Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is one of New Zealand’s designated ‘Great Walks’.

At approximately 80 kilometres, it is known as the ‘flora walk’ of New Zealand.

No other track has the diversity and number of plant species found on the Heaphy. Scenery and habitat range from montane nothofagus-podocarp forest and sub-alpine tussock grasslands, mountain vistas, through to lush, jungle-like lowland forest and Nikau palm fringed beaches and pounding surf.

The track has a colourful history. The route connects Golden Bay in the north of the South Island with the township of Karamea on the West Coast.

Evidence of moa hunters at the Heaphy (Whakapouai) River mouth has been dated to the 13th century. The Heaphy was one of the routes used by Golden Bay Maori to travel to the West Coast where they collected pounamu, highly valued for tools and weapons.

European history started with the discovery of gold on both the West Coast and Golden Bay, leading to the completion of a track to connect the two districts in 1893.

With the end of the gold rush era, the well graded and benched track lapsed into disuse, except for the occasional tramper, botanist or hunter.

It remained in that state for most of the 20th century. In the 1960s, with tramping becoming a popular pastime with New Zealanders, the track was ‘rediscovered’.

The Forest Service responded by building more huts and upgrading the track. Trampers, in turn, arrived in ever greater numbers to experience this amazing tour of varied scenery and natural history.

The track receives its name from Charles Heaphy – explorer, artist and soldier – who, along with Thomas Brunner and their Maori guides Kehu and Etau, was the first European to explore the Heaphy coast.

You need to carry your own gear and sleeping bag for the 5 day hike due to the remote location.

However you may end up only carrying between 5-7kgs only – with everything on the gear list.

Tour Type

Walking Tour


6 days / 5 nights




Book now for Next Season! 2019 / 2020

  • 15th-20th September 2019
  • 22nd-27th September 2019
  • 29th September - 4th October 2019
  • 6th-11th October 2019
  • 13th-18th October 2019
  • 20th-25th October 2019
  • 27th October - 1st November 2019
  • 3rd-8th November 2019
  • 10th-15th November 2019
  • 17th-22nd November 2019
  • 24th-29th November 2019
  • 30th November-5th December
  • 1st-6th December 2019
  • 8th-13th December 2019
  • 15th-20th December 2019
  • 28th December - 2nd January
  • 29th December - 3rd January 2020
  • 5th-10th January 2020
  • 12th-17th January 2020
  • 19th-24th January 2020
  • 28th January-5th February
  • 2nd-7th February 2020
  • 9th-14th February 2020
  • 16th-21st February 2020
  • 23rd-28th February 2020
  • 1st-6th March 2020
  • 8th-13th March 2020
  • 22nd-27th March 2020

Tour Itinerary

Price: NZ$1990

Pre Tour

You need to arrive the day before the walk as we start pick ups in Motueka from 7.30am on the morning of the tour.

On the day prior to your walk we provide a complimentary pick up service from Nelson I-site at 3.00pm and Nelson airport at 3.15pm to transfer you through to your accommodation in Motueka.

Day 1

Motueka to Perry Saddle Hut

17 km

Perry Saddle Hut

On the day before the tour we’ll pick you up in Nelson and drive you to Motueka.

We begin with a two-hour scenic drive from your accommodation in Motueka to the start of the track in the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay. The road takes us over the renowned Takaka Hill, also known as ‘Marble Mountain’ for its huge outcrops of limestone marble rock. We then travel down the beautiful Takaka Valley, through the township of the same name, then turn inland to the Aorere Valley.

The track commences at Brown River and climbs on a well graded track through lowland then podocarp-beech forest. We reach the highest point on the track (910m) approximately 40 minutes from our destination for the night – Perry Saddle Hut (a distance of 17 km – 6 hours). From the hut there are spectacular views of the distant saw-toothed Douglas Range and the Dragon’s Teeth.


  • The change in the unique flora as we ascend the track.
  • Numerous bush birds – tui, bellbird, rifleman, tomtit and many more.
  • The spectacular vistas from Flanagans Lookout at the highest point of the track and then again from the hut.
  • A chance to see two of our native parrots at the hut – the kea and kaka.
  • At night the piercing cries of the great spotted kiwi can be heard.
Day 2

Perry Saddle Hut to Saxon Hut

13 km

Saxon Hut

Entering the Gouland Downs.

An easy day of flat to undulating walking. First through kamahi-beech-quintinia forest, then across the rolling tussock grass lands of the Gouland Downs – a peneplain. We stop at the historic Gouland Downs Hut for lunch, then continue through the ‘Enchanted Forest’. This is a limestone remnant with beech forest. On across the Downs, we walk through more magic forest with Dracophyllum traversii and D. townsonii. Our destination, Saxon Hut, is situated in tussock country. (A distance of 13 km – approx. 3 1/2 hours walking time, but we will be taking most of the day observing things along the way).


  • A chance for the fitter walker to climb Mount Perry first thing in the morning for the spectacular views into the Aorere Valley, across the Gouland Downs and out to Tasman Bay (on a clear day Mount Taranaki in the North Island can be seen).
  • A fossick among the moss dripping beech trees of the Enchanted Forest, checking out some of the cave entrances in this lovely limestone outcrop.
  • Once again at night listening to the great spotted kiwi.
  • The rare endemic Bulbinella talbotii can be found on the Downs, along with the Pseudopanax lineris.
Day 3

Saxon Hut to Lewis Hut

24 km

Lewis Hut

The lush forest opens to a distant view of the Heaphy River mouth. This day may be done in two sections or an overnight option at Mackay is possible. Check with your guide as to your route.

In the morning we leave the Gouland Downs, and gently wind our way up and over to the edge of the Mackay Downs, then onto the Mackay Hut for our lunch break. Here we have glimpses of the Tasman Sea and tomorrow’s destination at the Heaphy mouth.

If you are overnighting at Mackay, a visit to the ‘tops’ above the hut is an afternoon option. Expansive and panoramic vistas around the mountains and out to the Tasman Sea may be viewed.

If continuing to Lewis Hut today, we encounter a different flora habitat once again, with the banks along the track covered with mosses and a huge diversity of other plants. The geology changes to granite country with wonderful outcrops. We descend to the Heaphy valley floor. The track winds gradually down through ever changing forest with new species being added constantly, until the first nikau palm appears and the forest takes on a jungle-like appearance. The Lewis Hut is situated on the confluence of the Heaphy and Lewis Rivers. From Saxon Hut to Lewis Hut is 24 km, approx. 7 – 8 hours.


  • The Mackay and Gouland Downs are the exhumed remnants of the late-Cretaceous to mid-Tertiary era (80-60 million years ago). You will see attractive boulders of pink coloured karamea granite, black flecks of mica and white flecks of quartz. In addition, there are stunning giant boulders trackside which will inspire your imagination!
  • Bird encounters may include rifleman, bellbird, grey warbler, tomtit, and our very friendly South Island robin.
  • Another highlight over the late summer and autumn months is definitely the fungi.
  • Pseudowintera traversii can be found here. It is endemic to this area.
Day 4

Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut

8 km

Heaphy Hut

On the way to Lewis Hut we encounter a different flora habitat once again, with the banks along the track covered with mosses and a huge diversity of other plants. The geology changes to granite country with wonderful outcrops. We descend to the Heaphy valley floor, as the track winds gradually down through ever changing forest with new species being added constantly, until the first nikau palm appears and the forest takes on a jungle like appearance. The Lewis Hut is situated on the confluence of the Heaphy and Lewis Rivers.

From Lewis Hut, the Heaphy River approaches the West Coast of New Zealand. Only an 8 km – 2 1/2 hours walking. But a longer time may be taken as there is so much to see. After crossing the Heaphy swing bridge, the mixed lowland rainforest flora and the limestone outcrops cannot be rushed. There is little of this forest type left in New Zealand. We follow the river all the way to the mouth, arriving at Heaphy Hut.


  • Where do we start! The huge change in habitats and flora, the greatest change over the whole track occurs today, from the sub-alpine downs to veritable rain forest.
  • The nikau, podocarp and giant northern rata forest will leave you breathless. Along with idyllic river scenes and, in season, the Earinaand Winika perching orchids.
  • Spend the afternoon beachcombing on the driftwood-strewn shore and/or swimming in the large sandbar protected lagoon (but not swimming in the spectacular but dangerous surf!)
  • Maybe just a relaxing afternoon with a book.
  • And finally the chance to experience the famous Heaphy sunset!
Day 5

Heaphy Hut to Karamea

16 km

The Last Resort

For the entire day the track hugs the coast and goes in and out of nikau and karaka groves beside pounding surf beaches. We stop for a picnic lunch en route to our finish at Kohaihai. There is magnificent scenery all the way (16 km., 5 – 6 hours).


  • From the nikau and karaka forest to the wonderful West Coast beaches – this whole day is certainly a highlight.
  • Seabirds to be seen today include the cormorant, oystercatchers and gulls.
  • We may even see a seal sunning itself on the rocks.
  • Also to be seen is our large native pigeon (the kereru), especially when one of their favorite foods – the nikau berry – is ripe.
  • We spend our final night at The Last Resort in Karamea. We have a celebratory dinner and get to experience real West Coast hospitality. The meal tonight is at your own cost.
  • The restaurant has excellent regional cuisine, including their famous whitebait (a New Zealand native fish) patties.
  • This is a fun night of relaxation and laughter, full of camaraderie after spending five adventurous days together!

Tonight dinner is at your own cost

Day 6

Karamea to Nelson

Karamea to Motueka or Nelson

On the morning of day 6 we will leave Karamea in our own transport at approx. 9am for the 5 1/2 hour scenic drive to Motueka or Nelson. This route will take you down the Northern West Coast to Westport, then through the picturesque Buller Gorge. We will be stopping en route at Murchison for a light lunch. Arrival time in Nelson will be approx. 3 to 3:30pm, so it is advisable not to book a flight out of Nelson until after 4:30pm in the event of unforeseen circumstances delaying our return.

Any excess luggage left behind in Motueka whilst you are on the track, will be transferred to you back in Nelson.  Please pack an overnight bag only for your  Karamea night.

What's included?


Night 1

Accommodation in Motueka at your cost. We can arrange this for you

Nights 2 to 5

Department of Conservation back country huts. Heating, long drop toilets, cold running water, no showers. Bunk beds with mattress provided, walkers carry a sleeping bag.

Night Six

Quality accommodation and breakfast in Karamea – superior en suite (twin share) (single surcharge $50). Licensed restaurant and house bar.



Your friendly guide prepares your food for you

We endeavor to use fresh food and showcase the region’s finest produce, and we offer varied menus from day to day. The following are example menus on our trips.

Typical daily menus

Breakfast: Choice of porridge or muesli. Toast and condiments. Coffee or tea.
Lunch: Fresh bread or ‘wraps’, along with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and cold meat, or tuna, hummus and pickle.
Dinner: Our meat dishes include Butter Chicken, Roast Beef, Venison or Beef Mince, Fresh Fish, and Sausages. All meals are accompanied by vegetables and potatoes, rice or couscous.
Before and after dinner snacks: Crackers and cheese, chocolates and sweet biscuits.
‘Tea breaks’ and snacks during the day: A choice of tea, coffee or hot soup. Snacks such as chocolate, dried fruit, snackbars, and nuts are always available from your guide or for you to carry in your own pack if you wish.

Dining in Karamea

Dine in style in Karamea on the final night of our Heaphy Trip, real West Coast hospitality! The meal tonight is at your cost.

Special diets and preferences

We cater for vegetarians with main dishes such as vegetarian sausages, tofu, etc. We also cater for any other food specialty including vegan and gluten free. We encourage people to help us design a menu to suit themselves under these circumstances.

A unique feature of our Heaphy Trip is the special meal at the Heaphy hut incorporating local and wild food.



  • Transfer to/from Nelson Airport if required
  • Any excess luggage left behind in Motueka whilst you are on the track, will be transferred to you back in Nelson.  Please pack an overnight bag only for your  Karamea night.
  • Includes scenic return drive to Motueka or Nelson.



  • Hut passes and transport ex Motueka or Nelson.
  • We can arrange your accommodation for you in Motueka at a price and style which suits you.
  • We will get you back to Motueka or Nelson on day 6, unless your option is to carry on down the West Coast.
  • If you need a 5 day package we can arrange to fly you directly from Karamea to Nelson with Golden Bay Air.
*This tour is run in conjunction with another operator

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