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What to Do in Karamea

Karamea has the warmest climate of any settlement on the South Island, with short, almost frost free winters and warm summers. Sunshine hours are high on the coastal plain, but there is plenty of rain in the hills to keep things green. Many subtropical plants and fruits can be grown outdoors here without protection, such as passion fruit, tamarillos, citrus fruit and bananas.

Relax and Unwind

The subtropical microclimate of Karamea makes it the perfect place to relax in the lush green growth and sunshine. The Rough Guide to New Zealand says Karamea “is one of those places where doing nothing just seems right.” Our aim at Rongo is to make this easy!

Nikau Palm Groves at Kohaihai

The Kohaihai at the start of the Heaphy Track has several short walks through pristine nikau palm forest. The Heaphy coast is the most significant area of nikau forest left in New Zealand. On a sunny day it is difficult not to believe you are on a tropical island, even in mid-winter.


Karamea was one of the last areas to be settled on the West Coast by Europeans, who came to farm, to log timber, and to prospect for gold. Some success was found in all of these areas, along with a large flax-milling industry. However the 1929 Murchison Earthquake crippled the town – it was cut off by road for nearly three years and the once busy harbour silted up. Logging continued until the 1980s, and the town’s employment is now mainly in dairying, tourism and arts and crafts. The region has an excellent Broadband Internet service and more people are moving from cities and setting up Internet-based careers from Karamea.

Oparara Basin – Natural Wonderland

Home to the Honeycomb Hill Caves, a treasure trove of remains of extinct species such as moa as well as beautiful stalactite and stalagmite limestome formations. There are also several other caves with impressive rock formations, and three huge bush-clad limestone arches that span the Oparara River. Also the spectacular “Mirror Tarn.”

Kahurangi National Park Tramping/Hiking

The Kahurangi National Park has numerous huts and tramping trails. The best known routes are the Heaphy, Wangapeka, and Leslie-Karamea tracks, however there are many other routes and day tramps. Recover with a hot firebath under the stars at Rongo.



Karamea River Rafting & Kayaking

Rated one of the top 10 multi-day rafting rivers in the world by Outdoor Magazine. The Karamea River is a big volume river with many grade five rapids. Several commercial operators offer heli-rafting trips of 1-3 days.

Eco Rafting is a small boutique rafting outfitters company offering unique experiences into the wilderness of New Zealand.

Rivers Wild is a a small business dedicated to providing you with professional and fun whitewater rafting and kayaking wilderness experiences.

Ultimate Descents offer whitewater rafting and kayaking trips from gentle family rafting tours to the extremes of west coast heli rafting and everything in between.

Karamea River Trout Fishing

The Karamea River and its tributaries are home to truly world class wilderness trout fishing.

Karamea is very highly rated for its excellent fishing for a large number of brown trout to trophy size in a pristine environment. The water remains clear and clean except after very heavy rain. It then clears very quickly again.

Surveys have indicated that some sections have over 100 fish per kilometre. Fish in the upper reaches average over 4lb and can reach trophy sizes.

Karamea River Trout Fishing Guide



Beaches & Estuaries

Karamea has a long, sandy, unpolluted beaches. Surfing can be good (though swimming is not recommended due to rip tides and large waves), and there are several good places to catch snapper in summer.

At the Karamea River estuary and other coastal lagoons in the area, it is possible to see black swans, kotuku (white heron or great egret, shown above), paradise ducks, pukeko, oystercatchers, godwits, stilts, herons, gulls and many other species.

View other sightseeing opportunities and activities in Karamea.

Getting to Karamea

Karamea is sealed off from the rest of New Zealand by the forested mountains of the Kahurangi National Park on three sides, and the wild Tasman Sea on the other.

To come here by any route is a real adventure, retreading the footsteps of the pioneers who settled the area. It is difficult to get more off the beaten track in New Zealand without putting on boots or picking up a paddle.

Learn more about getting to Karamea and things worth seeing on the way here.

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