Caught between the wild Tasman Sea on one side and the bush-clad mountains of Kahurangi National Park on the other, Karamea (pop. 650) is a thin sliver of subtropical paradise. As the gateway to the Kahurangi, it offers a host of natural attractions, and it is here that Heaphy Track walkers arrive at the end of their 4- to 6-day tramp. Much of the coastline is wild and rugged, with rocky points and narrow beaches backed by steep cliffs. Nikau palms, rainforest, and dairy-farm pastures all flourish in the warm temperatures, and the limestone landscape contains many spectacular caves.
Tops on your list should be a visit to Oparara Arch, the biggest limestone arch of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The drive to the arch takes approximately 1 hour through rainforest. If you're short on time, go straight to Oparara Basin Guided Tours (tel. 03/782-6652; www.oparara.co.nz). They take you into to the restricted Honeycomb Cave area, which was discovered in 1980. Now managed by the Department of Conservation, it's in pristine condition, complete with moa bones. Most people are completely blown away by the experience. The full 5-hour Grand Eco Tour includes an extensive tour of the basin and arches with the choice of either a Honeycomb Hill cave tour or a kayak trip. It costs NZ$240 per person. Shorter guided tours are available for NZ$95 for adults, NZ$45 for children under 12. Please note: These caves are protected and access is by guided tour only. You'll need warm clothing and a good degree of fitness; no walking sticks are allowed in the caves.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.