The Oparara Basin has a full day of activities, including cave tours through the Honeycomb caves where you can see a very well preserved skeleton of a giant moa, an underground river, a limestone cathedral lit by a myriad of glow worms, ancient limestone pillars and chandeliers and exit from a massive arched cavern straight into verdant rainforest. The road into the Oparara Basin from Karamea township winds through the beautiful native rainforest of the Kahurangi National Park.
Along the many short walks in the Oparara Basin, you’ll pass through an enchanted wonderland of prehistoric moss-covered vegetation from mighty natives to tiny colourful mushrooms, lichens and flowers. The biggest limestone arch in the Southern Hemisphere, Oparara Arch, is at the end of one track, a massive stone structure bridging a large river and forming a tunnel for more than 200 metres.
The Moria Gate Arch is smaller, but a highly spiritual place for quiet introspection and meditation in the bosom of nature – a visit to Moria Gate is a must.
A little further on is the Mirror Tarn, a still pond about the size of a rugby pitch. Tall beech trees grow right to the edge of the water, sheltering the surface from any breeze. The leaves of the beech trees fall into the water and release their tannins, staining the fresh water a dark tea hue, which allows for a perfect mirror of the sky; to stand at the water’s edge and look down into the sky is an astounding pleasure.
The tracks in the Oparara Basin are easily negotiated and allow people of all ages to experience amazing natural features that would otherwise have been hidden to all but the most extreme adventurer or hardened bushman.
A new track connecting the Oparara Basin Road to the Fenian Track makes a loop from two previously no exit tracks. The track follows the Oparara River and enables peoples to experience more of the many wonders of the Kahurangi National Park.
There is also a mountain biking trail at K-road a few kilometres before the carpark for the arches. Mountain bikes can be hired in Karamea.
Closer to town is the Karamea Gorge, a trout angler’s paradise. One of its features, the aptly named Big Rimu Tree, is a tree so large that when the area was logged about 60 years ago, the technology available at the time was insufficient to handle trees of its size – It must be seen to be appreciated and to stand beside its mammoth trunk is a quite humbling experience.
The Karamea River is one of the longest rivers in the north of the South Island and has been rated one of the top five white water rafting / kayaking rivers in the world, with operators running multi-day heli-rafting trips into the backcountry.
Fishing is extremely popular in the area, and for good reason. The Karamea region streams and rivers provide world-class trout fishing opportunities and there is also excellent fishing in tidal stretches, off the beaches and further ashore from the comfort of a boat. Whitebaiting in the spring is also popular.
The area also has very good surf and surfing is popular with the locals.
There is a vast stretch of sandy beach where you might stroll along all day without encountering a soul – except perhaps your own! A spectacular venue to watch the sun set into the ocean.
If a round of golf is your thing, don’t forget to bring your clubs and try out the decent nine-hole course right next to the beach. With a little imagination, the Tasman’s roaring surf could easily be the crowd at St. Andrews!