The meaning behind the name ‘Kahurangi’ is ‘treasured possession’, the perfect way to describe New Zealand’s second-largest national park, spanning 450,000 hectares from Golden Bay in the North, to Murchison in the South, right across to the spectacular and wild West Coast.The area traverses a variety of altitudes and landforms and has a notably unique range of habitats for the abundance of flora and fauna that call the national park home. It’s far enough north and at a low enough altitude to have escaped most recent ice ages and now has more than 80 percent of all alpine species in New Zealand, making it the most diverse of all our national parks. What’s more, with the largest population of great spotted kiwi, giant wetas, carnivourous snails, and one of the world’s largest cave spiders, the park is never short of wonderful wildlife and puzzling plants to keep you entertained.
The Kahurangi National Park has 570km of tramping tracks which behold some of New Zealand’s oldest and most stunning marble and karst land forms, including the famous Heaphy Track, designated an official “Great Walk” by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. The 82km Heaphy Track traverses a variety of ruggedly beautiful landscapes, with hikers ascending craggy ranges and descending into valleys of native palms, trekking through alpine meadows, and along the length of a spectacular coastline.
Connecting the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay with Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island, the Heaphy Track was an established pounamu trading and travel route for Māori for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of European settlers. The track is the longest of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and is suitable for moderately fit people of all ages, usually taking about 5-6 days to complete. Although challenging, there are also plenty of short walk options for people making day trips from the nearby towns of Motueka, Takaka, Karamea and Murchison.
Or, if walking isn’t quite your cup of tea, the track is also open for enthusiastic mountain-bikers between the months of May and November. The multi-day ride is not to be underestimated – it is a tough and demanding ride, best suited to those with advanced skills.
Alternatively, a scenic helicopter flight is another great way to see Kahurangi’s stunning natural landscapes, including those used as film sites for The Lord of the Rings movies. As you land on Mount Owen, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the geological landforms that make up Kahurangi, which is home to the longest cave system in New Zealand.