4-6 Days 78.4 KM

Highlights

  • Unique & diverse landscapes
  • Fascinating plants & forests
  • Greenstone hunting heritage

Proximity

GRADE: INTERMEDIATE

For the latest information on access to the Heaphy Track please refer to the Department of Conservation's Heaphy Track page(opens in new window)

This ancient Māori trail crosses over tussock downs to lush forests, through nikau palms, to the roaring seas of the West Coast.

1. Overview of Heaphy Track

Of all the Great Walks, the Heaphy Track delivers the strongest contrasts and every section of the track is vastly different. 

The trail showcases superb rainforest, sub-alpine tussock grasslands, high, rugged mountains and lowland forest and palm-fringed surf beaches.

Heaphy Track is 82 kilometres within the Kahurangi National Park, the second largest national park in the country and home to many Great Spotted kiwi, interesting rock formations, caves and natural arches. 

The path followed by the Heaphy Track was first used by Māori pounamu (jade) hunters travelling from Golden Bay to the pounamu rivers of Westland.

Mountain bikes are allowed between 1st May and 30th November.

2. Walking the Heaphy Track

The fitter you are the more you will enjoy yourself, so a good level of fitness and strength is necessary. 

Find out more about the walk and what is involved; 

Day 1, Brown Hut > Perry Saddle, 17.5km

Starting at Brown Hut(opens in new window), you'll head upstream before crossing the bridge over the Brown River.

From here the track gradually climbs to a saddle with beautiful views across the Aorere Valley - on a clear day it is even possible to see the conical peak of Mt Taranaki in the North Island. This is the highest point on the track. The track then dips slightly, leading to Perry Saddle Hut(opens in new window). A deep pool nearby offers a refreshing swim - not for the faint-hearted, but all feelings of fatigue will vanish the moment you hit the cold water.

Day 2, Perry Saddle > Saxon Hut, 12.4km

Today, journey through tussock to Gouland Downs before coming to the quirky 'boot pole' - which wears a variety of old boots, bestowed by hikers over many years.

There is a limestone outcrop where you can explore caves and waterfalls - take a torch and see if you can find a cave spider. You'll then hike through flat tussock country to reach Saxon Hut(opens in new window), nestled at the end of the downs. 

Day 3, Saxon Hut > James Mackay Hut, 11.8km

Today's journey winds through more tussock and bush flats, criss-crossed by rivers and various bridges. 

Small creeks dissect the landscape and pink granite sparkles and crunches beneath your boots. The James Mackay Hut(opens in new window) sits on an open terrace just above the track. In the distance, both the Tasman Sea and the Heaphy River can be seen from here. 

Day 4, James Mackay Hut > Heaphy Hut, 20km

First off today you'll gradually descend towards the Heaphy River, surrounded by a rainforest of kōwhai, cabbage trees and nikau palms. 

A detour to see one of New Zealand’s biggest rātā trees is definitely worthwhile. Further up the river you'll come to a huge 148-metre suspension bridge, crossing the water and the river flats. As you follow the track towards the mouth of the river, nikau palms become more common, the sea’s roaring grows louder and in some conditions, small waves can be seen running upriver.

Heaphy Hut(opens in new window) is situated far enough back from the sea to be spared the worst of the winds.

Day 5, Heaphy Hut > Kohaihai Carpark, 16.2km

At the mouth of the Heaphy River water surges out through a narrow gap into the sea. In-coming waves halt the flow and the resulting churning of salt water and fresh water is spectacular.

The majority of today's hike is through forest although there is some beach walking.

You'll soon reach the Scotts Beach clearing which is a great spot to rest before climbing the Kohaihai Saddle and meandering down to the bridge to cross the river. Shortly after crossing the bridge you'll reach the Kohaihai Carpark where there is both shelter and a phone. 

3. Accommodation on Heaphy Track

There are seven huts and nine campsites dotted throughout the Heaphy Track, all run by the Department of Conservation (DOC). All huts have heating, toilets, bunks and water and a few have gas cooking facilities and lighting. A ranger is onsite during the Great Walks season which is April through to October. 

Bookings are essential for both huts and campsites - especially during the Great Walks season. 

Book Great Walks accommodation

4. Towns near Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is not a loop walk so hikers having the option of walking west to east or east to west.

From the west, the town of Westport offers multiple options for accommodation.

In the east, the town of Takaka in the Nelson Tasman region is also home to many options for places to stay.  

5. Getting to Heaphy Track trail head

The Heaphy Track is not a circuit track so you need to organise transport. 

You can start the track either from Brown Hut in Golden Bay(156 kilometres from Nelson) or from Kohaihai on the West Coast (110 km from Westport).

Regional flights allow you to walk the track one way and return by air to near your starting point. Air New Zealand flies into Nelson, the closest regional airport to the Brown Hut, and Sounds Air(opens in new window) flies into Westport, the closest regional airport to Kohaihai(opens in new window).

A number of local operators provide air transport into Takaka in Golden Bay and Karamea on the West Coast.

Bus and taxi services are available to reach either end of the track from nearby towns - some only operate during the summer months so you need to check in advance. Regular bus services link Nelson and Westport. Vehicle relocation services are also available. 

There is mobile phone coverage at both ends of the Heaphy Track.

 

6. Book a guided tour of Heaphy Track

Booking a walk with a tour provider

A number of specialist tour operators can aid in bringing your walking experience to life. Contact the business to find out if a walking tour is right for you.

Booking a walk independently

If you want to do a Great Walk independently, you will need to book the DOC accommodation on the trails. The fee for this varies between each Great Walk. It is recommended that you book in advance for this popular walk.

7. How to prepare for the Great Walks of New Zealand

Five simple rules, also know as The Land Safety Code, to help you stay safe when trekking or tramping in the outdoors of New Zealand. 

1. Choose the right trip for you

Make sure the chosen trip is suitable for your fitness level.

2. Understand the weather

New Zealand's weather changes quickly, always check the forecast. If the weather is bad, wait until it clears or turn around. 

3. Pack warm clothes and extra food

Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.

4. Share your plans and ways to get help

Tell a trusted person your trip details and take a personal locator beacon with you - these can be purchased or hired from local gear shops.

5. Take care of yourself and others 

Eat, drink and rest. Stay with your group and always make decisions together. 

The Land Safety Code

What to pack for Great Walks of New Zealand

Having the right gear is imperative when tramping in the outdoors. 

Watch this video(opens in new window) to find out how to pack your gear.

Find out all you need to know about walking in New Zealand at Adventure Smart(opens in new window).

Find out what to pack

View the Heaphy Track on a map

Department of Conservation

Click the link below for more information and detailed maps for this trail.

Heaphy Track(opens in new window)

Book your Heaphy Track adventure

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