Karamea, Karamea

Try singing Nat King Cole’s song, Mona Lisa, exchanging “Karamea” for “Mona Lisa”:

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only ’cause you’re lonely they have blamed you?
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?

That beautiful, smooth, yet somewhat distant affection fits well with Karamea, NZ. It is the northernmost town on the west coast of the South Island, located roughly 3+ hours north of Greymouth. (I have a hard time with travel time since my norm is to stop 20 times to wander and take photos).


But when I say a 3+ hour drive, I mean a gorgeous but grueling pay-attention-100%-of-the-time drive. Please don’t even consider not spending the night in or near Karamea. And before you go, gather food and snacks, fill your gas tank, check your tires (tyres), and be sure you have a good spare (tyre/donut/spacer). No kidding. You won’t be finding these easily on the drive, especially between Westport and Karamea.

The only straight stretch of road…possibly on all of the west coast!

Dan scoped out Karamea one weekend while I was in the US, then we went back another weekend. He stayed at “The Last Resort” and just to try another, we stayed at Karamea Farm Baches. Check them out–they are as different as night and day but both will put a smile on your face and offer a good night’s sleep.

So what did we do in Karamea? I think this time I will let the picture captions tell the story.


Oparara Basin Walks, located another 30 minutes north of Karamea, is a narrow gravel road away. Give yourself lots of time.

Yep. It happened. Luckily we’re in a relatively good place to change a tire.


The path to Oparara Arch is along the river at time. Although you can’t tell from this photo, the water is a clear tea colored brown.

The stone arches are very high above you–photos don’t capture the magnitude.
This arch is even much higher and that much harder to photograph.
This photo was taken looking straight up.
Also at Oparara, there are caves: the Crazy Paving Cave (smaller with odd floor patterns) and the Box Canyon Cave.
Inside the Box Canyon Cave.
To give some perspective, this photo was taken in one of the shorter areas of the Box Canyon Cave.

The Honeycomb Hill Caves require an approved guide so we will go back another time with more time and planning. We could have spent a lot more time in Karamea.

You can’t go to Oparara and miss seeing the weka, which are funny fluffy flightless birds. Yes, he (or she?) pecked me as I took that middle photo.


One of the surprise finds was the Moria Gate Arch (which I think is a different path than Moria Gate). On our way out, we made a last minute decision to wander across the footbridge to this one.

It looks like a little Cave…
But soon you see the river…
Oh my! Moria Gate Arch
And there is the tea colored water.

From the Oparara Basin, we went further north to the end (or beginning) of the Heaphy Trail–a treck that is on our to-do list as one of the Great Walks. The beach there is wide and flat and the Tasman Sea seems to extend forever.


Enter a caption

Karamea, Karamea, men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile…



5 thoughts on “Karamea, Karamea

    1. Hi Claire,
      I (Lisa) am in the US right now but Dan is in NZ. He was a little “shaken up” (pun intended) by the earthquake but neither Dan nor our house had any long term trauma.
      Dan (who was in Nelson at the time) did discover that men of NZ wear sleepshirts instead of pajamas. He was the lone PJ guy in a parking lot at midnight. Thanks for asking! Lisa


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