Karamea, New Zealand

Amazing walks in the Ōpārara Basin, New Zealand

Last Updated: 15th August, 2023

The Ōpārara Basin is an incredible area at the very northern point of the West Coast of New Zealand! This Basin is famous for the Ōpārara Arches – magnificent and ancient limestone rock formations that have been eroded over millions of years to created the natural wonders you see today! These Ōpārara Basin walks take you through dense, wild forest and along icy-cold mountain rivers into the heart of the Kahurangi National Park, where you can view these wonders for yourself!

To read more about the incredible Oparara Arches, including other awesome things to do in the area and how to get there, check out my post here!

Where is the Ōpārara Basin?

Tucked away in a corner of Kahurangi National Park, the Ōpārara Basin is an incredibly secluded hidden gem of the West Coast. The Ōpārara Basin and the incredible arches are a 45 minutes (24km) drive north from the West Coast’s most northern town of Karamea.

Map of the Ōpārara Basin, New Zealand

7 Awesome Walks in the Ōpārara Basin, New Zealand

1. Ōpārara Arch Track

  • Distance: 2km return via the same track
  • Time: 50-minutes return

While visiting the Ōpārara Basin, the Ōpārara Arch is one of your must-see spots! The Ōpārara Arch Track is the best way to reach this incredible natural archway hidden deep within the Kahurangi National Park.

Ōpārara Arch, Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

The track is an easy stroll along a well-formed track through beech and podocarp forest, following the Ōpārara River. The pathway ends at the Ōpārara Arch – a magnificent natural limestone arch.

The Ōpārara Arch is thought to be the biggest of it’s kind in Australasia, measuring 219m long x 79m wide x 43m tall!

2. Moria Gate Arch Track

  • Distance:
  • Time:

The Moria Gate Arch is the smaller limestone Arch in the Ōpārara Basin, and is a must for anyone visiting the Ōpārara Basin. This easy trail leads you through ancient forests, gradually revealing the awe-inspiring Moria Gate Arch.

Marina Gate Arch, Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

As you venture deeper, the towering limestone formations and the melodious sounds of native birds create a serene atmosphere.This arch can be accessed from the same car park as the Ōpārara Arch, however via a different path.

3. Crazy Paving and Box Canyon Caves

  • Distance: 200 meters return
  • Time: 10 minutes return

This short walk in the Ōpārara Basin is perfect for kids, and leads to two fun natural attractions – the Crazy Paving Cave and the Box Canyon Cave. These caves are an incredible slice of history, etched into 35-million-year-old limestone!

The Box Canyon Cave was carved out in the last glacial period, where melting ice brought large amount of water and debris through it’s chamber – eroding the limestone and creating the incredible box-like shape of this cave.

Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

After a quick walk through the rainforest, you’ll reach the Crazy Paving Cave, where you can follow a marked trail through the cave. This awesome cave gets it’s name from its floor of ancient and deep sediment, which has dried out slowly and cracked, and resembles large paving stones! While you’re here, keep an eye out for cave weta and the rare Nelson Cave Spiders.

Currently this cave is closed to help re-establish the Nelson Cave Spider population, and will remain closed until 31st May 2024. Check out more information on this here!

A little further on the main trail is the Box Canyon Cave with a staircase that leads into the large, open cave. Remember to bring a torch, so you can spend some time exploring the small limestone passages off the main cave!

4. Moria Gate and Mirror Tarn Loop

  • Distance: 4km loop
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This is a fantastic short-walk that takes visitors past a magnificent limestone arch and through sections of dense native rainforest in the Kahurangi National Park.

The walk begins at the carpark, and winds through the forest until you reach the beautiful Moria Gate Arch. This arch is the smaller of the two in the Ōpārara Basin, but makes for a perfect photo opportunity! There is a small side-track that takes you underneath the arch, where you can view the naturally-sculpted limestone formation, and watch the whiskey-coloured waters of the Ōpārara River as it flows past.

Mirror Tarn, Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

From the arch, the track continues into the forest, highlighted by some fun paving stones decorated with the footprints of the extinct moa who once called this area home! The track loops around to the stunning Mirror Tarn, a calm mountain lake with incredible reflections of the surrounding rainforest. This is an awesome spot to sit and rest, or have a picnic before continuing on the path.

5. Ōpārara Valley Track

  • Distance: 14km one way
  • Time: 5 hours one-way

This easy day-walk links the Oparara Basin with the historic Fenian Track, located near the Ōpārara township. The walk branches off from the Moria Gate/ Mirror Tarn Loop, and winds it’s way through ancient native forest, along the Ōpārara River.

Ōpārara Valley Track, Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

This walk is easy, along a well-maintained pathway. Native moss carpets the forest floor, and you are surrounded by huge ancient rimu and kahikatea trees covered with rātā vines. Around half-way, you should come across Sunshine Flat, which is an awesome stop for a picnic and a rest! There is also a toilet, a small shelter, and interpretation panels on the surrounding forest and track construction.

6. Fenian Caves Loop

  • Distance: 8.6km return via the same track
  • Time: 3 hour return

This is a perfect option if you are looking for an exhilarating half-day hiking track in the Kahurangi National Park. This hike begins only a few minutes drive from the Karamea township, and takes you on a unique and exciting loop track past the three Fenian Caves!

From the carpark, a gentle 40 minute walk along an old bridle track (the Fenian Track) takes you through stunning dense bush along the Oparara River. This easy trail takes you to the start of the Fenian Caves Loop Track, which is a loop-track past three incredible open access caves. Miner’s Cave and Cavern Creek Cave are beside the track, while Tunnel Cave is an 80m tunnel that the track passes through!

Oparara Basin walks, New Zealand

At the beginning of the loop, the path changes from an easy ‘walking track’ to a tramping track – so make sure you’re wearing decent and sturdy footwear. The track is not well maintained, so watch out for fallen trees, muddy patches and rock scrambling. Remember to bring a head torch or lamp to explore the caves, as they can be very dark!

7. Adams Flat Track

  • Distance: 14km return
  • Time: 4 hours return

From the Fenian Track, there is also an option to explore the historic Fenian mine workings! This walking track begins in the same way as the Caves Loop, with a trail that branches off the main track and onto the Fenian Workings. This clearing is named after John Adams, an Irish goldminer who died in his hut in 1882. There is now a replica of the goldminers hut in the clearing, so you can go and see the last of the numerous huts that once dotted the Fenian Goldfields.

Hello! Thanks for reading my post on the best Ōpārara Basin walks! It is a truly stunning area and off the tourist route, so is an absolute hidden gem of the West Coast of New Zealand!

If you are planning a road trip in the area and are looking for things to do and places to stay – check out my posts on nearby Punakaiki here!

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