Karamea is as close as you’ll get to a frontier town in New Zealand. A few kilometres north and the road runs out, leaving a huge expanse of Kahurangi National Park to take over. Being an end of the road town, you really have to want to visit, and those that do are richly rewarded with some great beaches, caves, walks and resorts.
The Oparara Arches are located at the end of a rough gravel road, deep in Kahurangi National Park. It’s advised that vans etc don’t drive it – we have a normal car and it got damaged along the way (it turned out to be the power steering). So be warned – this is one of the worst roads I’ve driven on in New Zealand!
The Arches themselves are awesome though. From the car park you’ll walk through the forest, past a whiskey-coloured river and up to a huge limestone cave. It’s an amazing spot, but it’s hard to get good photos of it!
There’s another one to check out (Moira Gate Arch) as well as some caves. Visiting the Oparara Arches is easily one of the best things to do in Karamea, just be careful of your car!
Around 15 minutes north of Karamea sits the Kohaihai River. This is the end of the road and the start of the Heaphy Track. It’s a beautiful spot – you’ve got the beach, the river, the lush headland and heaps of bush to explore. There’s also a viewpoint where you can see it all from above.
The Walk to Scotts Beach
From Kohaihai you can walk along a small section of the Heaphy Track to Scotts Beach. This seems like one of the better sections of the 4-5 day Great Walk, so I reckon it’s worth checking out. Scotts Beach is stunning, and the round-trip walk should only take around two hours.
For something a little closer to town, you should check out Karamea Beach. It’s a great spot for sunsets and it’s a great beach in its own right. The beach is backed by tall dunes – such a nice spot to sit an enjoy the views!
READ MORE: Where Are the Best Beaches in Karamea?
Karamea Beach is the perfect sunset spot, but you can also see it from the coastal road to Kohaihai. There’s a beach running along some of the road and you can park up and walk there in about a minute.
The short walk to Lake Hanlon is another fun thing to do in Karamea. The track takes you through the forest to small lake surrounded by trees. If you visit on a calm day you’ll get some nice reflections.
You’ll see the Karamea Bluffs a little while before reaching the town. It’s a winding road but the views make up for it!
Little Wanganui Beach is around 20 minutes south of Karamea. There’s a picturesque river, and the beach isn’t bad either (although a little rougher than the ones in Karamea and Kohaihai).
The Heaphy Track
If the short walk to Scotts Beach and back isn’t enough, you could tackle the entire Heaphy Track. At 4-5 days, it’s one of the longest Great Walks in New Zealand. It looks good, and we’ll probably do it one day, but other Great Walks have appealed more (Routeburn, Kepler, Milford, Abel Tasman). Karamea is a good place to start, but with the other end being in Golden Bay you’ll need to organise transport at one end.
Explore the Town
Karamea is tiny town and there isn’t a whole lot to explore. We saw some nice old buildings though and some excellent accommodation options. We stayed at Last Resort and highly recommend it!
Other Things to do in Karamea
There are a couple of short walks we didn’t get around to doing (Karamea Estuary, Big Rimu Tree), although I’m not sure how interesting they are. You could have a round of golf or check out the museum (which was closed when we visited).
As you can see, there are heaps of things to do in Karamea – if you haven’t made the journey this far up the West Coast, maybe it’s time!
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