Kahurangi National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

The Oparara Basin

The Oparara Basin has a full day of activities with stunning limestone formations nestled amongst subtropical forest, including caves, towering arches and meandering underground tunnels. The road into the Oparara Basin from Karamea township winds through the beautiful native rainforest of the Kahurangi National Park.

The Oparara Valley Track

Opened November 2008 by Patron of the Oparara Trust, David Bellamy OBE
A new track was recently created, making it possible to tramp the entire length of the Oparara Valley and Gorge. The trail connects the Oparara Basin with the Fenian Track, a historic gold mining trail leading from the dairy lands of Karamea straight into the mountains and rainforest of the Oparara Gorge as it abruptly rises from the plains. The new track travels across primarily virgin forest, with a large proportion of mature rimu, matai and totara. In the gullies, the understorey is spectacularly lush with rich tree fern growth that gives a strong primeval atmosphere. The sound of silence, save for the distant piopio and the occasional call of a kaka, can be overwhelming.

Caves and Arches, Short Walks from the Basin Car Park

Along with the many short walks in the Oparara Basin, you’ll pass through an enchanted wonderland of prehistoric moss-covered vegetation from mighty natives to tiny colourful mushrooms, lichens and flowers. The tracks in the Oparara Basin are easily negotiated and allow people of all ages to experience amazing natural features that would otherwise have been hidden to all but the most extreme adventurer or hardened bushman.

Oparara Arch

The Oparara Arch is the biggest limestone arch in the Southern Hemisphere, a massive stone structure bridging a large river and forming a tunnel more than 200 metres long and 40 metres high.

Moria Gate Arch

The Moria Gate arch is smaller, but a highly spiritual place for quiet introspection and meditation in the bosom of nature…a visit to Moria Gate is a must.

Mirror Tarn, Oparara Basin

A little further on is the Mirror Tarn, a still pond about the size of a rugby pitch. Tall beech trees grow right to the edge of the water, sheltering the surface from any breeze. The leaves of the beech trees fall into the water and release their tannins, staining the fresh water a dark tea hue, which allows for a perfect mirror of the sky… To stand at the water’s edge and look down into the sky is an astounding pleasure.

Honeycomb Caves

One of the highlights of the Oparara Basin is a tour through the Honeycomb Caves, where you can see a very well preserved skeleton of a giant moa, an underground river, a limestone cathedral lit by a myriad of glow worms, ancient limestone pillars and chandeliers, as well as a massive arched cavern leading straight into verdant rainforest.

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