Walks and Tramps
The rich history of the West Coast is fascinating to explore. There is a wonderful range of wildlife and natural features that can be discovered by road, bike or on foot. The possibilities are endless. Two National Parks, Paparoa National Park and Kahurangi National Park can be accessed easily from Birds Ferry Lodge.
Starting from Punakaiki and working North to Karamea, refer to the map at rear for locations.
The Pancake Rocks
Dolomite Point is usually referred to as : ‘the Pancake Rocks’. An absolute must for everybody travelling along the West Coast. The track to the Pancake Rocks starts immediately opposite to the Punakaiki Information Center. There is good parking, public toilets, an arts and crafts shop and tea-rooms. An uninterrupted walk of 10 min is all it takes if only you were not being distracted. Wekas, dolphins, the roar of the sea crashing into huge caverns, spectacular waterspouts out of the blow holes, nikau palm lined paths, sea scapes and a beautiful coastline. Recently upgraded, and now with full wheel chair access. Allow 1 hour
Pororari River Walk
The Pororari River Track starts at the bridge crossing the Pororari River, one kilometre north of the DoC Visitor Centre. Car parking is available at the bridge.The track follows the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. The lower section of the track passes through the Pororari River Gorge – a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs towering over the gorge and river. Pristine Rainforest and birdlife. Multiple swimming opportunities!
Pororari River to Punakaiki River
Before there was the technology to built the coastal road from Fox river to Punakaiki an inland route was followed right through what is now Paparoa National Park. This is part of the Inland Pack Track. Start at either the south bank of the Punakaiki river at the bridge or Pororari river bridge car park. A pleasant walk with one, usually shallow, river crossing. Detailed information at the Visitors Information Center in Punakaiki. Allow 3-4 hours
Bullock Creek to Pororari river
This is the middle section of the Inland Pack track and leads through limestone country. Do not stray off the track, the numerous tomos (vertical shafts), chasms and sink holes are well hidden by vegetation. Start either from the car park at the Pororari river bridge or at Bullock Creek road. (off SH6) The submergence as well as the resurgence of Bullock Creek can both be visited, about 200m down stream from the ford and at Cave Creek respectively. Cave Creek is sign posted. Allow 5 hours
About 3 km North of Punakaiki is the Truman Track. The effort-enjoyment ratio is very hard to beat. An easy 15 min walk leads initially through thick native forest. The influence of the sea becomes apparent as the vegetation rapidly changes closer to the coastline and finishes in barren sandstone cliffs complete with blow holes. The unvegetated cliff tops are extremely fragile and slippery and should not be walked on!! A small staircase allows easy access to the pebble beach and huge caverns. Fossilized remains of sea creatures are easily found embedded in the sandstone cliff face. Definitely no safe swimming here. While exploring along the waterline pay attention to the incoming tide, it may cut off your only way out
Fox River caves
The Fox River caves are about 1.5 hours walking along the north bank (true right) of the Fox River. Clearly sign posted along SH6, immediately north of the Fox River Bridge is a car park. This is about 12 km north of Punakaiki. Part of the way is also called the Inland Pack Track, a multi-day walk. To the caves the north bank needs to be followed all the way, the caves are sign posted. The last short scramble to the cave entrance leads over slippery rocks. Do watch out for the native stinging nettle: ongaonga. The left top entrance leads into the “tourist caves”. The right entrance leads to a deep vertical shaft and is NOT to be entered. This is a beautiful walk and suitable for all levels of fitness. By adding an extra 2 hours the Ballroom Overhang can be visited. Out of the caves, scramble straight down the bank. Either cross the river and follow the south bank track or stay in the riverbed and enjoy the view. If you like, bring your tent and stay the night, the Ballroom Overhang is a wonderful campsite. Enjoy the ceiling coming alight with glow worms when darkness falls.
The Fox River- Bullock Creek walk
The Fox River- Bullock Creek walk is the first section of this route. It is a full on day tramp with many river crossings. You can camp at the Ballroom Overhang. Start from SH6 at the Fox river car park or about 6.5 km up Bullock Creek road at the gate. The track is well marked. Detailed information at the Punakaiki Information Centre. Allow 8-10 hours.
This is an old forestry railway embankment that follows the Tiropahi River through pristine rainforest. Access is off SHW6 immediately south of the Tiropahi River 7KM South of Charleston.(Well signposted) Allow 2 hours.
About halfway between Westport and Punakaiki along SH6 is Charleston. It was once a thriving gold mining town with about 12,000 inhabitants. The most well known bays are: Constant Bay, Joyce Bay, Ladies Bay and Doctors Bay. The turn off is well sign posted. The reserve has public toilets and forms a good base for parking, a picnic or BBQ. It is a good starting point to explore the tracks through the dense flax bushes. At the start of the reserve immediately to the left starts a track leading to Doctors Bay and further to the Charleston Rocks, a popular spot for climbers on the 60m rockface. Pods of Hector dolphins are regularly sighted cruising the coastline. Enjoy the wonderful views from a variety of vantage points. Allow 1 hours
There are 2 new tracks called The Argyll and The Bromielaw that are 2-3 hours each. They are open to the public but not advertised. Ask Andre for more information.
Nile River Rainforest and Limestone Cliff Walk
The Charleston Nile River Rainforest Walk takes you through ancient rain forest in to the magnificent Nile River limestone Canyon. Allow 1 hour
Mitchell’s Gully Historic Gold Mine
Mitchells Gully Gold mine is 5 minutes South from Birds Ferry Lodge where gold is still mined today. You can take a short tour and see how gold was mined 100 years ago.
Cape Foulwind Walkway and Seal Colony
The Cape Foulwind Walkway takes you along the cliff tops. The Seals are 5 mintes walk from the Tauranga Bay car park and you can continue along the cliff tops to the lighthouse end, which takes 1 hour. Tauranga Bay has relative safe swimming and the surfing is usually good. On the south side of the bay is a small cafe/restaurant called The Bay House.
A challenge with just reward, this is not for the faint hearted. Before the start of the track up to the peaks some farmland needs to be crossed. From Westport, drive into the Buller Gorge. Just before you drop down to the river flats a bright yellow sign points you in the right direction. Follow this road jump the gate and follow the farm track until the airstrip. At the highest point of the strip are the fertiliser bins. Facing uphill, to the left is a sign, follow the fence line and at the marker hop over. The track is well marked up to the tree line after which small cairns and snow poles lead the way. The 4-bunk hut is bright orange and visible from some distance. With the hut as a base the rock gardens and seagull colonies of the Peaks can be explored. Hut fees are payable at Wood’s menswear, main street Westport or use the honesty box. Recommended 2 day trip but can be done in 10 hours. Take clothes for all weather conditions, reasonable fitness required.
An opportunity to wander through a small area of lowland forest without leaving town, just as it once covered the present site of Westport. From Palmerston Street head south until just before the Buller Bridge. To the left this magnificent piece of bush is clearly visible. It offers some impressive examples of mature native trees like rimu, rata and kahikatea. Allow 45 min.
Westport Riverside Walk (Millennium Walk)
A pleasant walk of about 4 km that could be started anywhere along the way. At the Post Office head South following the main street. On reaching the Buller Bridge turn right, then pass the railway marshalling yards on the left. A bit later pass the cement silos on the right. Access is possible further along the wharf, passing the dredge and barge moorings, and the coal loading facilities to finish up at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The round trip is finished by walking back along Palmerston Street until reaching the Post Office again. Allow 1.5 hours.
A relaxing beach walk starting at the Buller River mouth, Westport side. A feature of this beach is that timber flushed down the Buller River is washed up by the coastal current and forms the only protection from the sea. It is a great source for the wood carvers in the region who are always on the look out for well weathered pieces of native timber. Park on the Northern tip head, sign posted from Derby Street as Buller River Mouth. Walking North the beach can be followed till the Orowaiti Lagoon, being both mouth of the Orowaiti River (locally sometimes referred to as Giles Creek) and exit point for the Westport Flood Protection Scheme. Not crowded at the best of times the beach soon becomes totally deserted while heading North. The tidal character of the lagoon forms an ideal habitat for a great variety of birds. The round trip is about 10 km. Allow 3 hours.
The Britannia Track is named after the most successful gold mining operation in the area. It is sign posted about 3 km north of Waimangaroa off SH 67. (O’Connor Road) The unsealed road crosses the railway, passes a farm house and seems to turn into a farm track. Just keep going, keep left at the fork but look out for single wire electrified gates. (If found open, leave open, if found closed, get through and close again.) Park at the small picnic area at Stoney Creek. Go straight up until the benched track turns into a narrow trail. Here a small steep track takes you down to the battery site of the Britannia Mine. Small trails allow for some more exploring and many relics can be found. Half way down the main track again is a small trail leading to a mine shaft. Complete with props, drips, semi-transparent cave wetas and glow worms. As the track bottoms out a detour to the Republican Mine can be taken. This site is flood prone and only bits and pieces can be found now. At lower water levels in the creek follow the trail, you need to cross the creek twice. After a boggy section, re-unite with the main track. Gold panning at the picnic area has brought some good results. Pan hire at the farm house. Allow 4.5 hours, bring a torch.
Many New Zealanders are descendants of miners who pioneered Coal mining on the West Coast – many of them at Denniston. Readers of Jenny Patrick’s “Denniston Rose” also make the journey to Denniston to see where it all took place.
Used since 1884 the Bridle Track originally was the only means to reach Denniston. The only other way by coal wagon on the Incline. Traveling north from Westport, turn right at Waimangaroa toward Denniston. Turn left at sign: Conn’s Creek. The track starts at a small car park and picnic area and is well sign posted. Through a mixture of regenerating and mature forest the track becomes increasingly steeper. About 3 quarters of the way up, shortly after a wooden bridge, a small side track leads to Middle Brake. Looking up and down the incline here will give an insight of this amazing engineering feat. Return back to the main track and zigzag up. Pass the initial site of the Denniston settlement and finish up top at the Brake Head. A small shelter with seats, information panels and photos can be found. At this point the coal wagons once were pushed over the edge. The short walk to ‘the Camp’ and the Banbury Arch starts just past the old coal wagons. Allow 6 hours.
The Banbury Arch is a good example of the skills required to enable the transportation of coal to the Denniston Incline. The Banbury Mine was conveniently situated, just 800m from the Brake Head. The Banbury Arch carried a 2 lane tramway leading straight into the mine entrance. The walk to the Banbury Arch starts past the coal wagons (heading inland). A sign and small platform marks the place where to look up and admire. Spare a thought for the endurance and strength required to build this masterpiece by hand. On the way back a detour can be taken to ‘the Camp’. Allow 0.5 hour.
Drive up the windy road from Waimangaroa to Denniston, turn right at the top. Past the historic town site of Denniston clearly sign posted: Burnett’s Face, Coalbrookdale. Park at the top end of Burnett’s Face, wander past building sites, cross the bridge, turn right and follow the old rail track. It is an easy walk to the fan house which ventilated the Whareatea and Cascade sections of the mine. Other features are a tunnel, numerous (unsafe) mine entrances, house and mining relics and some fine stone walling. From halfway back an alternative return is possible along an old road across the creek. Allow 1.5 hours.
Drive up the windy road from Waimangaroa to Denniston, turn right at the top. Past the historic town site of Denniston clearly sign posted: Burnett’s Face, Coalbrookdale. Park at the top end of Burnett’s Face, wander past historic building sites, cross the bridge, turn left straight across from the start of the Coalbrookdale Walk. The track has been restored on private initiative. A beautiful walk, starting at the historic site of Burnett’s Face, then winding through gently rolling country and eventually, rather steeply, following a spur right up to the summit of Mt. William. Tui and Kereru are regularly seen and heard and the playful kea will keep you company at the summit. Allow 3 hours, but take some time for the views and to explore.
Millerton and Stockton
In Granity, travelling north, just before the boundary turn right for the steep ascend to Millerton and Stockton. The road is steep and narrow and offers beautiful views of the coastline.
Stockton is a fully operation Open Cast Coal Mine which is closed to the public unless you join a tour with ‘Outwest Tours’.
Out West Tours offers an excellent wild West Coast experience, taking you off the beaten track on a journey into the wild heart of the land. Enjoy spectacular landscapes and travel historic mining trails as you relax in one of their fully air-conditioned four-wheel-drive vehicles. Tours available most days and can include a visit to one of the Southern Hemispheres larges open cast coal mines.
Bath House at Millerton
As the road levels out at the forks take the middle gravel track sign posted: historic mine sites. Past the last private access (no. 42) turn right and park. The remains of the miner’s bath house have an information panel, showing trails and photos. Literally follow the steps of the miners to the mine entrances. Allow 1.5 hours.
Charming Creek Walkway
The Charming Creek walkway is not a loop track unless you cycle it which is allowed and is a worthwhile option. However walking it in its entirety gives the feeling of covering new ground all the time, even on the return journey. Start from Ngakawau, sign posted from SH67. Large volumes of timber and coal have been extracted here. This has been instrumental to the initial successful establishment of Westport as a port. Mine sites and timber mills are on its route. Interpretation panels give detailed information. Mangatini Falls are reached within 45 minutes from the Ngakawau starting point.
From Westport travel north along SH67. Cross the Mohikinui River Bridge and turn immediately left. The metal road will get you to the ‘Gentle Annie Campsite and driftwood covered beach 3KM away. The track starts past the manager’s house and climbs up to level out at Gentle Annie Point. Carry on to a fork that either takes you to a point with wonderful coastal views or drops down to a deserted beach. From here explore as much as you wish but watch the tides. Allow 2 hours but make it a day if you have the time.
Lake Hanlon is nestled on a terrace at the northern foot of the Karamea Bluffs. This wonderful secluded and placid lake was formed after the 1929 earth quake. Head North towards Karamea (and off the area map) on SH67 over the Karamea Bluffs. About 8 km south of Little Wanganui the lake is clearly sign posted at a small car park. It is a loop track and easiest done anti clockwise. Muddy at the best of times but well worth it. Allow 1 hour
Karamea is a secluded haven, situated at the end of the road, at the Northern end of New Zealand’s South Island’s West Coast. It is flanked by the bush covered mountains of the Kahurangi National Park on one hand and the Tasman Sea on the other. Karamea with its mild climate and beautiful surroundings has that relaxed “off the beaten track” feeling not often found nowadays. Fill up with petrol and visit the DOC visitor centre.
The surrounding area has a wonderful array of natural features to please everybody whether you are a tramper, caver, botanist, geologist, hunter, fisherman or just looking for a quiet spot to spend a family holiday.
The Oparara Basin
Kahurangi National Park – the ultimate destination…
Rich unspoiled rainforest stretching across a broad valley floor, three magnificent arches sculpted by the Oparara River, bush-fringed streams stained the colour of billy tea from the tannic acids washing down through the soil, and an underground treasure hidden away in a highly complex cave system, combine to make this area one of immense national and international significance.
The Oparara River is the habitat of the whio or blue duck, which frequents the swift-flowing waters. The Department of Conservation has some 450 stoat traps in the Oparara as part of its blue duck protection scheme.
Access: From Karamea take the main road north towards the Kohaihai. Turn right at the Oparara Arches sign at McCallums Mill Road (approx 10 kms). Access into the Basin is via a gravel road, at times narrow and winding. The journey will take about 45 minutes.
Take care. The road is not recommended for large motor homes or buses.
Walks in the Oparara Basin:
Take the left-hand track before the Oparara Bridge for 15 -20 minutes upstream. This is an easy, well formed track for most of the way, with some steps. This follows the Oparara River to the larger of the Limestone Arches. You can enter the Arch and go through to the other side which may be easier to photograph. 45 minutes return
Moria Gate /Mirror Tarn Loop Track
A new easy access 3.6km loop track linking the 2 stunning attractions listed below – Moria Gate Arch and Mirror Tarn.- beginning and ending at the car park
Allow up to 2 hours to go down under the Arch, and then cross over the top of the Arch and continue on round the terrace and down past Mirror Tarn back to the carpark. Suitable for all ages. Well signposted at the beginning of the track. Allow 1 ½ to 2 hours
Moria Gate Arch
Take the track to the right at the beginning of the large car park This track takes you through some beautiful rain forest and moss covered trees, accessing the Arch through an open-ended cave. This is a very picturesque Arch stretching over the Oparara River, and well worth the effort. Allow 45 minutes return
Driving up beyond the first Arch carpark you come to a small road to the right. This takes you to the Oparara River. You walk up past the river along an old logging track, branching slightly left to the Tarn. This is a very pretty lake, with wonderful reflections. 20 minutes return
Crazy Paving and Box Canyon Caves
Torches are necessary. Continue 2.5km on past the Arch car park to the Cave car park. A few minutes walk through the rainforest will take you to the first of the two caves, Crazy Paving Cave. It is so named due to the cave floor formation. Look for the cave spiders Spelungula Cavernicola. and their egg sacs, also cave wetas, in this cave.(New Zealand’s largest and only native cave spider). 30 minutes return
Continue on the main track up the steps to the Box Canyon Cave. Descend down steep stairs to the cave floor. This cave is a large open cave, with several limestone passages off to the sides that you can explore. Look for fossils on the ceiling.
Please respect the delicate nature of these caves.
Start of the Heaphy Track
The Heaphy Track, located in Kahurangi National Park at the north-west corner of the South Island, is the longest of the DOC Great Walks. For 82 kilometres the track crosses the Park’s range of landscapes and finishes at Collingwood.
Kohaihai marks the end of the road. Here starts the Heaphy Track at the mouth of the Kohaihai River. It is a camping site, has good parking and public toilets. A great place for a picnic too. Start the track next to the shelter. Well before the swing bridge is a small sign on the right pointing to the zig zag track. It leads to a vantage point overlooking the Kohaihai River mouth, sea and forested hills. Originally part of an access route into the river flats to the East. Allow 1 hour return.
Start the track next to the shelter and cross the swing bridge. The Nikau walk is clearly sign posted. A wonderful short walk through an almost pure stand of Nikau palms, amongst them some majestic ratas and few other native species. At a fork with no signs choose left for the short version or right for the longer one. For the longer walk allow 45 minutes return.
This is the first beach from the start of the Heaphy Track. To reach it you have to climb over a small saddle just past Nikau walk. Allow 1.5 hours return.