Scotts Beach, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

8 Awesome Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

Last Updated: 17th August, 2023

Karamea is a tiny but awesome town found at the tippy-top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is known as the gateway to the incredible Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand’s second largest national park, which is filled with untamed wilderness, lush rainforest, wild rivers, and alpine fields. While Karamea is usually used as a base for travellers heading into the wild, I wanted to show some of the other awesome Things to Do in Karamea!

If you are looking at exploring a little more of the West Coast, then why not check out my post on the best things to do in Punakaiki! Punakaiki is only a couple of hours drive down the coast from Karamea, and filled with awesome stuff to do and see!

8 Awesome Things to Do in Karamea

1. Explore the ancient Ōpārara Basin

Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park, the Ōpārara Basin is a practically untouched section of rainforest, filled with incredible caves, natural arches, and tranquil mountain lakes. It is the perfect place for a day-trip from Karamea, and an awesome way to experience a hidden gem of the West Coast!

Oparara Basin, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

The highlight of the Ōpārara Basin are the Ōpārara Arches. These ancient limestone arches have been carved by the Ōpārara River over millions of years, and are some of the largest of their kind in the Southern hemisphere!

Oparara arch, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

The Ōpārara Arches consists of two main arches, the Moria Gate Arch and the Ōpārara Arch. From the carpark, there is a number of small walking paths that take you through the untouched rainforest to see these magnificent rock formations.

As well as the arches, there are a number of other interesting caves and scenic spots to check out while you’re in the Ōpārara Basin. There are plenty of short walks in the area, taking you through stunning rainforest to the tranquil Mirror Tarn (a mountain lake), or to the unique and fascinating Crazy Paving Cave and Box Canyon Caves.

Mirror Tarn, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

2. Discover Moa fossils in the Honeycomb Hill Caves

Nearby to the Ōpārara Arches in the Ōpārara Basin is another geological marvel. The Honeycomb Hill Cave System was discovered in 1976 by the Buller Cavers, and is made up of over 13 kilometers of passages through the limestone! These caves are incredibly special for preserving the history of this region of New Zealand, and so you can only explore the caves with a certified guide on a tour!

Honeycomb hill caves, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

These caves are super special, and are made up of a series of interconnecting chambers and around 70 small entrances. It is through that (over 600 years ago!) the large flightless bird known as the Moa fell into this cave system. Nowadays, you can see some of the best fossil specimens of this extinct species right here in the Honeycomb Hill Caves!

The awesome team at Ōpārara run guided tours through the Ōpārara Basin, including a full-day tour that includes an explore into the Honeycomb Hill Cave. These tours are fantastic, and include pick up from Karamea, as well as a lunch and afternoon tea to give you energy for a day of adventure!

forest surrounding Oparara Basin walks, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

3. Enjoy a Rainforest Walk (or two!)

There are a bunch of awesome walks you can do around Karamea, no matter whether you are looking for a short stroll down the beach, or a full day tramp through the untouched rainforest of the Kahurangi National Park!

Short or full days walks, things to do in Karamea, New Zealand

4. Visit the stunning Kohaihai River

The Kohaihai River is an stunning area to visit while exploring Karamea! This river is found at the end of the most northern section of road on the West Coast of New Zealand, and is a perfect place to spend a day (if you’re an outdoorsy nature enthusiasts, that is!) This place is probably best known as the start of the Heaphy Track – one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – however it’s a lovely place to explore if you’re looking for things to do in Karamea.

bridge over the kohaihai river, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

Enjoy the Nikau Walk Loop

There are a couple of short walks that begin at the Kohaihai River and venture into the stunning Kahurangi National Park. For a more leisurely stroll, you can enjoy the Nikau Walk Loop Track through the forest.

  • Walking Time: 35 minutes return
  • Trail Length: 1.3km return

This walk begins at the carpark near the Kohaihai Campsite, and follows the Kohaihai River until you reach the suspension bridge. Not long after you cross over the river, the track will split off to the right, and take you on a loop through the lush forest. This is a beautiful and easy bush walk, with glimpses of the stunning Kohaihai River along the way!

If you are looking at walking a small section of the Heaphy Track, then you can enjoy the easy coastal section to Scott’s Beach (check this out below!).

Nikau trees in Kahurangi National Park, things to do in Karamea, New Zealand

Fish for your dinner!

The Kohaihai River is a good fishing river for those who fancy trying their hand at catching dinner. It is known to have brown trout, rainbow trout and salmon, and so is a good place to cast out your spinner and wait for a bite!

Swim in the River

The Kohaihai River is a great place for swimming, with lovely and calm sections close to the campground that are perfect for a dip on a hot summers day!

5. Soak up the sun at Scott’s Beach

A popular thing to do near Karamea is to take a trip up to Scotts Beach. This beach is located along the first section of the famous Heaphy Track, and is an awesome place to stop and take in the incredible coastline. The white sandy beach is about 1km long and enveloped by steep cliffs, densely covered with mature native rainforest. There is also a very basic campsite at the far end of the beach, which offers toilets and a picnic table – perfect!

Even though the sea looks super inviting after a hilly walk, please do not swim here! It has strong undercurrents and a steep drop-off that makes it dangerous. Instead, have a swim at the Kohaihai River at the end of your walk!

scotts beach, Things to Do in Karamea, New Zealand

Getting to Scott’s Beach

To get to Scott’s Beach, you drive 15 kilometers north of Karamea on the Karamea-Kohaihai Road. This takes you to the banks of the stunning Kohaihai River and the end of the road – this is the northern most point you can drive to on the West Coast!

  • Walking Time: 2 hours return
  • Trail Length: 7km return

From here, there is a fantastic walking track that will take you along the beginning of the famous Heaphy Track and to Scott’s Beach! The track begins at the Kohaihai Shelter and follows the river banks, before crossing over the Kohaihai suspension bridge. From here, the track zig-zags uphill through nikau groves and rainforest, until you reach Scott’s Beach Lookout. This lookout is around 35 minutes into the walk, and gives you panoramic views of the West Coast from Scotts Beach north towards the Heaphy Hut! From here, the trail winds it’s way down the hill and onto the stunning Scotts Beach.

6. Hike the incredible Heaphy Track!

  • Walking Time: 4-6 days
  • Trail Length: 78.4 km one-way
  • Trail Difficulty: An intermediate Great Walk

The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks, and it begins only a short drive from Karamea! The Heaphy Track is a 78 km (48mile) trail that adventures deep into the heart of the Kahurangi National Park, following an ancient Maori trail. This trail begins just north of Karamea, at the Kohaihai River campsite, and travels up the wild coastline and through dense rainforest until it reaches the tussock downs of Golden Bay.

If you don’t want to complete the entire trail, there are plenty of short or day-walks that you can do on the Heaphy Track! Check out the awesome Nikau Walk or Scotts Beach walk mentioned above!

7. Visit the nearby Lake Hanlon

Lake Hanlon is a scenic lake around 20 minutes south of Karamea, and is a very tranquil place to explore! It is a real hidden gem of the West Coast – it is not on many of the tourist maps and often you’ll have the whole place to yourself! This seclusion makes it feel like quite a magical place to visit. Because of the drive, the best time to see this lake would be on your way in or out of the town.

Lake Hanlon, things to do in Karamea, New Zealand

From the carpark, there is a small walk to get to the shores of the lake. This walk is fairly easy, with a small uphill through the beautiful surrounding forest. Once you get to the lakefront, there is a small viewing platform where you can look out over the water and take a photo or two!

8. Mountain biking in Karamea

With glorious local rides, the newly completed Old Ghost Road open, and the Heaphy Track just around the corner, Karamea is a fantastic base for those looking at exploring the area by mountain bike!

FAQs – Things to Do in Karamea

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Thanks for reading my post on the best things to do in Karamea! I was surprised while researching this, as although the town is tiny and a little off the beaten path, it is an awesome place to visit with heaps of cool stuff to do and see! It is definitely an outdoor adventurists paradise.

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