The ultimate West Coast campervan road trip

The West Coast of New Zealand is the least populated region of the country and is considered prime campervan road-trip territory, here's why;

The West Coast of New Zealand is the least populated region of the country and is considered prime road-trip territory jam packed with pristine lakes, undeveloped coastline, virgin rainforest and some of New Zealand’s highest peaks.

It’s the ideal location for a campervan adventure, with loads of breath taking sights easily accessible by road. The coastal highway stretches the entire length of the region, passing through ever-changing landscapes peppered with magical geological formations such as Punakaiki’s pancake rocks.

Sprinkled across the coast you’ll pass through humble towns such as Westport, Reefton and Greymouth, steeped in pioneer and mining history. Hokitika draws in travellers with the promise of discovering gold and greenstone treasures, while the magnificence of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers bask in the blue radiance of their famous icy flows.

Highlights

  • Spectacular coastal, mountain and forest landscapes and scenery
  • Stunning natural wonders
  • Beautiful walkways and hiking trails
  • Thought provoking historic sites
  • Remarkable wildlife
  • The grandeur of the twin glaciers
  • Hospitable camps and holiday parks

What to see and do

Natural wonders

  • Limestone arches at Oparara
  • Spurting blowholes at Punakaiki
  • The surreal azure waters of Hokitika Gorge
  • Frozen flows of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers

Rivers, lakes & beaches

  • White-water rafting adventures on the Buller and Whataroa.
  • Kayaking and swimming at the Pororari near Punakaiki (a sublime limestone gorge).
  • The mirror-like reflections of Aoraki/Mt Cook on Lake Matheson.

Walking

  • Pack tracks and logging tramways at Charming Creek north of Westport and the Mananui Tramline near Hokitika.
  • Forest walkways of Te Weheka and Te Ara a Waiau linking the glacier viewpoints to their townships.

Wildlife

  • Kiwi encounters at the West Coast Wildlife Centre
  • Bird-spotting at nearby Okarito and Whataroa (sanctuaries for the majestic Kotuku (great white heron) and cheeky but highly intelligent Kea (native parrot)).
  • Fur seal colonies around Westport’s Cape Foulwind Walkway, or Galway Beach near Fox Glacier.

Historic sites

  • Greymouth’s Shantytown heritage park
  • Westport’s Coaltown Museum
  • Denniston Plateau

Hidden Gems

Reefton & Waiuta

  • Black’s Point Museum.
  • The fascinating ghost town of Waiuta.

Charleston Caves

  • Spectacular cave system adorned with strange formations and galaxies of glowworms.
  • Rainforest railway journey into the Nile River Canyon.

West Coast Wilderness Trail

  • New cycleway serving up a series of striking surprises on the way from Greymouth to Ross across 135 kilometres of varied and view-filled terrain.
  • Classic pubs such as Greymouth’s Paroa Hotel, Kumara’s Theatre Royal, and the Empire at Ross.

Jackson Bay

  • The West Coast’s only natural harbour.
  • Epic wilderness scenery, satisfying short walks, and the Cray Pot, an incredibly atmospheric spot for fish and chips.

Tips from Britz Campervans

  • The West Coast is well set up to cater for campervan travellers. Clear road signage, easy parking and helpful visitor information centres.
  • 30 or so holiday parks to accommodate campervan travellers.
  • Apart from January and Easter Weekend, campsite bookings, in most cases, are not required
  • You’ll find 11 Department of Conservation campsites, with sites available on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • Convenient stores and gas stations are few and far between in some areas, so plan ahead for food and petrol.
  • Pack warm clothes and expect rain (albeit mostly at night).
  • The West Coast is sprinkled with Glowworm grottos – ask locals where to find them.
  • Pesky sand-flies can be defeated DEET-free with widely available Okarito Sand-fly Repellent.
  • Call into a roadside stall for free-range eggs and whitebait, ingredients for the ultimate West Coast delicacy – the whitebait fritter.

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