About 45 minutes drive (25 km) north of Karamea, the Oparara Basin boasts impressive limestone formations IN A RAINFOREST SETTING.
Surrounded by truly magnificent bush, and home to the Powelliphanta – carnivorous snails which are up to 70mm across, the Oparara Basin is like a primeval Lost World, awaiting your discovery.
Sturdy footwear is recommended for exploring this wonderland. Access to the Basin is via a gravel road known as McCallum's Mill Road.
The road is not suitable for large motorhomes and buses for safety reasons. A height restriction barrier of 2.8 m is in place near the start of McCallum's Mill Road. Please take extreme care when driving on the 16 km of gravel road and watch for oncoming traffic at the blind corners.
If you are in a motorhome or bus, and would like an alternative means of self-driving to the Basin, you may contact Karamea Motors/Express by telephone (03 7826 757) to see if they have a rental car available.
Honeycomb Hill Caves & Arch
Karamea is home to the Honeycomb Hill Caves — world famous for their collection of Moa bones and other extinct bird species. This cave system contains notable limestone formations in its 13 kilometres of passages. The caves are protected, and ACCESS IS BY GUIDED TOUR ONLY. Customised tours by arrangement. You may book tours of the Honeycomb Hill Caves at the Karamea Information & Resource Centre.
Oparara Basin Walks
Public Access from the Oparara Carpark
Oparara Arch (25 minutes one way 1km): Take the left hand track just before the Oparara Bridge. This is a well formed track following the Oparara River to the larger of the limestone arches. Blue ducks can sometimes be seen playing in the rapids.
Moria Gate Arch (30 minutes one way 1.2km ): Beginning at the Oparara carpark, this track takes you through beautiful rainforest and moss-covered trees to a very picturesque arch stretching over the Oparara River.
Mirror Tarn (10 minutes one way 600m): Turn right at the sign just past the Oparara Bridge and follow the track upriver to a small but picturesque lake tucked away in the bush.
Moria Gate/Mirror Tarn Loop Track (1 hour 30 mins round trip 4.1 km): An easy-access easy-grade loop track linking these 2 attractions. Explore down under the Arch, then continue on over the top of Moria Gate (try counting the paving stones, where moa have obviously been before you!) and loop around the terrace to come back out at the carpark via Mirror Tarn.
Oparara Valley Track (5hrs one way 14km): A stunning new full day walk, through ancient stands of rimu and kahikatea forest, down the Oparara River. Links up with the Fenian Track and comes out at the carpark in the Fenian. A reasonable level of fitness is required.
The Valley Track has been built and is maintained by the Oparara Valley Trust as a walking track only. Please respect the purpose for which the track has been built. The Oparara Basin is in the Kahurangi National Park, and NO mountain biking is permitted in national parks, except for specified routes documented in national park management plans (for example, mountain biking is permitted on the Heaphy Track from May 1 to November 30).
Oparara Valley Track to Sunshine Flat Shelter (1hr 30min one way 4.5km): Leaving the Oparara carpark, walk partway down the Valley Track for just a taste of the primeval rainforest to be found in the Oparara. Take a breather at the shelter and read the amazing story of how the track was constructed.
Crazy Paving & Box Canyon Caves (5 minutes one way 100m): Torches/flashlights necessary. Continue 2.5km on past the Arch carpark to the Cave carpark. A short walk through the rainforest will take you to the Crazy Paving Cave, where cave spiders and cave wetas may be seen by the careful observer. Continue on the main track up the steps to the Box Canyon Cave and descend down steep stairs to the cave floor. This is a large open cave, with several limestone passages off to the sides. Turn off your lights inside the cave, and see if you can spot some glow worms!
K-Road Mountainbike and Walking Track: About 10km into the Basin. The return trip is approximately 27 km long. Features areas of cut-over bush, exotic plantations, and fast regenerating native species NOW NON-MAINTAINED AND NOT SUITABLE FOR BIKES.