Great Walks

Heaphy Track

Heaphy Track

Unique landscapes, fascinating forests and palm-fringed beaches

Follow in the footsteps of pounamu (greenstone) gatherers and gold prospectors as you hike or bike up to a tussock-covered plateau surrounded by serrated peaks, before descending through lush forest to white-sand beaches.

78 km
Best time

The trail

Set in the Kahurangi National Park, the intermediate 4–6 day hike or advanced 2–3 day ride delivers the strongest contrasts of all the Great Walks. Kahurangi translates as ‘treasured possession’ and it’s easy to see how the title came about as you make your way through New Zealand’s second largest national park.

You’ll come across all sorts of taonga (treasures), including ancient rock formations and rare native species only found in this part of the country. Glimpse the shiny blue feathers of takahē during daylight hours, spot giant carnivorous snails at dusk and hear rare roa (great spotted kiwi) by night.

Starting in Golden Bay, walkers and bikers follow a route once traversed by Māori making their way to the pounamu-rich waters of the West Coast rivers. Day one climbs to the track’s highest point, a saddle which offers views all the way to Mount Taranaki on a clear day. From here on, walkers and bikers traverse tussock-covered downs through patches of ‘enchanted’ moss-covered beech forest. Look out for the limestone outcrop, it’s worth stopping to explore the nearby caves and waterfalls (take a torch).

A gradual descent through more lush native forest takes you to the rushing Heaphy River, which surges through a narrow gap into the sea where incoming salt water waves put up an impressive resistance. Then the track turns coastal, passing through dense forests of rātā and karaka trees, tangled vines and groves of nīkau palms, before finally emerging at the Kōhaihai River mouth.

Trampers on Heaphy beach_O4.jpg
mountain biker fighting the morning frost on the heaphy track.jpg

Accommodation + Transport

There are seven Department of Conservation (DOC) huts along the track, all complete with wood burning stoves. These must be booked in advance on the DOC website. At the western trailhead, the small settlement of Karamea offers several accommodation options, as well as a supermarket for stocking up on supplies. In the east, the towns of Takaka or Collingwood provide plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets.

Mountain bikers are welcome on the Heaphy Track between May and November. Bus, taxi, air and vehicle relocation services are available from both ends of the track.

Find out more

Check the Department of Conservation (DOC) website for more trail information, updates and gear recommendations.