Kahurangi National Park
Created in 1996, Kahurangi is one of New Zealand’s newest national parks, and at 452,002 hectares it is also the second largest. Translated, its name has a number of meanings including ‘treasured possession’, an apt description of its wonderfully diverse natural and recreational values. In places it is an untracked wilderness, elsewhere a wonderful network of tracks lets you explore wild rivers, high plateaux and alpine herbfields, and coastal forests.
Kahurangi is in the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Motueka, Takaka, Karamea, Tapawera and Murchison are the park’s gateway towns.
The natural diversity of Kahurangi and its importance as a wilderness area are a result of its size and its diverse and ancient geology. Kahurangi is New Zealand’s second largest natural protected area; it has some of the country’s oldest rocks and landforms, and spectacular areas of limestone and marble sculptured into caves, arches and stunning outcrops by water.
The variety of rock types, coupled with the range of altitudes and landforms (plateaux, valley floors, glaciated mountain-top and rocky coastline) provide a diverse range of habitats for plants and animals. The park is far enough north, and at a low enough altitude, to have escaped the worst effects of recent ice ages. Many alpine communities, overrun by ice further south, found refuge in Kahurangi. From there they recolonised the high mountains when the ice finally retreated, about 10,000 years ago.
Kahurangi today has more than half of New Zealand’s 2400-odd native plant species and over 80% of all alpine species. Its flora is the most diverse of any national park and includes 67 plant species found nowhere else.
Such a large expanse of vegetation, relatively unaffected by weeds, pests, fire and timber milling, is perfect habitat for wildlife too. A wide range of birds (18 native species) find a home in the park, including the blue duck, falcon, rock wren and great-spotted kiwi. The park is also the main bastion of powelliphanta, a group of carnivorous native land snails that grow up to 10cm in diameter.
As the park contains the northern tip of the south islands southern alps the weather can be very changeable, particularly at high altitudes. Heavy snowfalls occur frequently in winter, and after heavy rainfall many rivers and streams become impassable on foot or by car.
The Kahurangi National Park and surrounding areas are renowned for their tramping opportunities. Whilst there are many day walk options available the parks best trips are multi day ones such as the 4-6 day 78km Heaphy track which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Generally, a greater level of tramping, outdoor experience and equipment is required as trips tend to be more remote in nature. We can offer advice on a trip that suits your experience and timeframe.