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State Highway 6: Nelson, through mountain passes to Westport

Kawatiri Rail Tunnel

Kawatiri tunnel @Jeremy Taylor Kawatiri tunnel @Jeremy Taylor

Located at Kawatiri Junction at the intersection of SH6 and SH63, the tunnel is 35 km northeast of Murchison. There is an information shelter, picnic site and toilets beside the large parking area. The walk starts from a carpark with information panels detailing the rich history of the area. The drive from Nelson to Murchison, through mountain beech forest, is your first taste of South Island high country forest and it is tantalizing.  At the Kawatiri junction wander to the river and there is the famous tea coloured water of the Southern Alps.  It looks as though crystal clear water has had tea poured into the stream.  Vegetation leeches tannin and favours the water with light bronze colours.

After 200 metres the track crosses an old rail bridge before passing through a train tunnel built in 1923. A torch is helpful but not essential. The track returns via beech forest above the Hope River closing the loop at the entrance to the tunnel.

  • Length: 1.5km
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Grade: easy
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