The Buller Gorge is a gorge located in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. The Buller River flows through the deep canyon between Murchison and Westport. Land Information New Zealand lists two sections for the gorge, Upper Buller Gorge and Lower Buller Gorge. State Highway 6 runs alongside, but considerably above, the river through the gorge. The Stillwater – Westport Line railway also runs through the gorge.
New Zealand’s longest swingbridge at 110 m length spans the Buller River 14 km west of Murchison. That area also offers rides on a zip-line across the gorge as well as several short bush walks.
Buller Gorge Scenic Drive
The soul of the Buller – named Kawatiri by early Maori, meaning deep and swift.
The Mighty Buller Gorge – a top scenic drive
The soul of the Buller – named Kawatiri by early Maori, meaning deep and swift. This massive river is born out of Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park and carves out a 169 kilometre path through uplifted mountain blocks, gorges and dense forest, to the sea where it forms the port for Westport.
The early European settlers named it the Buller after Charles Buller, a director of the New Zealand Company and a British MP.
Points of Interest from the Upper Buller Gorge down to Westport:
Lake Rotoiti – the river’s birthplace
Kawatiri Junction – a heritage rail picnic spot and walkway where two rivers, the Buller and the Hope rivers meet
Murchison – a charming farming town and a mecca for river rafters and keen trout anglers.
Newton Livery – a hotel in Victorian times which featured stables, blacksmith, and tackroom and serviced horsedrawn coaches travelling through the gorge. It is now a private house.
Brunner’s Plaque – commemorating an epic (almost life-threatening) journey by one of our early explorers and his Maori guides.
Lyell – once a thriving town now a ghost town which is 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.
The Iron Bridge – this was built over 100 years ago to replace a punt – the stone wall of the 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.
Inangahua Junction – a small settlement which was almost wiped out in a major earthquake in the late sixties. The video is amazing! Slips and scars in the landscapes from that earthquake are still visible from the road.
Berlins – another old coach stop and accommodation house originally operating around 1874 (now rebuilt and remodeled) was named after one of the hotel’s early owners – John Berlin, a Swede.
Hawks Crag – a sight that never fails to jolt visitors with its craggy one way road challenge. The name of it is said to have come from nesting hawks which populated it – but an old gold miner, Robert Hawks, who did work claims in this area, reckoned in later years, that it was named after him.
Believe it or not, when the Buller River is in full flood, it submerges the road at Hawks Crag – not a sight you want to see close up!
To get to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, take Buller Coast Road on State Highway 6 left towards Greymouth – or continue on to Westport – the gateway to the northern West Coast and Karamea, and Buller’s major service center.