The Heaphy Track
"Many people consider the Heaphy Track to be the greatest of New Zealand's nine Great Walks, combining alpine environments and a primeval, palm-fringed coastline."
The 82 kilometre track through Kahurangi National Park, connecting the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay with Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island, is a fantastic adventure for moderately fit people of all ages. It is usually covered in around five to six days.
Scenically, every day on the Heaphy Track is wonderfully different.
You'll pass through ancient beech forests, expansive alpine tussock country, see giant rata trees, limestone caves and cliffs, cross broad rivers (all with sturdy bridges) and look out over rugged, densely forested mountains as far as the eye can see.
In the final section of the track you will stroll through incredibly lush rainforest along the sub-tropical coast through groves of native nikau palms as you follow the wild Tasman coast from the Heaphy Hut to Karamea. You'll also see all sorts of native birds, including screeching kaka and kea parrots, moreporks, rare whio or blue ducks (which are on the NZ $10 note), friendly robins, cuckoos, kingfishers, parrots, weka, pukeko, stilts, godwits, terns, oyster catchers, shags, herons, and some lucky trampers have even seen kiwi.
It is possible to walk the track in both directions, but most people start at Collingwood and finish in Karamea. Some trampers walk one way, rest a while in either Karamea or Collingwood and then walk back again!
The huts are spaced evenly along the track. The longest distance between huts, excluding shelters is 17 kilometres between Brown Hut and Perry Saddle Hut. All huts except two have gas cooking facilities.
"The Heaphy Track is perhaps the most gentle Great Walk, making it a great introduction to longer overnight tramps, while still being a fantastic experience for the seasoned tramper."
Shorter Walks on the Track
Day walks are popular on the Heaphy Track from both ends of the track. Karamea is a great place to experience the final coastal section of the track, walking along a coastline of palm tree groves with deserted, sandy beaches and no evidence of man's presence on the coastline other than the track.The walk to Scotts Beach, at one hour each way, where there is a picnic table, barbecues and space for campers, is very popular.
Scotts Beach Track
This track takes you over a sheltered, stable bridge accross the Kohaihai river near to the beach and up a green, tunnel-like, well graded path through the nikau palms. After a moderate but gentle climb, there is a viewpoint northwards along the coast and then another gentle descent to Scotts Beach. From here, for the more enthusiastic, there are several points worth aiming for further up the track, such as Twin beach, Nettle Beach and Katipo Creek (where there is a suspension bridge).
"This enables a taste of the track for people who haven't the time or the stamina to do the whole thing."
From the Collingwood end, day tramping is a little less popular due to the remoteness of the car park, but the Brown and Aorere valley has quite a few fine day tramps in this rugged area of Kahurangi National Park, some of which branch off the early stages of the Heaphy Track.
Many people also walk from either end of the Heaphy Track and stay overnight at either the Heaphy Hut or Lewis Hut from the Karamea end (for a gentle, scenic walk and a sublime, possibly romantic overnight stop), or the Perry Saddle Hut from the Collingwood end (a good challenge for those considering a great walk, with an exciting alpine campout and mountain views).
There is a large camping area at the Heaphy Hut with ample space for forty campers, as well as the bunk accommodation inside.
The Track in Winter
"Unlike many other Great Walks, the Heaphy Track is open year round"
The winter season affords unparalleled freedom, tranquillity and affordability as the numbers on the track are less than the busy summer season, the sandflies are on holiday. The hut fees are:
Hut $30.60 per person / night, Camping $12.20 per person / night.