Murchison Travel Guide
Murchison Travel Guide

Travel to Murchison, what to see & do — trip guide, tips

Murchison’s story and the Buller River and its tributaries are inextricably entwined. The Buller is 177 km in length originating in the Nelson Lakes National Park. The Buller meets the sea at Westport. Near Murchison the Buller River becomes a force to be reckoned with. The Matakitaki, Mangles and Matiri Rivers flow into the Buller forming a major confluence. Flowing through narrow granite gorges the river boils and roars its way past Murchison. Murchison is part of the Nelson Regional District yet you are in an area where it is wild meets the west coast. Gold prospecting, the ability to forge a living in a sparsely populated mountainous area and the scenery all contribute to the beginnings of your West Coast, South Island journey. You have opened the door to the West Coast with Murchison as an excellent introduction to a way of life governed by its mining legacy and the current relative isolation due to the Southern Alps.

Burn Brae Station, Murchison, South Island, New Zealand @Leading Estates of the World


  • Buller River
  • Six mile electrical plant and walk
  • Johnson Creek walk
  • Walks and tramps
  • Fly fishing
  • Murchison settlement, quirky West Coast where wild meets west

 Adrenaline-pumping highlights:

  • Buller swing bridge
  • White water rafting
  • Water water jet boating
  • Caving in Kahurangi National Park
Murchison: what to see & do


Murchison is home to several quirky stores that market bric-a-brac, agricultural parts or simply everything a visitor left behind. Need a battered suitcase it’s likely you could find a spare in Murchison. Price is negotiable.


Murchison local Museum is a knick knack collection of donated goods. A marvellous way to ponder the ownership history of the various objects. Volunteers staff the museum making opening hours flexible. It is a treasure trove of memorabilia from the area with detailed inventories for each and every piece. The relics and information tells stories of the gold and coal mining heritage of the area, as well as how the 1929 earthquake shaped the landscape and families living in the area at the time. Old photographs and narratives are recounted with heritage trail fans having a field day exploring the lives of nineteenth and twentieth century settlers.



The Murchison i-SITE, will stimulate your gold rush fever with pans and shovels to try your hand at panning for gold in the Buller River. A fee applies for pan and shovel hire. You will be supplied with a map of the area where you are permitted to pan on the Buller River.

“The Natural Flames” In the forests surrounding Murchison is a natural burning fire constantly kept alight with natural gas escaping . Access is through private land and by guided tours only. Book tours at the local information centre. The four-hour tour will take you through woodland, past pastoral areas where deer and dairy farms provide opportunities to observe rural life.

Buller Swing Bridge

Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure and Heritage Park: is just a short drive from Murchison is New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. Crossing the white water magic of the Buller River, the swing bridge leads to an attraction park where you can pan for gold, learn about the gold mining heritage of the area and do a giant zipline Crossing the bridge requires a small fee.


Kahikatea Walk

Grade: very easy

Six Mile Walk

Grade: Easy / Moderate

Skyline Walk

Length: 3 km

Johnson Creek 1929 Murchison earthquake exploration

Grade: Easy / Medium

Maruia Falls

Grade: very easy

8 Mile Track (Lake Matiri)

Grade: Intermediate


The Eel Hole


Upper Matiri Valley and 1000 Acre Plateau tramping tracks for multi-day tramps. Tramps in Kahurangi are New Zealand’s second largest national park. In places it is an untracked wilderness, elsewhere a wonderful network of tracks lets you explore wild rivers, high plateaux and alpine herb fields, and coastal forests.

For details check Kahurangi National Park, Places to go in Nelson/Tasman, authorised commercial operators are listed together with:

  • Birdlife and wildlife watching, Mangarakau Swamp is a great place to see wetland birds.
  • Caving, Some of the deepest caves in the world have been found in Kahurangi but they are not for the inexperienced.
  • Fishing the Karamea River is prized internationally for its trout fishing.
  • Kayaking and canoeing / Rafting remote, wild rivers are a feature of Kahurangi. Most are suitable for experienced kayakers only. Commercial rafting tours are available. At Mangarakau Swamp you can kayak up Muddy Creek or the Wairoa River at high tide for an enchanting experience.


The Old Ghost Road is a popular mountain biking and tramping trail, connecting the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) with the Mokihinui River in the West Coast. Stretching a whopping 85km over mountainous valleys and through rushing rivers, the trail is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but promises breath-taking views of open tussock tops, weaving rivers and lush native forest. “A long-forgotten gold miners’ road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail – connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north. The 85km-long Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys… The Old Ghost Road is quite literally an 85km-long outdoor museum.”

Murchison white water capital of New Zealand with the Buller Gorge not disappointing with its rapids, narrow gorges and constant roar of released energy.


The standard jet boat ride duration is four hours through the Buller gorges.


Let us take you on a thrilling 40 minute jet boat ride on the mighty Buller River, as we carve our way through the pink granite rock of the canyons, pass waterfalls and surf on the earthquake rapids, right in the heart of historic gold mining country. Absolutely unbeatable Jet Boating in NZ.

Ultimate Descents – Murchison

Ultimate Descents New Zealand offers the opportunity to explore the wild and scenic rivers in our region. We have an extensive range of river trips from 1/2 Day tours, thru to multi-day heli-rafting expeditions. Family owned and operated, we are whitewater rafting specialists.Ultimate Descents specialises in packages that cater for children from six years of age.

  • One of the few adventure activities for all the family
  • Fun wave trains to raft for the kids
  • Entertaining and informative guides
  • All equipment and clothing supplied
  • We can cater to the needs of your family


Kayaking the Buller runs residential white-water kayak courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced boaters. If you are an experienced boater looking for help in planning your New Zealand paddling trip, we can also provide information, kayak and gear rental, and professional guides if necessary – we can organize the total package for you. The New Zealand kayak School is run by the country’s top professional instructors. Our qualified staff hold the instructing awards of the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association and the New Zealand Recreational Canoe Association.


Accommodation ranges from hunting lodges, to natural spas located in quiet retreats, from basic backpacker lodges to everything in between.

Travel Pack

  • Gold fossicking where you can pan for gold without a permit
  • “Known to Maori as Kawatiri—deep and swift—the Buller is the largest river on the West Coast of the South Island, and in flood carries a greater torrent than any other New Zealand river. Although for most of its course Abe river runs in gorges through remote bush-clad mountains, its last few kilometres broaden to a Mississippian expanse. At Westport, the nation’s busiest river port, half a million tons of cement is shipped out each year on the 118-metre Milburn Carrier II and her sister tanker.”
  • Gold fever Gold New Zealand Geographic article describing the emotional connections to gold
  • Travel Pack. Murchison Day Walks PDF

The journey is worth it.

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