Karamea, the village and district, population around 600, is a secluded dairy farming community inhabiting a flat thirty kilometre coastal strip and three river valleys. Boundaries are to the east, Kahurangi National Park and to the west the Tasman Sea.
Karamea's amenities include a supermarket, garage, hardware store, visitor information centre, museum, cafe, two country hotels and resort. The hotels and resort offer fine dining and bar food.
Karamea has an excellent health centre, district nurse and policeman.
Dairy farming and growing tourism dominate industry in Karamea. Crafts include sculpture, art, tea tree products, jewellery, oils and soaps. Other industries include glasshouse tomatoes, sphagnum moss and possum control. Tamarillos, fejoas and passionfruit are grown commercially here.
Karamea has a sealed airstrip and regularly services small planes from Takaka, Nelson, and Wellington and further afield.
The name Karamea derives from karkara - scent and taramea - speargrass (acriphilla spp), a perfume derived from a plant now extinct in Karamea, reputed to have been traded by a small maori settlement with other maori travelling down the coast to the greenstone rivers further south. Mostly maori occupation would have been as a stopoff for travellers, although there is evidence of a substantial archaic (circa 900 years ago) Maori population.
In the 1860's goldminers from the Charleston and Aorere gold fields worked the rivers and blacksands on the beaches.
Settlement proper began in 1874 when Arthur Wakefields "New Zealand Company" landed thirty families of emigrants to form the largely illfated Karamea Special Settlement. Descendents of the original settlers still resident are the Johnsons, Linehams, Simpsons, Simkins and McNabbs. Karamea Museum holds histories and photos of Karamea's early pioneers. Farming, logging, flax and gold formed Karamea's original industries.
In 1929 the Murchison earthquake destroyed the harbour on the Karamea River and cut the communities road link for two years. The harbour has never recovered.