The Ōpārara Basin is home to blue duck (whio), bush robins, weka, kākā, kea, tomtit, kākāriki, giant land snails (powelliphanta), cave spiders and short tailed bats.
This is a high conservation value area so public access is restricted. Guided tours can be arranged. Contact the Karamea Information and Resource Centre:
Phone: +64 3 782 6652
Karamea is 95 km north of Westport. The road beyond Karamea ends at Kohaihai and you must pass back through Westport to get back out.
The basin is about 20 km north of Karamea.
An old forestry road provides access to the Ōpārara Basin. The road branches inland approximately 11 km north of Karamea on the road to Kohaihai. It is a further 12 km to the arches car park, and another 3 km to the caves car park.
This gravel road is narrow and steep in places. It can become corrugated especially after prolonged dry weather. Take care, keep your speed down, drive with lights on and be prepared to stop or pull over.
The road is not recommended for campervans. There is a height restriction bar of 2.8 m installed to restrict large vehicles.
The Karamea area covers many ecosystems from the mountains to the sea including caves and Australasia’s largest limestone arches.
The Ōpārara Basin in one of the finest features of the Kahurangi National Park. For a million years the Ōpārara River system has been at work sculpting the 35 million-year-old limestone basin into an intriguing complex of caves, arches and channels.
The forest is a mixture of beech and podocarp, thickly carpeted with mosses and ferns growing in shallow moist soil and squeezing root systems through cracks to gain a hold.
Unique ferns and algae live around the arches and cave entrances.
Birds, insects and fish flourish in the environment, which is also home to the rare short tailed bat, the giant land snail, the cave spider and whio/blue duck. The Ōpārara Basin is a great spotted kiwi sanctuary.
All insects, fossils, native birds and plant species are protected. Underground cave formations can take thousands of years to grow just one centimetre. They are fragile creations - even the oil on your hands can damage formations.
The hardy Ngakawau Gorge Daisy (Celmisia morganii) flowers abundantly on steep rock faces from December to January.
This is the only known habitat for this rare and protected species.
Karamea has a long history with some of New Zealand’s oldest archaeological sites dating as early as 1250.
Get information about the Ōpārara Blue Duck Protection Programme, sponsored by Solid Energy.
The giant among kiwi, this species lives only in the top half of the South Island.
Enter an ancient world of limestone arches and caves surrounded by dense rainforest. You'll find New Zealand's largest limestone arch as well as one that may just be the most picturesque.
Eligible people must be fully vaccinated to use DOC accommodation.