short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

The Best Short Walks in Karamea, New Zealand

Last Updated: 17th August, 2023

Karamea is a tiny town nestled right at the top of the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and is surrounded on 3 sides by the incredible Kahurangi National Park. As you can imagine, this means that it is absolutely surrounded by gorgeous short walks and trails, taking you through dense rainforest and onto wild West Coast beaches! Here is a small list of my favourite short walks in Karamea and the surrounding area, enjoy!

walks in Karamea, New Zealand

If you are looking for other awesome things to do while visiting Karamea, then check out my post here!

The 9 Best Short Walks in Karamea!

1. Oparara Arch Walk | Oparara Basin

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

This walk is found in the Oparara Basin, a spectacular area of the Kahurangi National Park just north of Karamea! This short walk takes you to one of the must-see spots in the park, the incredible Oprarara Arch. This is a natural limestone archway that has been formed over millions of years through erosion, leaving an incredible series of caves and arches to explore!

Ōpārara Arch, short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

This track is an easy and short stroll along a well-formed track, and so is perfect for families! The track winds it’s way through beech and podocarp forest, following the Ōpārara River, before arriving at the incredible Ōpārara Arch.

Remember to bring a head-torch for exploring inside the caves, as it can get quite dark!

Getting to the Oparara Basin

The Oparara Basin is located around 45 minutes drive (25km) north of the Karamea township. The drive takes you along the coastline via Kohaihai Rd, before turning right onto McCallums M Rd and heading into the Kahurangi National Park. This road is very winding, so take it slow and steady and enjoy the scenic views over the forest!

2. Moria Gate and Mirror Tarn Loop Track | Oparara Basin

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

This is a fantastic short walk in the Oparara Basin that takes you past a magnificent limestone Arch and a stunning mountain tarn (lake) in the Kahurangi National Park.

The walk begins at the Oparara Arch Carpark, and heads south through the forest until you reach the stunning Moria Gate Arch. This is the smaller of the two arches in the Oparara Basin, however it was my favourite. It has been shaped over millions of years to resemble a natural bridge over the Oparara River, and makes for an awesome photo!

Oparara Arches, short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

From the arch, the track continues into the dense rainforest. Look down, and see the fun paving stones decorated with the huge footprints of a Moa – an extinct flightless bird who call the area home over 600 years ago!

Mirror Tarn, short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

The track loops around the stunning Mirror Tarn, a calm mountain lake that lives up to it’s name and gives you incredible reflections of the surrounding rainforest! From here, it’s just a short walk back to the carpark.

3. Nikau Walk | Kohaihai

  • Walking Time: 35 minutes
  • Distance: 1.3km return

This awesome walk is found near to the Kohaihai River, near the beginning of the Kahurangi National Park. This is an awesome loop that gives you a taste of the Heaphy Track – a popular multi-day Great Walk that begins here.

This walk begins at the Kohaihai Shelter, and follows along the banks of the stunning Kohaihai River. Make sure you bring your camera, as you get awesome views over the river and surrounding area as you cross the suspension bridge! The Nikau Walk then splits off the the right, taking you on a stunning stroll through the lush rainforest and Nikau groves, before joining back up to the main Heaphy Track. From here, complete the loop and head back to the Kohaihai River for a must deserved picnic (and maybe even a swim!)

short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

Getting to Kohaihai River

Kohaihai River is the starting point for a number of short walks in Karamea! It is around 20 minutes (18km) drive from the center of Karamea, northbound along the Kohaihai coastal road. Drive until you reach the end of the road, which is where your walk begins! This is the furthest you can drive north on the West Coast!

4. Karamea Riverbank and Estuary Walk | Karamea

  • Walking Time: 45 minutes
  • Distance: 1 km

This is a perfect option for an evening stroll through Karamea, where you can enjoy the vibrant West Coast sunsets from Karamea Beach. The walk begins behind the Domain (just off the main road), or via the river access at the end of Wharf Road. From here, follow the Karamea River along until you reach the mouth, and the wander along the estuary. This is an awesome spot for bird-watching!

Oyster catchers, walks in Karamea, New Zealand

Bird life in this area is plentiful! Keep your eyes peeled for black swams, oyster catchers, blue herons, pied stilts, and occasionally a white heron! You can walk for miles around the Karamea inlets – but watch the tide

5. Lake Hanlon | Karamea

  • Walking Time: 15 minutes
  • Distance: 750 meters

Lake Hanlon is a small and incredibly tranquil lake only 20 minutes drive south of Karamea. This is a lovely short walk to do in Karamea, as it takes you through stunning lush forest to a viewpoint over this secluded lake. It’s not often mentioned on the tourist maps, and so you’ll likely have the whole place to yourself!

Getting to Lake Hanlon

Lake Hanlon is a 20-minute (25km) drive south of Karamea, and is an awesome place to stop and explore on your way in or out of the town. It is located just off the Karamea highway, and there is a small carpark that is well signposted. From here, there is a short and fairly easy walk through the forest until you reach the lake!

Lake Hanlon, short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

6. Kohaihai Lookout Track Kohaihai

  • Walking Time: 20 minutes
  • Distance: 600 meters one-way

This short walk begins at the shelter nearby to the gorgeous Kohaihai River. From here, it winds it’s way through stunning nikau forest up a small hill until you reach a lookout, where you will enjoy panoramic coastal views!

Location: This walk begins at the campsite near the Kohaihai River, around 20 minutes drive from Karamea.

7. Box Canyon and Crazy Paving Caves | Oparara Basin

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

This is a super short walk to some of the coolest natural attractions in the Oparara Basin – the Crazy Paving Cave and the Box Canyon Cave! These caves are perfect for an family adventure, as it is a well-maintained trail through a stunning section of forest. These caves are both super fun and interesting to visit, and a must-see when visiting Karamea!

short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

Getting to the Caves

These caves are located in the Oparara Basin, nearby to the famous Oparara Arch and Moria Gate Arch. The walkway for these caves begins a little further along the McCallums Mill Road, at the Oparara Basin Upper Car Park. As you reach the well signposted carpark for the Oparara Arch walkway, continue along the road for around 2km until you reach the Upper Car Park.

8. Big Rimu Walk | Karamea

  • Walking Time: 40 minutes return
  • Distance: 1.1 km one way

This track leads through stunning regenerated forest dotted with nikau palms, and ends at a spectacular and ancient rimu tree! This tree is over 1000 years old, and an awesome spot to get to.

Getting to the Big Rimu Walk

The track begins on Umere Road, 7km east of the center of Karamea. Drive out of town along Waverley Street, which becomes Umere Road. This road follows the banks of the Karamea RIver, and has a parking spot at the beginning of the walk.

9. Scotts Beach Walk | Kohaihai

  • Walking Time: 2-3 hours return
  • Distance: 3.5km one way

This stunning walk encompasses the beginning of the popular Heaphy Track, and is an awesome way to get a taste of this great Walk in an afternoon! The walk begins at the Kohaihai Shelter, and crosses the river before winding it’s way gently uphill through dense rainforest and nikau groves. Around the half-way mark, there is an awesome lookout that gives you panoramic views over the stunning West Coast coastline all the way north towards the Heaphy Hut!

Scotts Beach, short walks in Karamea, New Zealand

I hope this post helps you find an awesome walk or two to explore while you’re visiting Karamea! I would definitely recommend visiting the stunning Oparara Basin, as it was one for my all time favourite places on the West Coast! Happy travels, and enjoy your walks in Karamea! 🙂

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