Jamie McHale

Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track was one of the best walks I've done. A beautiful walk through varied landscapes, with perfect weather, great huts and a sense of remoteness. It takes you from the Golden Bay area on the north coast of South Island over to the West Coast. Here is a video of my walk:

Day one was a 17km walk from Brown Hut to Perry Saddle. The walk ascends through beech forest, with occasional view over the ranges. I was caught in a large rainshower just as I reached Aorere Shelter. The clouds cleared as I reached Perry Saddle for sunset. The hut was well built, spacious, and half empty.

Day two I walked 24km from Perry Saddle to James Mackay Hut. This was probably my favourite day from my whole trip. I got up with the sunrise, watching the mist clear from the valley. The sun opened up blue skies, and a freshness in the air. I left the hut early and walked out to Gouland Downs. It was really beautiful reaching 'Picnic table corner' where the view opens out to the downs. I stopped to take photos as a Weka pecked around my feet. You could see the Gouland Downs hut and the 'enchanted forest' in the distance.

I stopped in at Gouland Downs Hut for a snack and a sit down. The forest afterwards was a twisted track with hanging moss and caves, an interlude in the open and winding track through the tussock grass.

I stopped for lunch at Saxon Hut, which was very picturesque, with clouds billowing over the downs and Perry Saddle back up the track. Reaching James Mackay hut you can climb the nearby mountains for a view down to the mouth of the Heaphy River, the destination on the following day.

Day three was a 20km walk down from James Mackay Hut to Heaphy Hut on the coast. The walk was a little more overcast, through beech forest to Lewis Hut (where there were many, many sandflies), abruptly changing to palm forest with some giant trees to Heaphy Hut.

At Heaphy Hut there were lots of sandflies on the beach, but I still wrapped up and went out to watch the fantastic sunset as the dull clouds of the day cleared.

Day four was a 16km walk from the Heaphy Hut down the coast to the Kohaihai River mouth. It was a beautiful selection of beaches, rocks, palms, and mist rising off the native bush.

The Heaphy is one of the lesser visited of the Great Walks (6k people per year, compared to 40k for the Abel Tasman), but it's well worth a visit. You can find out more about the track, including hut bookings, on the DOC Heaphy Track Website.