Murchison to Karamea

karamea

Karamea

This time I will bypass Mohikanui and carry on to Karamea, just because. Just because it is as far as you can drive north up the West Coast. Seemingly there is a long and windy hill to get there so hopefully there is a good view from the top!

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Things to do:
– Feel the rush and power as you raft or jet boat through granite canyons in the Buller Gorge

– Visit Maruia Falls, formed as a result of the 1929 earthquake

– Walk New Zealand’s longest swing bridge across the Buller River Gorge

The Buller river adventures are all south of Murchison. Firstly 23 kilometres to the Maruia Falls then on to the Buller swing bridge, zipline (flying fox) and jet boat ride. My decision is whether to do the zip line again or be brave and go on a jet boat here, or elsewhere.

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The Buller Jet!

It appears to be a 20 minute drive each way and off the main road to the Maruia Falls but looks to be worth a visit.

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Maruia Falls

“Maruia Falls, formed as a result of the 1929 earthquake. Accessed from State Highway 65, 23 kilometres south of Murchison, the Maruia Falls track starts from the car park and descends to the Maruia River bank. From here there is an excellent viewpoint of the falls, which were created following the 1929 earthquake.”

Then on to the Buller Swing Bridge with decisions to make.

This was awesome but do I want t do it again?

I do want to have a look around Inangahua, which is tiny (population 160). It was close to the epicentre of a shallow 7.1 earthquake in 1968.

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Inangahua does have food and coffee.

I’m still not 100% decided about going to Karamea and I suspect that when I have finished this blog I will have a better idea. I find that sourcing information and photos, putting it together (which takes 2 or 3 hours per page, sometimes more), gives me better understanding of places of interest and also time constraints. It’s a juggling act 🙂
If I do I will be stopping only for food and photo opportunities.

After Mohikanui (and I am not stopping there) it’s all new! The road from Mokihinui to Karamea is 53.8 km, and in normal conditions will take approximately 48 minutes to drive.

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The road over the Karamea Bluff.

I’ve just come across this description: “The road to Karamea is one of the most beautiful drives in the world and affords stunning views of the Tasman coast, river valleys, verdant forest and jagged mountain ranges. The journey takes you along the coast through the charming seaside villages of Granity, Ngakawau and Hector and across the Mohikuniui River before heading into the mountains of the Kahurangi National Park, you’ll pass ancient tree giants, beneath majestic tree ferns and go high over the Karamea Bluff before dropping into the broad alluvial coastal plain at Little Wanganui. You’ll pass happily grazing dairy herds on lush green pasture, the expansive Otumahana Lagoon and over the mighty Karamea River before arriving in the beautiful hamlet of Karamea.”  I suspect I will go, especially for the lagoon, a lagoon always means birds ❤

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One of two photos I found of Karamea!

I have found this great website called Virtual New Zealand that videos the route (sped up x5) so I can have an idea what the road will be like.

http://www.aviationfilm.com/vnz/south/br21_03_mokihinui_karamea.shtml

Accomodation Karamea: Karamea Memorial Domain Camping Ground

Waverley Street, Karamea
Phone: (03) 782 6069
Phone: (03) 782 6652

$18.00 per night, wifi ?

NOTE: Make sure I fill the tank at Westport!

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Karamea

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Flagstaff Beach, not a place to swim!

Karamea: population: 625 This isolated lowland, 96 km north of Westport, has a pleasant climate, with warmer temperatures and less rain than the rest of the region. The main industry is dairy farming, with an increasing amount of horticulture and tourism.The name Karamea is used for both the township and the whole area. It is a contraction of Kakara-taramea, meaning sweet-scented gum, which was made locally from the leaves of speargrass.The urban area consists of two distinct settlements along the main road: Market Cross and Karamea itself.

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Karamea, it’s not big!

On the list

– Oparara Valley with it’s Limestone Arches and Honeycomb Caves. Lena went on a conducted tour when she was here, I will look in to that.

-Flag Staff Beach

– Karamea River and estuary

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The estuary.

I would like to go to the Oparara Basin and it is reached by a 16 kilometre gravel road that is not suitable for large motor homes because of the road conditions and blind corners. As reversing is not one of my better driving skills in the Ducato, a guided tour will be necessary. At $150 it’s not cheap but I feel I can’t miss the arches or the caves.

I’m not a fan of caves, the only one I have been to is the Waitomo (gloworm) Cave in the North Island that I visited as a child. I remember the lake and the boat and the guide teaching up the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. “When the mites go up, the tights come down”; a little humour and something I have never forgotten.

“The Oparara Basin is unique combination of natural landforms, diverse ecosystems and spectacular caves and arches born of a million years of undisturbed isolation characterize this area. Rainforest stretches across a broad valley floor, three magnificent arches sculpted by the Oparara River, bush-fringed streams stained the colour of billy tea from the humic acids washing down through the soil, and an underground treasure hidden away in a highly complex cave system, combine to make this remarkable area one of immense national and international significance.” The Oparara Basin is formed from a bed of 350 million year old Karamea granite overlaid by a narrow belt of limestone, with a layer of blue-grey mudstone (or papa) on top.

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The Oparara Valley

Honeycomb Hill cave was discovered in 1976 by cavers from the Buller Caving Group, in karst terrain. In an area 800 metres by 1,000 metres, cavers found 13.7 kilometres of passages and 70 entrances through which light enters. Over thousands of years, birds also fell through the holes and have been preserved as fossils. Careful excavation of the cave floor has revealed much about New Zealand’s extinct bird species and contains the remains of some 50 species, including the extinct moa and New Zealand eagle.

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The Honeycomb Hill Cave.

There are breathtaking limestone formations including arches and land bridges. The most spectacular is the Oparara Arch, 43m high and spanning 219m across the river. The Moria Gate Arch is smaller in size but arguably even more picturesque. The Box Canyon and Crazy Paving Caves have free access and a good torch is essential.

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Underground but very much alive is NZ’s largest spider, (hunky but harmless), Spelungula cavernicola, a brown furry body sprouting legs that give it an overall size of up to 15cm. Spelungula find their prey by vibration – cave weta mostly, while their egg sacs hang from the ceiling like miniature golf balls. Miniature golf balls of spider eggs *shudder*.

Spider and it’s prey, a weta!

Glow worms, with origins dating back 80 million years, light up the eternal darkness, attracting prey with their luminescence, while tiny ant-like troglobites with suction pads on their feet shimmy across the wet walls. I’ve actually seen glowworms twice. When Leah came to stay in 2015 we went to a purpose built glow worm cave, quite scary (Leah was exceptionally brave) and small, so claustrophobic. A real cave has far more ‘interesting’ experiences (have I mentioned  small golf ball like sacs of spiders eggs!)

The twilight cave entrances are fringed and draped with delicate mosses and algae. The area surrounding the caves is heavily forested with a stunning mixture of beech/podocarp forest, thickly coated in moss, and it is this beech forest that generates the humic acids that stain the streams a billt tea colour, and also creates high acidity.

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The diverse forest types support a wide range of native birdlife, protected under the Conservation Act of 1987, including the great spotted kiwi, the rare blue duck, kaka, NZ falcon, kea, weka, pigeon, robin, fantail, parakeet, paradise duck, and tomtit, to name a just a few, while it is thought that the kokako may still be present in the area.

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Whio, an endangered endemic duck.

The rare lesser short-tailed bat has also been recorded in the vicinity, while the large carnivorous land snail, Powelliphanta annectens is found throughout, but in greater numbers in and adjacent to the areas of limestone.

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http://www.karameainfo.co.nz/oparara-basin/

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To Westport.

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Farewell Karamea.

I’ll be covering about 100 kilometres as the crow flies but with some side trips, the first of which means a left turn at Mohikanui, and, depending on the tide, if it is low, a right turn.

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I would like to see the wreck of the Steamer SS Lawrence that was grounded on the Mokihinui bar 28th April 1891. Dasha and I had a 5 minute (or less) glimpse of the beach but in our urgency to depart Mohikanui we didn’t really get to see it except for a photo taken at 60x zoom.

It’s just a 6 kilometre drive to Seddonville and I have no idea what is there. It was New Zealand’s first state owned mine and named after a Prime Minister of the time.

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The Charming Creek walk was planned for Dasha’s visit and again, in our haste to exit Mohikanui, we went past it. It all seems a little silly now in retrospect, Mohikanui accomodation wasn’t great but the need to leave was overdone a little on my part, maybe due to lack of sleep.

“From the Ngakawau walkway entrance there is an easy 20 minute walk through lush riverside forest to the Bins. Just after the bridge over the rushing Mine Creek, watch out for the top of a tiny locomotive called a ‘Coffee Pot’ which was used up this railroad lying in the bush on the left side. There are good story boards at the Bins telling the story of the Watsons and their private railroad. Past the Bins the track enters the Lower Ngakawau Gorge. Sections of the old wooden centre brake rail are reminders of the difficulty of controlling heavy trains on the steep grades. After you’ve negotiated the rockfall section of the track, you’ll enter the first tunnel. It takes a strange turn with a major kink in the middle. It is known as Irishmen’s Tunnel – perhaps a little too much Irish whisky?”

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To complete the walk, with arranged transportation at the other end, takes 3+ hours or 6+ hours return so I will do as much as time allows as I want next to do what Dasha and I couldn’t due to timing.

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I expect to make a stop at Granity, for coffee and maybe lunch and a walk on the beach.

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Granity

On and up to Dennison,  driving over 660 metres (2000 ft) above sea level and 8 kilometres of twisty road to the top.

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It’s a long way down!

I am going to take the ‘Gorge Express’ (if the weather is fine); a short guided walk to the train station, a train ride along the old coal transport road with spectacular views of the Waimangaroa Gorge, across the stunning Banbury Arches then 40 metres into the Banbury mine. The stunning stone Banbury Arches provided the only tramway access over treacherous gully into the Banbury mine. Both coal and brave people were transported via wagon down the famous Denniston Incline, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World for its length and perilously steep gradient, to the Conns Creek rail sidings below. The Denniston Incline may be a thing of the past, but the Banbury Arches have been restored to their full glory.

Start: 9:30am, 12:30pm and 3:15 pm  Book now online or phone 0800 881 880: Allow 1h 15m $45.00

From there is is a 30 minute drive to Westport.

Accomodation: Westport Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels
37 Domett St
Westport

Phone: +64 3 789 7043 (NZMCA discount)

$34.00 per night. Wifi but not free.

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Westport onwards (going south)!

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The bat at Cape Foulwind has interesting geology.

We didn’t stay at Westport last time so I’d like to look at the town and then drive south. I will probably stop again at Tauranga Bay to look at the NZ Fur Seals and the many sea birds and weka then drive on to look at Charleston, I don’t remember driving through it last time.  Much is dependant on the weather and tides.

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Three kilometres north of Punakaiki is the Truman Track, at Te Miko – a rainforest track to a limestone cliff bay with fossils, a small waterfall and a very pretty pebbled beach. At low tide there are lovely rock pools.

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So pretty and rather unusual.

Punakaiki is a definite stop, I didn’t take any decent photos when I was there with Dasha, not one!  It’s possibly not too easy to take a wow factor photo of the rocks without some thought. I had expected a vast area of these rock and it was rather small; and grey! Spectacular, yes. no doubt about that.
There were lots of gulls here, I would like to take time to see if there are any unusual one.

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White fronted terns.

After Punakaiki the road passes through varying country – flat or undulating to Barrytown, then winding around steep coastal cliffs. The road widens after Rapahoe, where it passes through softer mudstone, then onto the open river flats of the lower Grey Valley near Greymouth. I remember seeing lots of beaches, pretty bays and rugged promontories and want to spend time (weather permitting) just sitting. The great thing about having my Ducato is there will always be food available.

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There are many tiny villages on the West Coast that were once thriving mining towns, with coal to the north and golds to the south. I would like to stop at many of them and see their history instead of driving through.

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The Coast Road.

It was Sunday when Dasha and I stopped in Greymouth, we walked along the river, admired the old buildings and had a big feast of KFC. I will explore the town a little more.

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Greymouth

Ten kilometres south of Greymouth is Shantytown, a heritage park where you can pan for gold and ride a steam train. It consists of 30 re-created historic buildings, a replica of a South Island West Coast gold mining town set in the 1860s

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From here it is a 40 kilometre drive to Hokitika. Dasha and I loved the town. I may spend several nights here.

As an added interest, 13.6ks south of Ross (I remember Ross, it rained), near Kakapotahi, is the Waitaha River which is under threat from a hydro-electric plan. It would be a good photo opportunity, seemingly has lovely glacial waters and was a gold mining area once. Good for a fossick too 🙂

Accomodation Hokitika: Shining Star Beachfront accomodation

16 Richards Drive
Hokitika
Phone:  03 755 8921

$30.00 per night. Wifi (free?)

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Hokitika

Located almost in the centre of the wild West Coast, Hokitika is a town that deserves much more than just a quick pit stop. Featuring heaps of hikes and a great local culture, it is a place that is best “embraced”, not just “visited”.
Hokitika was created during the great Kiwi gold-rush of the 1860s. It now has just the right pace, not to fast, not too slow, helped with stunning surroundings to establish itself as a typical New Zealand town with an untypical vibe.  It’s a small town, 3000 maybe but feels bigger. 

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Dasha and I looked at some great artwork here when we visited Hokitika in April 2016. It was later in the day and the weekend, I think and we didn’t get to see it all. We saw pounamu (jade), possum clothing and many different types and styles of artworks. I was impressed with a doormat, fashioned with West Coast pebbles, I must find one  😉

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A beautiful door mat

Pounamu refers to several types of hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite stone found in southern New Zealand. Pounamu is the Māori name. Pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture and is considered a taonga (treasure) and therefore protected under the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1997 the Crown handed back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu.
Genuine Ponamu is expensive and much of the jewellery in New Zealand tourist centres is made by New Zealand carvers from imported jade or just imported (from China).

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I like the less perfect Ponamu, with character, and this is the style I prefer.

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$135.00 for a 2 hour tour

Dasha and I had the Hokitika Gorge on our to do list but it was raining quite heavily so we carried on to Franz Joseph Glacier, where it was also raining 🙂 The gorge is 40 minutes from Hokitika and one of the highlights is the beautiful colour of the water, not seen when the river is high. Fingers crossed this time.the-otherworldly-color-of-hokitika-gorge.jpg

“The magnificent granite gorge, with milky blue-green pools, backed by cliffs and fine rimu forest. Take care on south bank track. The drive to the gorge passes fine West Coast dairy farms and a memorial to the victims of the Stanley Graham shootings.

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Lake Kaniere

This is a classic scenic drive loop which features amazing scenery. Head inland to the Hokitika Gorge to admire its unbelievably turquoise waters, enjoying views of farmland, rivers and the mountains along the way. Stop also at the Kowhitirangi Memorial that honours the victims of the Stanley Graham shootings. On the way back, head around the south and eastern end of Lake Kaniere (a good 2wd gravel road). There are plenty of pullouts to enjoy the lake shore as well as a short walk to Dorothy Falls. Then head back to Hokitika. Of course you can do this in reverse too. Lake Kaniere, 18 kilometres east of Hokitika, is a glacial lake, used for boating, kayaking and fishing. A road goes round the eastern side (to join up with the Hokitika valley), and there are several walking tracks along the shore and in the forest.

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http://www.hokitika.org/local-tips/105/Pounamu-(NZ-Jade)
http://www.hokitika.org/thecoollittletown/

I can see this will be a stay of at least two nights. I would like to be there when they hold the “Wild Food Festival” – from delicacy to disgusting, we have oyster to mountain oysters  (sheep testicles) and everything in between like venison and whitebait. It’s tempting and is on 11 March. . . . . . maybe, maybe not!

Hokitika to Fox or even Jacksons Bay

So it’s starting to get difficult to time manage, not that I have a time table to keep to but I do like to have accomodation planned ahead. I also know that it would be unusual not to find a camp with a powered site (but there are lots of tourists in their infernal campers 😉 ) and if I must, I can freedom camp. I belong to the New Zealand Motorhome Association and they provide a comprehensive list of varying accomodation types for the members.

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So just a short trip today but exciting events are on the agenda.

The Ōkārito and Whataroa area is the place to be if you are interested in birds.and is the only nesting site for the Kotuku ( White Heron) It’s only accessible by tour and was closed in April and one of the reasons why this trip has been scheduled (probably) for March 2017.

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The White Heron has always been rare in New Zealand (I have seen  3 or 4) and it has gained almost mythical status. With a population of a mere 200 birds, it is revered by both Māori and pakeha (non Maori, hence I am a pakeha) for its elegant white feathers. This graceful bird has long, slender legs and a long, thin S-shaped neck, which has a distinct kink when flying. It is common in Australia, the South Pacific and Asia. The Kōtuku colony is situated in extremely close proximity to a shag rookery and a Royal Spoonbill (another Australian migrant) colony. The success of any of these three species may place pressure on the relative success of the other two.

Tour cost including DOC entry permit: $135, duration:  2.5 hours return trip from Whataroa.

On to Fox Glacier, no stopping at Franz Joseph this time. Been there, done that!

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Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier ( Te Moeka o Tuawe) is longer and faster moving than the Franz Josef Glacier. It is remarkable in that it ends in temperate rainforest, 250 metres above sea level and a mere twelve kilometres from the sea. There are more 3,000m (10,000ft) peaks at the head of the Fox Glacier than in any other valley in New Zealand. Nowhere in the world’s temperate zones are glaciers so accessible. Depending on where the safety barriers are this walk will take you about one hour return.

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Another walk close by is the historic swing bridge was built in 1929 at the cost of £1,200. This seventy metre long bridge was prefabricated in England and then shipped to New Zealand. It was then dragged on a sled to the site where it was installed. Strong enough to take horses and sheep it was the safe route south to Jaccob’s River for many years before the Cook River was properly bridged in the 1930’s. I want to do  that one too, I rather like swing bridges (and waterfalls).

That would appear to be possibly managed in one day but may stretch into part of the next day.

I have found there is a tour that takes you to where the Pacific and Australian Plates meet. It also departs from Whataroa. Maybe I should be looking at staying there!

http://alpinefaulttours.co.nz

http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz

Accomodation: Fox Glacier Campervan Park $40.00

41 Sullivan Road, Fox Glacier

Phone: 03 751 0888 (NZMCA discount)

Wifi (cost?)

Fox Glacier to Jackson Bay

It’s just a two hour drive to Jackson Bay, as far south as you can drive on the West Coast. It was raining when Dasha and I drove as far as Haast, then turned to go inland to Wanaka, so south of Haast is new territory.

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This is a largely unpopulated area; one of opportunities to observe sea birds and possibly penguins. March/April isn’t the best time time to see penguins but is my preferred holiday time with the weather  more settled and it’s warmer. Maybe I will go earlier than planned, maybe in October/November 🙂

The road from Fox Glacier to Bruce Bay (30 minutes away) is inland and I can’t remember the landscape before the coast but I do remember seeing Bruce Bay and the many rock tributes left by travellers. The beach has a  lot of quartz, presumably washed down from the rivers.

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Bruce Bay is also the location of the Te Tauaka Waka a Maui Marae opened on 25 January 2005 which looks directly at the Tasman Sea. Bruce Bay was where Maui first landed in New Zealand from Hawaiki and the marae bears his name in commemoration of this feat. He then traversed the South Island before fishing up the North Island.

Not far south of Bruce Bay is Lake Paringa, a birdwatchers paradise with the rare Australasian crested grebes, scaups, shovelers, mallard ducks, black swans, and black shags on the lake. In the forest, fern birds, kaka, kakariki, falcons, and kereru (New Zealand native pigeon) can be found. And the lake is really pretty too!!

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The sort of photo of would love to take!

Tawaki, or Fiordland Crested Penguins, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, are the second rarest penguin on the planet (after the Galapagos penguin). Only in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island can you see these birds and I didn’t see any in April. They are most accessible along the Lake Moeraki coastline (10 kilometres south of Lake Paringa) with an easy 45 minute walk through the native forests to Monro Beach. Monro Beach is breathtaking with rock clusters, blue waters and a colony of Fiordland crested penguins. They appear on the beach between July and December. Since 1989, a bull southern elephant seal, named “Humphrey” returns annually and at times dolphins can be seen surfing in on the waves as they hunt tuna.

 

The Wilderness Lodge (at lake Moeraki) has a Facebook page that monitors the penguins during the nesting season.

Ships Creek, 20 kilometers south of Lake Moeraki, has an excellent viewing tower for seabird watching and you can choose from two trails: the Kahikatea Forest Walk (30mins) takes you via a boardwalk into kahikatea swamp forest with great bird watching while the Dune Walk (30 mins) goes along the beach and then inland to a small dune lake.

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Ships Creek

The Haast Bridge is wonderful and I didn’t get to enjoy it as I was too nervous. The thought of another vehicle coming (it is a single lane bridge) had me with eyes fixed on the other end. There are two passing bays, I could have stopped at either;I didn’t think of that at the time. I plan to stop at many of the West Coast rivers and take photos; many of them have unique bridges. I like bridges 🙂

 

15 kilometres after the turn off to the Haast Pass, I would like to do the Hapuka Estuary Walk – “It’s just a short 20 minute walk but it has all the features; flax, cabbage trees & kowhai trees around the edge of the estuary, several boardwalks over the wetland, even a small jetty for boats and kayaks, and then the track moves into thick luxuriant rain forest dripping with moss and epiphytes, with a lookout over the estuary out to the coast. And there are lots of birds”. My kind of place!

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The West Coast road ends at Jackson Bay, a small remote village 50km south of Haast. The road to Jackson Bay is often rated as one of the West Coast’s ‘best kept secrets’ by visitors. Jackson Bay is the only natural deep-water wharf on the West Coast and the fishing is outstanding. Blue cod, groper and terakihi can be caught not far from shore and in season the tuna is plentiful.

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Jackson Bay is one of only two known areas in South Westland regularly used as a nursery area by the rare Hector’s dolphin females and their calves.

European settlement was attempted at Jackson Bay in the 1870s. Conditions in the area were harsh so the population was always limited. The Information Shelter and the Lonely Grave at Jackson Bay give a poignant reminder of their story.

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Jackson Bay

I can’t find accomodation here so I may have to go back 30 kilometres to Hapuna Estuary at Okura. I could do the walk the next day, if I run out of time.

Accomodation: Haast Beach Holiday Park
Phone: 03 750 0860

Powered sites $32.

http://www.westcoast.co.nz/west-coast-regions/haast-world-heritage/

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/west-coast/haast-regional-walks.pdf