Jamie McHale

Tussocks & Takahē

Returning to the Heaphy Track

From Golden Bay to the rugged West Coast, four days of tramping and a wild Takahē encounter

It was either going to be great, or I was going to ruin one of my most treasuered memories. I walked the Heaphy Track last year , enjoying cool mornings, bright sunshine, vibrant tussock and west coast beaches.

This year I walked the track with my parents. I am very glad to be able to spend time hiking with my family in a beautiful part of the world.

One of the main things that I love about the Heaphy is the transition from beech forest, up and over onto downs of red tussock, through palms, and out onto the wild west coastline with long beaches. There are a lot of different landscapes in a short time. The views aren't as classically spectacular as some of the other Great Walks, but the Heaphy Track feels more intimate with the environment. Lots of trees, ferns, mosses and other plants. The diversity of views and wildlife is what makes this special.


Gouland Downs

Once you get out of the beech forest, past Perry Saddle Hut you enter Gouland Downs, one of my favourite views of the walk. Last year it was fresh and sunny, this year a mix of sunshine and then mist. It was atmospheric, and nice to see in a different light.



I was very excited to see two Takehē! I saw two in Te Anau sanctuary before I left for the walk, and the same two with chicks the previous year, so was pleased to see they have released some in Kahurangi National Park to establish another wild mainland population. There are around 300 ish Takehē left in the world - it's an endangered species. Fingers crossed for their success.

I also saw Kereru, New Zealand Robin, Tomtit, Weka, Fantail, Paradise Duck and Oystercatcher.

I also found out the Maori name for Fantail was Piwakawaka, which I think is very suitable and great. It squeaks a lot.


The West Coast

The second main highlight of the walk is the transition from forest to coast. The Heaphy Hut is an excellent place to stay (despite the sandflies). We were treated to both mist and sunshine, and a beautiful sunset.


I look forward to returning to the Heaphy Track. I get the feeling this isn't my last time walking it!

Useful links

Other Great Walks I have completed