Johnny’s Journey

A must do adventure! See the wild red deer roaming freely in the green depths of the Awakari Valley.

Johnny Currie

The journey with Outwest Tours, the only company with access to the privately owned valley, will delight and captivate the visitor. Here visitors can meet local legend Johnny Currie, the owner of the property, observe the wild red deer, the pancake rock formations, see the ancient Maori cave and much more. Make sure you have your camera!


Tour details

Price: $150/person
Duration: 5-6 hours
Departure time: To get the best viewing times for deer, departure times vary:
– Summer 7am and 3pm
– Winter 1.30pm
Departs from: Westport i-SITE Visitor Centre (see map)


The trip to the Awakari Valley departs Westport and the tour guide provides an informative and entertaining commentary along the way. After 15 mins travel south on SH6, the Little Totara River is reached and here the vehicle leaves the sealed highway and the real journey starts. Immediately you are within the lush, native rainforest and you will be amazed at the huge variety of the plants and the many shades of green.

Your guide will point out some of the tall trees like kahikatea (white pine), red pine (rimu) and silver beech. Amongst the many shrubs is the large leaved Rangiora - the useful properties of this plant will be explained by your guide.

Leaving the Madmans Creek valley, the road continues south and climbs up onto a broad ridge. Now the expanse of the Awakari Valley and surrounds provides a superb panoramic view with the rugged granite tops of the Paparoa Range to the east and the thickly forested lowlands below. At a vantage point on the road there is a chance to stop at the lookout and use the binoculars provided to count the deer grazing in the valley below. With no fences and no shooting allowed, the deer are able to roam freely.

Then it is down into the valley to see where Johnny Currie lives. Johnny's ancestors came to the Charleston area during the gold rush days around 150 years ago, and Johnny has been a farmer, logger, deerstalker, goldminer, caver and tour guide during his working life. Many years ago Johnny decided to go back to basics and live off the grid surrounded by nature and purchased the Awakari Valley from a logging company. He has created a paradise he now shares with the outside world and loves telling visitors of the history of the area and his many amazing experiences. His knowledge of bushlore has to be heard to be believed.

As the tour vehicle moves slowly through the valley, red deer can often be seen close by. The deer are descended from red deer imported from Scotland over 100 years ago and there are some great specimens about. In the "roar" fights between stags competing for females are common.

After crossing the bridge over the sparkling waters of the Awakari River, the road leads onto the Pancake rock formations. Visitors can move about inspecting the formations. These beds of very pure limestone were formed over 30 million years ago and in the adjacent Paparoa National Park there is a large area of karst country including the spectacular Metro caves.

Then the tour moves on to the road end. From here a short walk with wooden steps leads down through the forested limestone country to a grassy flat area near the river. There are some superb silver beech specimens here and notice all the other plants growing on these trees. You will then be guided to the "Maori cave" a limestone overhang and small cave that proved shelter for Maori hunting parties hundreds of years ago. Their favourite food was the large flightless Moa bird, now extinct, and bones have been found here and in other caves nearby.

Then it is back up the track to the vehicle and a few minutes later you arrive at Outwest's sizeable shelter. The shelter provides great viewing of the valley and it is time for refreshments. A large open fire will be going, usually lit by Johnny's son Curtis, and visitors are provided with a cup of billy tea and a free sausage sizzle for groups of 10 people or more. You can also bring your own sandwiches and toast them on the fire. While in the shelter Johnny will provide a fascinating account of life in the valley and its natural history. Close by there are large black pet eels which you can feed.

Following lunch it is now time to say goodbye to Johnny and leave the valley and once again some red deer might be spotted. Have your camera ready.

Provided the creek level is suitable, there is an opportunity to cross the beautiful Madman's Creek and look at the spectacular limestone bluff close-up.  This is a short walk through some pristine forest to view the aptly named "Piddling Cow Bluff".

You are soon back on the Outwest vehicle for the 20 min drive back to Westport.

Note: Private tours can be tailored to visitor's requirements at extra cost.


 What to bring