Skip to Content

Kohaihai to Scotts Beach: A Short Walk on the Heaphy Track

Kohaihai to Scotts Beach: A Short Walk on the Heaphy Track

The northern end of the road which runs up the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is also the start of the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It takes a long time to reach this place (most people tend to skip it) but those that venture up this far are greeted with the beautiful short walk from Kohaihai to Scotts Beach, as well as some other sights worth exploring (I’ll mention them at the end of this post).

Getting to Kohaihai

Karamea is the last town in this area, but if you drive another 15 minutes north you’ll reach Kohaihai, which is really just big car park / camping ground. The Heaphy Track starts there, and today I’ll be telling you about the first part of it – the walk to Scotts Beach.

Kohaihai to Scotts Beach

The track to Scotts Beach first takes you through the forest, with occasional views of the river and the mountains looming in the interior. It’s a scenic start, and before long you’ll be heading uphill to the viewpoint overlooking Scotts Beach. There’s also another short track – the Nikau Walk, where you’ll see the famous Nikau palms.

Scotts Beach

At the top of the hill you’ll reach a viewpoint overlooking Scotts Beach. The light wasn’t great when we were there (it was close to sunset) but I imagine this is a stunning spot in the right conditions. From there it’s an easy walk down the hill to the beach. And what a beach it is!

Scotts Beach is a wide, long expanse of white sand backed by emerald forest. It’s a beautiful spot, made more rugged by the big rocks found at certain spots, and the big green headland at its southern end. There were heaps of tracks on the beach, the only evidence of fellow hikers. I’m sure it gets busy at times, but it was deserted just before sunset!

And that’s pretty much it – it’s an easy walk, mostly through the forest, with some good views along the way and a very special beach at the end of it all. Of course, then you have to walk all the way back.

The Details

The walk from Kohaihai to Scotts Beach should take between 90 minutes and two hours and is suitable for most levels of fitness. There’s a bit of uphill hiking involved but it’s nothing too dramatic. It’s the ideal day walk on the Heaphy Track (if you can call a walk this short a day walk) – we’ll be back one day to do the whole track!

Note: Parts of the Heaphy Track were damaged in 2022, causing through-walks to cease until October 2023 (last updated date). This section of the track is all clear though.

Things to See Nearby

Karamea is a cool little town and makes for the idea base in this area. From there you can head to the Oparara Arches (be careful of your car though), watch a sunset at the beach in Karamea, do the Lake Hanlon Track or spend some time by the beach at Kohaihai (there’s a good viewpoint there too which is close to the car park).

Are you road-tripping around New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

The following two tabs change content below.

Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.