The huge expanse of Kahurangi National Park encompasses 40,000 square kilometres of the northwestern South Island, between the wet and exposed western side of the Wakamarama range and the limestone peaks of Mount owen and Mount Arthur. over half New Zealand’s native plant species are represented, as are most of its alpine plants, and the remote interior is a haven for wildlife, including rare carnivorous snails and giant cave spiders.
The park’s extraordinary landscapes are best seen by walking the Heaphy Track (78km; 4–5 days), which links Golden Bay with Kohaihai Bluff on the West Coast. one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, it is appreciably tougher than the Abel Tasman Coast Track, though it compensates with beauty and the diversity of its landscapes – turbulent rivers, broad tussock downs and forests, and nikau palm groves at the western end. The track is named after Charles heaphy who, along with Thomas Brunner, became the first european to walk the West Coast section of the route in 1846, accompanied by their Maori guide Kehu. Maori had long traversed the area heading down to central Westland in search of pounamu for weapons, ornaments and tools.