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State Highway 6: Nelson, through mountain passes to Westport

Buller gorge

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Buller River, South Island Buller River, South Island

The Buller gorge flows through a deep canyon between Murchison and Westport.  There are two sections to the gorge, Upper Buller Gorge and Lower Buller Gorge. State Highway 6 runs alongside the gorge through cut rock faces and the river is your companion.  There are stupendous moments where you are suspended between the river and the road. The route SH6 on this trip is the Upper Buller Gorge only. The Lower Buller Gorge SH6 leads to Westport.

Buller Gorge description

Points of interest on the Buller Gorge route

  • Brunner and Kehu’s Plaque – commemorating an epic journey by Thomas Brunner and his Maori guides.
  • Lyell – once a thriving town now a ghost town now a popular picnic and camping spot. The Lyell walkway (1 hr loop walk) is worth exploring if you can fight off the sandflies.  They are vicious here so make sure you wear repellent.   This is also the starting point of the ‘Old Ghost Road’ mountain biking and multi-day tramp.
  • The Iron Bridge – 1890 years ago to replace a punt – the stone wall where the punt used to tie up on its river crossing can be seen from the Murchison side of the bridge, upstream on the far bank. Turn into New Creek Rd (no exit) to view the bridge and river.  Bridge designation is SH6, 2820.  The bridge is still in use as a single lane bridge crossing of the Buller River.
  • Hawkes Crag (Lower Buller Gorge. A remarkable landmark located in the Lower Buller Gorge is Hawks Crag. A narrow road, just wide enough for trucks with an almost vertical cliff overhang. In 1869 hand cut rocks were painstakingly blasted, dropped into the river and access to the coast and Westport was achieved. A protective railing has been built to provide a barrier to the surging Buller River.
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