Great New Zealand Walks- The Heaphy Track
New Zealand is world famous for it is outdoor activities; from high octane adrenaline fueled adventures to world class tramping and hiking spots the New Zealand outdoors has something for everyone. While there are numerous walking tracks throughout both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, 9 of the most popular and famous tracks are collectively known as ‘The Great Walks’. There are 3 walks located in the North Island and 6 located in the South Island.
With stunning scenery, indigenous wildlife and unique birdlife the Great Walks of the North and South Islands of New Zealand provide outdoor enthusiasts with the opportunity to get close to nature and immerse themselves a diverse and unspoiled landscape.
The Department of Conservation maintain most of the walking tracks in NZ, including the Great Walks, and they work hard to make sure that the tracks remain safe and accessible for visitors all year round.
All the Great Walks take more than 1 day to complete although often there are smaller walks along the main track which take less time to complete. Along each of the Great Walks there are huts and campsites set up along the tracks for visitors to stay the night. These huts are operated by the Department of Conservation and contain bathroom and cooking facilities.
To stay at one of the campsites you need to have your own tent and camping equipment. The huts are suitable for individuals as well as families and groups but you will need to book them during the peak summer season as the Great Walks can become very busy during this time of year.
Due to their popularity many of the Great Walks have booking systems to manage visitor numbers but there is no charge or permit required to walk the tracks. Guided walks are also offered along some the tracks and these are operated by private tour companies.
In this series of articles, we will take a closer look at each of the Great Walks so you can familiarise yourself with the basics of each track and get prepared to take on the challenge! The second of the South Island Great Walks is the Heaphy Track which takes visitors from the Nelson/Tasman region to the West Coast of the South Island. The Heaphy Track is located in the Kahurangi National Park which is New Zealand’s second largest national park.
The Heaphy Track
The Heaphy track is classed as an intermediate walking track. It is also suitable for mountain biking between the autumn and winter months (1st May and 30th September). You can complete the Heaphy track in 4-6 days and because it isn’t a circuit track it is perfect for walkers with limited time. Guided walks are available on this track and pick up and drop off services are available from major towns and cities in the South Island.
The key points:
The 82 kilometre track through Kahurangi National Park, connects the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay with Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island. The Heaphy Track is well formed and well marked and all the major stream and river crossings are bridged for safe crossings.
Each day on the track is different and is split into distinct sections including inland tussock hills, lush forests with giant Rata trees and dramatic coastal cliffs.
The Heaphy track follows an ancient Maori route which the Golden Bay Māori used when travelling to NZ’s West Coast in search of pounamu (greenstone) for tools, weapons and ornaments. The track is named after Charles Heaphy, when in 1846 he and Thomas Brunner were the first Europeans to traverse the coastal portion of the modern track.
Day walks are popular on the Heaphy Track because they give people a taste of the track without having to commit the time or energy to the total walk. Each short walk offers breathtaking views and scenery whether you choose and inland or coastal walk. The ZigZag walk, Nikau walk and Scotts beach track will certainly wet your appetite for the Kahurangi National Park.
Before you head out into the great outdoors it is essential to be prepared and ensure that you have all the right equipment with you. Make sure you tell someone where you are going and the date you expect to be back. You will also need adequate food, water and clothing supplies for your trip. No food or drinks are available at the campsites so you will need to bring your own supplies but remember to take all your rubbish with you are there are no disposal sites along the track.
Like any outdoor activity the weather in Kahurangi National Park can be changeable and the West Coast of the South Island is known to be wet at any time of year. You should prepare for for wet, windy and cold conditions, particularly in the sub-alpine areas of the track, as well as warm sunny weather during your stay in the Golden Bay part of the track as it is one of New Zealand’s sunniest regions.
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