THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
At 78 km, the Heaphy is NZ's longest Great Walk. Most people walk it in 4 or 5 days. Taking longer and walking a bit slower is definitely better.

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below to explore this walk.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Here we are starting in Golden Bay and walking towards the West Coast. Day One will take us to Perry Saddle Hut. This is a gentle 5 hour 17.5 km climb, beginning in lowland forest and getting more and more beautiful as we climb.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Brown River Carpark - start of the Heaphy Track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The track begins with a very easy 400 metre walk to Brown River Hut - a good place to pause and re-adjust our packs before beginning the big climb.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
BROWN RIVER HUT - Sleeps 16. Elevation 133 metres. Built in 1971. Flush toilets. No gas cooking facilities provided. Camping area features 10 Tent Sites for up to 20 Campers. 5 minutes (400 metres) walk from Brown River Carpark. 4 hours walk to Aorere Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Brown River Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Brown River Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Brown River Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Brown River Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
After Brown River Hut, we follow the Brown River upstream for 170 metres...

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
...before crossing the laminated timber bridge which was built in the 1970’s.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
By the time we’ve reached the first seat, we pretty much know what to expect from the terrain ahead. The track is wide, mainly gravelled, with the occasional rocky section to keep us focussed on where to put our feet. Water sources are few and far between (unless it’s raining) so it’s best to carry a couple of water bottles.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The track climbs fairly steadily and gently as far as this second seat with its view of Mount Olympus. From here the track levels off until the hairpin...

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
...And this is the hairpin (about halfway between Brown River Hut and Aorere Shelter). Now the track begins to climb a bit more steeply until it reaches Aorere Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
A lot of trees blew down here and nearby during a big storm in Easter 2014.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
It was a hugely exciting day here during the big Easter 2014 storm. I know. I was there during the storm, power-walking as fast as I could to get out of there.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Four hours after leaving Brown River Hut we come to Aorere Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
AORERE SHELTER - Elevation 800 metres. Camping Facilities: 4 Tent Sites for up to 8 Campers. 4 hours walk to Brown River Hut. 1 hour walk to Perry Saddle Hut and Campsite.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Aorere Shelter. If we stand on the picnic table, we can see this view looking down the Aorere Valley.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Aorere Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Aorere Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The 5 km walk from Aorere Shelter to Perry Saddle Hut takes about an hour plus breaks. The walk begins with a 30 minute climb to Flanagan's Corner, followed by a gentle 30 minute descent to Perry Saddle.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Mountain Neinei (Dracophyllum traversii). Candelabra-like tufts of Mountain Neinei look especially beautiful in misty conditions.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Here on the highest section of the Heaphy, we see spectacular examples of Toi / Mountain Cabbage Tree. (Cordyline indivisa). Strikingly beautiful and seldom seen, Toi is broader leafed and more squat than the more common Cabbage Tree.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Flanagan's Corner - This is a good place to hang out at night and look for Roroa / Great Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx haastii), which reach up to 50 cm in height and use the track as their nocturnal highway. Also at night and on rainy days, we may see Giant Carnivorous Land Snails (Powelliphanta) on the track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
This gorgeous 5 minute side track leads to a lookout.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Unfortunately the view from the lookout isn't as spectacular nowadays as it was in the past. The trees have grown and the view is largely blocked out by them. (This is the view if we stand on the picnic table).

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Once we go round this corner, the temperature drops as we come out from behind the shelter of the hill and face the full force of the prevailing wind. Thankfully, not far to go now...

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
...And there's the hut in the distance. The red plant in the right foreground is Neinei (Dracophyllum townsonii).

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
At last... Perry Saddle Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
PERRY SADDLE HUT - Sleeps 28. Elevation 880 metres. Camping Facilities: 5 Tent Sites for up to 10 Campers. 5 hours walk to Brown River Hut. 2 hours walk to Gouland Downs Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Perry Saddle Hut features gas elements for cooking on, motion-sensor lighting and a woodburner for heating.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Perry Saddle Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Perry Saddle Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
View from the deck of Perry Saddle Hut. On a nice day, it’s heaven sitting out on this deck. On hot days, trampers enjoy a dip in the cold mountain spa pool near the hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Perry Saddle Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The easy 7 km walk from Perry Saddle Hut to Gouland Downs Hut takes 2 hours plus breaks.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
This is the view from Perry Saddle Hut looking towards the Gouland Downs. The walk begins with a rocky section then crosses bridges with small waterfalls at Fawn Creek and Quintinia Creek.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Fawn Creek waterfall.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
“LIFE IS WAITING” - A sign on the Gouland Downs. After about 50 minutes, the track emerges from the bush. It is open country all the way from here to Gouland Downs Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
This picnic table overlooks the Gouland Downs. This is an excellent place to stop, snack and listen to the silence.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The next hour of our walk crosses open country - the beautiful Gouland Downs. The going is easy and the climbs and descents are gentle. Here, Gouland Downs Hut can be seen in the distance though the track has a couple more zig-zags in store before we reach the hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
On the apex of the second major zig-zag is the famous boot pole - a major landmark on the Heaphy Track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gouland Downs.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The track dips down to Cave Brook, which is a nesting place for Whio / Blue Duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos). About 3 minutes’ easy climb from here is Gouland Downs Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Whio / Blue Duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos).

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gouland Downs Hut. In the foreground is a Weka (Gallirallus australis) - a fearless and very inquisitive flightless native bird which is often mistaken for a Kiwi by tourists.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
GOULAND DOWNS HUT - Sleeps 8. Elevation 625 metres. Charming traditional hut. Completely ineffective fire produces a cold smokey ambience. Camping Facilities: 5 wooden platform Tent Sites for up to 10 Campers. 2 hours walk from Perry Saddle Hut. 1.5 hours walk to Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gouland Downs Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The interior of Gouland Downs Hut is a dark and somewhat smelly place - but it's still got lots of charm.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gouland Downs Hut. Minus 10 degrees C on a beautiful winter's night.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gouland Downs Hut. The moon sits low in the sky at about 2am on a frosty winter night.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The easy 5.4 km walk from Gouland Downs Hut takes 1 hour 30 minutes plus breaks.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Gouland Range - viewed from Gouland Downs Hut at dawn.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Just past Gouland Downs Hut is The Enchanted Forest - a scenic highlight of the Heaphy Track. Here we see the outskirts of The Enchanted Forest covered in frost.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Enchanted Forest. This is a very special part of the Heaphy Track - and one that shouldn’t be rushed. It’s only 270 metres from one side to the other. So, we absolutely must stop evry few steps and have a good look around. Trees festooned with moss, sculpted mossy limestone outcrops, enticing valleys, caves... It’s all here.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Enchanted Forest. Here, the track crosses a natural bridge. On the outside of the bend (to the left of center in this photo), there is a small track which leads to a cave which passes completely under the main track and comes out on the other side.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Enchanted Forest.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Enchanted Forest. Exiting The Enchanted Forest, there is a small rock cairn on the right-hand side of the track. This marks the beginning of an unmaintained short track to a nice little spot where a waterfall flows out of a cave mouth (as seen in this photo).

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Returning to the main track, we descend to Shiner Brook where we can choose to get wet feet in the ford or use the swingbridge. There is another ford and swingbridge soon after at Big River.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The going is flat and easy for the next half hour crossing the Gouland Downs - as long as the weather is good. Trackside vegetation is mainly red tussock with patches of stunted silver beech, flax, stunted shrubs and small herbs. Sundews can be found in boggy places. Several plants found on the downs occur nowhere else.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
After the Gouland Downs there is a seat with a great view of where we’ve been. We then enter a mossy wonderland for ten minutes or so, then it’s another half hour until we reach the inviting boardwalks of beautifully-situated Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The beginning of the beautiful mossy section before Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
SAXON HUT - Sleeps 16. Elevation 710 metres. Camping Facilities: 5 wooden platform Tent Sites for up to 10 Campers. 1.5 hours walk to Gouland Downs Hut. 3 hours walk to James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut features a woodburner for heating. The water sometimes freezes in the pipes and no water comes out of the taps. If this happens, just use the tap which is directly on the water tank outside.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
View from Saxon Hut at night.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Saxon Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Leaving Saxon Hut’s boardwalk, we cross downs tussock land for 200 metres before entering the forest. This is a prime place to see Great Spotted Kiwi at night - but don’t be too disappointed if we don’t see one. We’ll most probably hear them - but even some of the DOC Rangers have never seen a kiwi in the wild. Leaving this 450 metre long stretch of forest we come to Blue Duck Clearing. Here we see the beautifully designed curving bridge over Blue Duck Creek on the Mackay Downs - (Pronounced ”Mackee”).

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Confluence of Saxon River and Blue Duck Creek. Now the track enters beautiful beech forest overlooking Saxon River and continues through the forest for the next hour or so before coming to the southern fingertips of the Mackay Downs.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
From here we cross several bridged streams with the evocative names: Blue Shirt Creek, Monument Creek, Horrible Creek and Deception Creek. Notable landmarks on this stretch are the large granite bolders which seem so out of place on the downs landscape. They are some of New Zealand’s oldest rocks. Here we see an island of Beech forest on the Mackay Downs.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Soon we come to the sign and the little side track that brings us to James Mackay Hut with its stunning view of the West Coast which for the first time hints that the end of our journey is nearing.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
JAMES MACKAY HUT - Sleeps 28. Elevation 700 metres. 3 hours walk to Saxon Hut. 3.5 hours walk to Lewis Hut. James Mackay Hut features a woodburner for heating.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Camping platforms at James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
James Mackay Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The long 13.5 km downhill walk from James Mackay Hut to Lewis Hut takes 3.5 hours plus breaks.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Initially the trackside vegetation is dominated by high altitude trees - mountain and silver beech, mountain neinei and southern rata - but gradually it changes to more of a rainforest feel as the walk progresses. Soon we come to the old 2 km sign and slowly as the track snakes downhill, the trees become taller. Tree ferns and ground ferns begin to take over and the forest becomes more lush.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
About an hour before Lewis Hut the track crosses an exposed coal seam. In the old days, enterprising trampers would take some coal from here to Lewis Hut. Nowadays coal is flown in by helicopter which makes the job much easier and guarantees a cosy stay in Lewis Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Gradually the environment becomes more typical of a lowland rainforest with Red and Hard Beech and Kiekie becoming more prolific. Through these trees we begin to see glimpses of the Heaphy River in the valley below. Just before Lewis Hut are the first of the stunningly beautiful Nikau Palms which dominate much of the scenery for the rest of the Heaphy Track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
LEWIS HUT - Sleeps 20. Elevation 20 metres. A cosy hut when the fire’s going. No Tent Sites. Nice short walk to the suspension bridge over Heaphy River and then a few minutes to big Rata trees. 4 hours walk to James Mackay Hut. 2.5 hours walk to Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Lewis Hut - the front bunkroom.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Lewis Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Lewis Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Lewis Hut - the back bunkroom.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Lewis Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The virtually flat 8 km walk from Lewis Hut to Heaphy Hut takes 2.5 hours plus breaks.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
A short scenic bushwalk leads away from Lewis Hut...

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
...to this swingbridge crossing the Heaphy River.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Crossing the Heaphy River.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Nikau Palms (Rhopalostylis sapida) become predominant from the moment we reach the Heaphy Hut side of the suspension bridge. The groves of Nikau Palms are spectacular and “jungly” - especially when they are at the foot of towering limestone bluffs.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Giant Rata Tree (Metrosideros umbellata). This section is probably the easiest on the Heaphy (depending on the weather - in a flood it can be impassable). The walk follows the path of the river. A few changes of direction and then the mighty Heaphy River meets the even mightier Tasman Sea.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
HEAPHY HUT - Sleeps 32. Elevation: 5 metres. Camping Facilities: 20 Tent Sites for up to 40 Campers. Stunning views. 2.5 hours walk to Lewis Hut. 5 hours walk to Kohaihai Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Heaphy Rivermouth. Here a mighty stand-off occurs. The immense flow of the Heaphy River surges out into the pounding West Coast surf - and the Tasman Sea just takes it all - at least for a while... Soon the pressure builds up and up and suddenly the awesome power of the river just isn’t enough anymore and a wave of surf lunges back upstream. This dramatically forceful wave sometimes travels up to 4 km upstream. We can safely watch all this action from the driftwood-strewn beach - just a few minutes’ stroll from the comfort of Heaphy Hut.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy Shelter. Keeps out most of the wind and the rain - but not the sandflies.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Heaphy River - looking upstream.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The easy 7.8 km walk along the coast from Heaphy Hut to Katipo Creek Shelter takes 2.5 hours plus breaks. From Katipo Creek Shelter, the 8.4 km to the end of the Heaphy Track at Kohaihai takes another 2.5 hours plus breaks. This last section of the Heaphy is relatively flat until last 45 minutes where there is a climb to 120 metres above sea level over Kohaihai Bluff before returning to 20 metres above sea level at the Kohaihai Shelter and Carpark.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The next 2.5 hours of walking is easy. The track follows the coastline and our walk is accompanied by the ever present roar of the surf.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The scenery is half dramatic west coast beaches and half subtropical jungle. The tracksides are littered with the dry fronds of Nikau palms and Ponga tree ferns.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The going is all pretty much flat for the first couple of hours until we get to the south end of Nettle Beach. Here the track climbs about 80 metres and then back down again. Soon after is the Katipo Creek swingbridge and, a few minutes later, Katipo Creek Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
KATIPO CREEK SHELTER - Camping Facilities: 5 Tent Sites for up to 10 Campers. Elevation: 8 metres. Time for lunch...

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
At Crayfish Point we see the memorial to the three trampers who drowned here in 1980.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Koura Beach - Walking across the sand in this photo is potentially the most hazardous 200 metres of the whole Heaphy Track. It is only really safe to cross here from 2 hours after high tide until 2 hours before high tide - and only if the sea isn’t too rough. Check the tide tables at Heaphy Hut and just before Koura Beach. There are also tide tables at Kohaihai Shelter and on the south end of the Koura Beach crossing for walkers travelling from west to east.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Koura Beach - Looking back at the most dangerous part of the Heaphy Track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
There’s another small climb after Koura Beach and then the track is mostly flat for the next hour and a half or so until we get to Scott’s Beach. Then there’s a 120 metre climb over Kohaihai Bluff which seems to go on forever.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
SCOTT’S BEACH CAMPSITE - Elevation: 20 metres. Camping Facilities: 9 Tent Sites for up to 18 Campers.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Scott's Beach - In the distance is Kohaihai Bluff - where the track climbs to 120 metres above sea level before descending to Kohaihai at the end of the Heaphy Track.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Climbing Kohaihai Bluff. It's not really that big a hill - but when we've just walked the Heaphy, it feels huge.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Scott's Lookout - A short side track leads to this great opportunity to have one last look at the coastline we’ve just walked. Now it’s an easy downhill to the Kohaihai River swingbridge and then a few more minutes walk to Kohaihai Shelter.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
A little side track to a gorgeous sandy beach.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
The Kohaihai River Swingbridge.

THE HEAPHY TRACK - Kahurangi National Park
Kohaihai Shelter. End of the Heaphy Track.