Tales from the Trail
6km Ōkari section now open
Featuring the Ōkari lagoon, river and forest areas, this diverse section of the Kawatiri Coastal Trail is one of the most spectacular. The undulating section of trail is mostly grade 2 (easy) with some short areas of steeper grade 3 included. The trail dissects forested areas rich in native birdlife and home to the Great Spotted Kiwi.  This section also disects private farmland and the “No Dog’ policy will be strictly enforced to the full extent of the law. If you encounter cattle crossing the trail you can proceed as they will move out of your way. Please cross all cattle-stops with caution as they do have swing barriers.
The Ōkari section starts just before the causeway at the northern end of the Ōkari lagoon where sacred kingfisher are often seen on the powerlines adjacent to the intertidal inlet. One of the largest estuarine areas on the West Coast, the estuary provides habitat for a wide variety of waders and shorebirds including several threatened or at-risk species. Bar-tailed godwits, banded dotterels, Caspian and white-fronted terns, spoonbills, several shag species and kotuku may all be seen here. The lagoon is an important feeding. A short side-trip to explore the Ōkari Lagoon will offer the trail-user the chance to see these birds including long-distance migrants such as the godwit.

The trail climbs gently up onto farmland terraces where it offers spectacular views of the majestic Paparoa Range and the wild Tasman Sea. It then winds its way around fingers of native bush that extend upwards from the forest lined Ōkari River. The native forest comprises a mix of beech and podocarp, with tall rimu, miro, matai and kahikatea, both silver and hard beech and a fringe of shrubland. The forest is quite diverse & structurally complex, reflecting the varied environmental variables to which it is exposed i.e., degree of exposure to wind and sea salt aerosols, temperature and soil fertility variation etc.

The Ōkari river is tidal for some distance upstream from the lagoon. The river and its tributaries are important for providing habitats for all five migratory galaxiid species (whitebait) as well as torrent fish, freshwater eels, bullies and the brown mudfish. The spring flowering kowhai and harakeke alongside the Ōkari river attract significant numbers of nectar-eating birds (tui and bellbirds), providing an important energy-rich food source when food may remain scarce otherwise. Kereru meanwhile, are attracted to the young leaf shoots and flower buds of the kowhai. Forest birds are quite plentiful in this forest generally, with fantail, silvereye, tomtit and grey warbler all being heard here. Occasionally robins may be heard as well as brown creepers, shining cuckoo and long-tailed cuckoo, while ruru can be heard at night.

A small relict population of great spotted kiwi roroa, occupies the forest and shrubland in the Ōkari river catchment, as well as through forest south to the Totara River.

Section 5 of the Kawatiri Coastal Trail ends at Virgin Flat Road. Section 6 – currently under construction; initially goes through a fascinating area of pakihi country then transitions into pristine native forest.

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