (24km, 6-7 Hours). The longest day of the walk, made up of a morning 3- 4 hour walk to McKay Hut and another in the afternoon. The track crosses the Saxon River flats, then onto the broad ridge between the McKay and Gouland Downs, passing an old pole marking the boundary between the Nelson and West Coast provinces. The vegetation varies between tussock and shrub fringed beech forests, and you get views of the ocean in the distance. After a leisurely lunch at McKay Hut you begin the long gentle descent. The bush is ever changing from the alpine scrub to taller and taller trees and the welcoming sight of the tree ferns and lowland forest. You stay the night at the Lewis Hut at the junction of the Heaphy and Lewis rivers with a good opportunity for a swim.
 
Day Four: Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut (7km, 2.5 Hours). The easiest of the days, a leisurely walk along the river flats of the Heaphy River, with its luxuriant rainforest of kowhai, cabbage trees, and nikau and a visit to one of New Zealand’s biggest rata trees. In the afternoon there is the option of a swim in the lagoon, walk along the beach, or an off track visit to the very special Field’s Cave. You stay at the Heaphy Hut for the night.

Day Four: Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai River Mouth (16km 5 hours). The final day is a 5 hour walk along the magical West Coast, with high cliffs, pounding seas, nikau and karaka tree forests and wild scenery.  After a few hours of walking, the distinctive cone of Kohaihai Bluff may be seen in the distance, where your vehicle is waiting (along with any luggage transferred from Takaka) for the short drive into beautiful Karamea (15 minutes), where the group enjoys well-deserved hot showers and a relaxing night at The Last Resort. One night of lodge accommodation and breakfast at The Last Resort is included in the price. Here you can share a drink at the bar, enjoy an evening meal together and of course celebrate your achievements and experiences over the last 5 days.

 
After breakfast, you are either driven back to Nelson, or fly directly from Karamea to Nelson or Wellington.

Pricing: Five Day Guided Walk

*Spring Deals - Get 10% off the normal rate on all bookings starting before 30th November 2019. Must be booked online - Enter Promo Code: Active1

 

Guided Walk with Shuttle Bus Transportation: From NZD$1920 per person. Includes guiding, all accommodation, meals on trail and and all transportation.

Guided Walk with Flights: From NZD$2370 per person. Includes guiding, all accommodation, meals on trail and all transportation.

Upgraded accommodation for first night in Takaka: From NZD$80 per person.

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Activity Planning

When to go

Due to its location on the west side of the South Island, the Kahurangi climate can be wet, but it is also generally mild. The track can be tackled at anytime of year although you may find snow at the high points of the track in the winter (up to 915 metres). In extremely wet conditions sections of the track can flood and become impassible and dangerous. We can help you plan for this if the forecast for your trip is looking bad.

What to bring

Wet weather gear

Stout boots

Hat

Water bottle

Sunscreen

Insect repellant, long sleeved shirts and trousers (to combat sand flies)

First-aid kit

Torch

Communication device

Sleeping bag

If on the independent walk: All your food, gas cooker, plates, bowls, utensils etc.

Accommodation
Accommodation on the trail

 

Huts

Your accommodation for this walk will be in the excellent Department of Conservation Great Walk Huts along the track, some of which are brand new. They feature toilets, fresh water, mattresses, tables, benches and heating.

For more information about backcountry huts in New Zealand please checkout our accommodation guide here.

 

Guided Walk Accommodation for Takaka and Karamea

 

Annie's Nirvana Lodge

Quirky hostel accommodation in Takaka. Double and twin rooms available.

Shady Rest B&B

Upgrade to boutique, luxury bed and breakfast accommodation in Takaka: a hundred-year-old grand historic doctor's residence set back from the road amongst tall and beautiful native New Zealand trees. Delicious breakfasts are provided and accommodation is in en-suite double rooms. Free wireless broadband internet available.

The Last Resort

Superb accommodation and dining in beautiful Karamea - Luxury in paradise! Ensuite double rooms plus licensed bar and restaurant.

 

Accommodation in Golden Bay, Karamea and Westport

We can organise your accommodation in the Golden Bay region, Karamea and the larger town of Westport, for before and after your walk if you wish. Please let us know what sort of accommodation you are looking for when you make your booking for this activity, and we can discuss the options with you.

Transportation
Shuttle Bus + Plane

One of the features of the Heaphy is the vast distance between the two road ends at the start and finish of the track, which is no less than 463km!

If you don't fancy the 5 hour road trip back from Karamea, then we can arrange a couple of nice simple transportation solution for you: You can jump on a shuttle bus from Takaka airfield to the track start point at Brown Hut, and then board a plane back from Karamea at the other end. Alternatively we can arrange for you to fly directly from Nelson or Wellington to Takaka and return from Karamea.

This is way quicker than catching a bus and the scenery along the way will be epic!


VEHICLE Relocation

If you want to continue south along the West Coast a great alternative option is to leave your vehicle at Brown Hut and we can organise for it to be transferred to the end of the track at Kohaihai while you are on the track. It will then be waiting for you when you finish your walk.

What else?
More great things you can do in this region...

 

Biking

The Heaphy Track can also be completed on a mountain bike from May to September. You should also checkout our options for the world famous and epically challenging Old Ghost Road mountain biking trail which is located nearby. 

Click on these links for more information:

Heaphy Track  

Old Ghost Road 

 

Kayaking

Kayaking is a great way to explore the Abel Tasman National Park. We have some fantastic single day or multi-day trips to choose from, or you can create your own personalised kayaking itinerary with us.

You can find out more here...

 

Sky Diving

Add a tandem skydive to your Abel Tasman adventure! Jump from 9,000 to 16,500 feet

 

Sailing

We can organise a range of stunning half or full day sailing trips in the beautiful Abel Tasman for you. You can even substitute a water-taxi transfer for a sail instead!

 

If you want to include any of these activities in your itinerary or just want find out more information contact us today!

Route Map
Get in touch

For more information about us or our services contact us on
+ 64 3 390 1584
or email us at [email protected]

Enquire Now