A Hidden Gem: Things to Do in Karamea New Zealand 

Karamea New Zealand is a small town at the northern end of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The town, on the edge of the Kahurangi National Park, is a fantastic destination for outdoor lovers and bushwalkers. It is the start or finish point for The Heaphy Track, a 4-5 day tramp, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. However, one of our favourite things about Karamea is the drive to get there. Keep reading to discover things to do in Karamea, Zealand, and what to see and do on the way there.

River, bush and Kohaihai Beach view.

What is Karamea New Zealand Known For?

Karamea New Zealand is known for its stunning natural beauty, which includes pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and the Kahurangi National Park. Karamea is a natural wonderland home to caves, rivers, and nature trails.

How to Get to Karamea?

Swing bridge across the river.

Karamea is located about 100 kilometres north of Westport and can be reached by car or bus. The scenic drive from Westport to Karamea takes about one and a half hours. If you prefer to take a bus, a regular bus service operates between Westport and Karamea.

Greymouth to Karamea is a 3-hour drive. If you are debating whether to take the drive from Greymouth, let us assure you we consider the Greymouth to Karamea road trip the most spectacular in New Zealand.

Prominent Landmarks in Karamea

Beach and mountain view.

Karamea has some of the most beautiful landmarks and natural attractions, including the Oparara Basin Arches, a must-visit destination for anyone visiting the town.

The Oparara Basin Arches

The Oparara Basin Arches are a mesmerizing natural wonder nestled in the remote and pristine wilderness of the Kahurangi National Park. The unique geological formation consists of a series of magnificent limestone arches, caves, and towering cliffs, creating a landscape that feels like a scene from a fantasy movie. 

The arches, sculpted over millions of years by the forces of nature, showcase intricate and delicate formations that are a testament to the power of erosion and time. Visitors to the Oparara Basin are treated to a surreal experience as they wander through ancient forests, following well-maintained tracks that lead to these natural wonders.

We consider the Oparara Basin Arches some of the most stunning rock formations in New Zealand. We’d return to the area just to see these Karamea caves again!

The Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is renowned as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, offering an unforgettable tramping experience for adventurers of all ages. The track, stretching 82 kilometres, traverses a diverse range of landscapes within the Kahurangi National Park. From tussock-covered downs and serene river flats to lush forests and the ruggedly beautiful west coast, the Heaphy Track showcases the remarkable variety of nature’s wonders.

Trampers will find huts strategically placed at varying distances 8 to 16 kilometres apart along the route. Additionally, designated campsites are available for those who prefer camping.

However, please note that storms in February 2022 have caused damage to the bridge at Heaphy River, and the track is currently only open from Kohaihai to the Heaphy Hut, and through trips are not possible until further notice. See the Department of Conservation website for more details.

To begin your adventure on the Heaphy Track, drive to Kohaihai Beach, which is the northernmost point accessible by car. Even if you aren’t planning a hike, the area offers breathtaking river and beach views. However, we highly recommend trying the Nikau walk, which takes only 40 minutes to complete and starts from Kohaihai. We did the easy walk and absolutely loved it! The walk takes you through one of the largest collections of nikau palms on the South Island.

Heading to Punakaiki? Read Next – The Best Things to Do in Punakaiki

Things to Do in Karamea New Zealand

River and bush view at Kohaihai campsite.

The road trip from Westport to Karamea

One of the best Karamea things to do is the road trip getting there and back. The drive from Karamea to Westport is among the best coastal drives on the South Island. The road trip from Westport to Karamea offers spectacular coastal scenery, charming small villages, and epic bush views.

Kahurangi National Park

Another of the best things to do in Karamea New Zealand is to explore the Kahurangi National Park, which offers a range of hiking and outdoor activities. 

For those seeking short Karamea walks, the park offers numerous day hikes, such as the Fenian Track or the Karamea Bend Walk. These trails allow visitors to immerse themselves in the park’s natural splendour, encountering native wildlife, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic vistas along the way.

Karamea Beaches

For a more relaxing experience, you can visit one of the town’s many beaches and enjoy the beautiful scenery. There are opportunities for fishing and surf-casting.

Karamea Beach is the main beach closest to the town and is an excellent place to watch a West Coast sunset.

Kohaihai Beach is the perfect spot for those seeking a Karamea camping experience. The Kohaihai Conservation Campsite is located here and offers beachside campsites, a picnic area, and toilets.

Scotts Beach Karamea is a captivating destination, just 15 kilometres north on the Karamea-Kohaihai Road. The isolated beach is a 90-minute return walk along the Heaphy Track.

However, what we like the most about any Karamea Beach is that you will likely have the whole beach to yourself. 

Please note, West Coast beaches are well known for rips and tidal currents. They are not patrolled by lifeguards so swim at your own risk.

Wild, West Coast Scenic view of beach and bush.

Karamea River

Additionally, the Karamea River is a well-known destination for fishing enthusiasts, offering opportunities to catch trout and kahawai. Also, the whitebait season, from September 1st to October 31st, is particularly popular on the Karamea River, and your chance to catch this much-loved New Zealand delicacy.

Charming Creek North Walkway

Indulge in a scenic bushwalk along a historic bush tramway. The Charming Creek Walkway is a 5.5 km trail that passes swing bridges and takes you through lush native forests and past historic mining remnants.

Traverse picturesque creeks and waterfalls and soak in the tranquillity of this enchanting natural sanctuary. Our highlight of the 2-hour one-way walk was the breathtaking Mangatini Falls which you access through the long tunnel carved out of the mountain.

Where are you headed next? Read – Things to Do in Westport New Zealand: Nature’s Gateway.

Best Places to Eat in Karamea West Coast

Karamea restaurants are limited; however, the few restaurants and cafes in the area offer a range of excellent cuisine. 

The Last Resort is a popular spot, offering delicious food and a laid-back atmosphere. The fully licensed bar stocks New Zealand and international beers and wines.

For a more upscale dining experience, you can check out the Karamea Village Hotel, which provides a range of New Zealand and international dishes. Boasting traditional home-cooked food in the award-winning restaurant, you can dine inside by the open fire or in the garden. Try the New Zealand delicacy; they are “Famous for Whitebait.”

Vinnies Cafe is a charming and popular cafe. The cozy cafe is a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike, offering a warm and inviting atmosphere paired with delicious food and beverages. Guests can enjoy a satisfying meal or unwind with a cup of coffee. Their diverse menu caters to different tastes and dietary preferences; from hearty breakfast options to delectable lunches and tempting treats, there is something for everyone. Additionally, they often have live music to add to the atmosphere.

Is it worth visiting Karamea New Zealand?

Karamea is a hidden gem in New Zealand, offering stunning natural beauty. Karamea has something to offer whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for a relaxing getaway and there are many cool things to do in Karamea. With its beautiful landmarks and range of outdoor activities, Karamea NZ is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to the West Coast of the South Island.

Read our curated New Zealand South Island Bucket List – South Island Must Do next!

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