Karamea has the warmest climate of any settlement on the South Island, with short, almost frost free winters and warm summers. Sunshine hours are high on the coastal plain, but there is plenty of rain in the hills to keep things green. Many sub-tropical plants and fruits can be grown outdoors here without protection, such as passion fruit, tamarillos, citrus fruit and bananas.
Karamea is sealed off from the rest of New Zealand by native forest-clad mountains and Kahurangi National Park on three sides, and the wild Tasman Sea on the other. To come here by any route is a real adventure, retreading the footsteps of the pioneers who settled the area. It is difficult to get more off the beaten track in New Zealand without putting on boots or picking up a paddle.
Karamea was one of the last areas to be settled on the West Coast by Europeans, who came to farm, log timber, and prospect for gold. Some success was found in all of these areas, along with the establishment of a large flax-milling industry. However, the 1929 Murchison Earthquake crippled the town – it was cut off by road for nearly three years and the once busy harbour silted up with debris from the earthquake. Logging continued until the 1980s, and the town’s employment is now mainly in dairying, tourism, horticulture and arts and crafts.