Top short walks on the West Coast

There are plenty of stunning short walks to be had on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

The following walks can be done within 1 - 4 hours and highlight the stunning scenery and fascinating history of the West Coast region.

1. Ross Water Race Walkway. 1 hour loop walk.

Follow an old water race through moody rainforest behind the old West Coast mining town of Ross.

A well-worn track takes you through a historic cemetery, past numerous gold mining relics from the 1860s, and via an old miner’s hut before leading you back to the start at the Ross information centre.

Good for walkers of medium to low level fitness.

Tip: Take your gold pan and try your luck in the river along the way!

2. Harihari Coastal Walkway. 3 hour loop walk.

From native bush to isolated beach, this easy walkway offers the best in West Coast scenery. This flat track follows the Wanganui River past commercial whitebaiting stands, through pretty, regenerating podocarp forest and onto a glorious black sand beach.

Rock hop your way across the river mouth and back along a bush trail to the carpark. Good for walkers of medium to low level fitness.

Tip: Look out for seals and dolphins at the beach!

3. Three Mile Pack Track via Okarito Trig. 3-4 hour loop walk.

Starting with a steep climb and excellent views, this track meanders through beautiful native bush before returning to the start point via the charismatic Okarito coastline.

The Okarito Trig is an optional but recommended detour at the start of the Three Mile Pack Track, rewarding you with exceptional views of the Southern Alps and Okarito Lagoon after a short but steep uphill hike.

Back on the Three Mile track, you’ll undulate through rimu, rata and silver pine before crossing the lagoon. Depending on the tide, you can return via the Three Mile track or do the loop, along the rocky beach back to the start. Good for walkers of medium to high level fitness.

Tip: Don’t forget your camera!

4. Lake Matheson Walkway. 1.5 hours loop track.

See New Zealand’s most spectacular mountains reflected in the picturesque, historic Lake Matheson.

A well-maintained track leads walkers through rich native forest along the lake edge. Native birds can be seen and heard the length of the track.

There are multiple viewpoints along the way, primed for capturing photos of the lake’s famed mirror-reflections of Aoraki Mount Cook and Mt Tasman. The track completes a loop, starting and ending at the excellent Matheson Café.

Tip: Go early morning when the water is smooth and the crowds haven’t appeared!

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