Inspiring ideas for New Zealand vacation planning - The Best Hiking Trails in New Zealand, Kahurangi National Park.

Since New Zealand re-opened their borders to US visitors, starting May 2022, interest in the desination has returned to pre-Covid numbers. In this series of blogs, we look beyond the iconic favorite destinations, to lesser known places that are often the highlight of a New Zealand vacation. Today, The Kahurangi National Park.

"The Best Hiking Trails in New Zealand" - that's a big claim and sure to stir up some discussion. Maybe we should have settled for "Some of the best...". In this blog we make the case for including Kahurangi National Park in your New Zealand vacation itinerary. We also include news of an addition to the park, the Mokihinui River catchment area, that increases the size of the park to nearly 2000-square miles.

Why The Kahurangi National Park?

Let's start with a look a the map below. It shows the location of the park at the top of New Zealand's South Island. 

Westport is located on the coast at the bottom left and Motueka is located on the north facing coast. The road between the two, Route 6, is what most visitors take in order to access the popular Abel Tasman National Park and one of the reasons that Kahurangi remains a quiet corner in the New Zealand landscape.

To access the Kahurangi wilderness takes a bit of an effort. It means driving up the stunning stretch of coastline from Westport to Karamea (59 miles each way) and after your visit retracing your steps back to Westport. 


The Kahurangi National Park.

So Kahurangi gets overlooked and for many, that's one of its many attractions - no crowds, pristine forests, a dramatic wild coastline and rivers of breathtaking beauty. It's a vacation experience that is quintessentially New Zealand, many would say the best example of the way the country was before it was discovered by tourism. 

Options for visiting The Kahurangi National Park.

With 2000-square miles to explore there's a huge range of optional hikes on offer. At New Zealand Vacations we work closely with a local tour company that offers daily guided walks from the town of Karamea, with a focus on a special part of the national park called Operara. This guided option is the one we recommend to get the very best out of your visit.


Footbridge in Kahurangi National Park.


The stunning Moira gate Arch, part of a one-day tour out of Karamea.


New Zealand forest at it's best, also accessible from Karamea.


Or, if you want a world class 6-day adventure hike , you can set out from Karamea on the Heaphy Track

Or walk a part of the trail from Karamea and return later in the day.


Coastline, the Heaphy Track.


Lake Matiri, a feature of a 3-day hike in the Kahurangi National Park.

The following report from "the Guardian" newspaper discusses the recent addition to the park.

Kahurangi National Park Gets Bigger

"Kahurangi National Park, situated in the north-west corner of the South Island, the second-largest national park in the country, has expanded.

More than 250 square miles of conservation land in the Mokihinui River catchment area has been added to the Park, bringing its total size to nearly 2,000-square miles.

Now, that same river has has been protected under the country’s strongest environmental laws.


The protected Mokihinui River, now part of the Kahurangi National Park.

“National park status will ensure stronger protection of the Mokihinui area’s significant cultural, ecological, historic and recreational values … New Zealanders love our protected national parks which hold international as well as national value,” Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said.

Conservation group Forest & Bird said they were “stoked” at the expansion of the national park, as the region was of “extreme conservation value”.

“It’s fantastic to see this important landscape finally getting the protection it deserves "Forest & Bird" chief executive Kevin Hague said".

There are 13 national parks in New Zealand, and the largest is Fiordland, at more than 4,750-square miles". 

Original article by Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian, March 12, 2019.

Cycle Tours Kahurangi national park.

If two-wheels are you favorite mode of transport, contact us for the best ways to get the most out of your visit.


Biking The Heaphy.


Coastal Heaphy Track.

Update May 27 2020 - Our website includes many references to the importance of "doing it right" when venturing into the forests of New Zealand. Just this week, two hikers were rescued after spending 19-days lost in the Kahurangi National Park. "Cold, hungry and hopelessly lost, Jess O'Connor and Dion Reynolds made camp and hunkered down".

It was a textbook decision for anyone lost in rugged bush and a decision that may have saved their lives.

"They did the right thing ... they stayed put and they made themselves visible," Nelson-Tasman police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Malcolm York said.

Even more importantly they had told friends where they were going and when they expected to return. This saved their lives. Read the full story.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Apr 29, 2020