New Zealand's West Coast is known for its rivers, rainforests, glaciers and geological wonders. While there is a lot to see down this stretch of the South Island, there are only 31,000 people - with Greymouth its largest town. Highlights along the route include the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, the pancake rocks and blowholes of Punakaiki, historical landmarks and pounamu galleries. Read on to learn more about the main West Coast townships - Greymouth, Hokitika and Westport.
With a long history of gold mining, Greymouth is home to a number of historical features including the local museum and Shantytown. Other popular activities include sea fishing, fly fishing, pounamu galleries and of course, the local Monteiths brewery. Make sure you stop by for a tasting session!
Originally settled in 1858, Westport is the main commercial and administrative centre for the northern part of the West Coast, also known as Buller. The town is also very close to one of New Zealand's most accessible seal colonies, at Cape Foulwind. Just a ten-minute walk from Tauranga Bay will take you to a viewing platform directly overlooking the colony.
Other attractions include white water rafting and jet boating, jet skiing and surfing, horse trekking, walks and hikes, and the Denniston Mining Experience.
As the cultural and heritage centre of the West Coast, Hokitika is home to heritage sites, restored buildings and walkways, as well as traditional arts and crafts.
Hokitika's Arahura River is a source of pounamu (greenstone), and the local gold jewellers, wood turners and potters provide plenty more souvenir opportunities. Once a year the town also hosts the Wildfoods Festival - a very popular gathering on New Zealand's event calendar.
Other attractions on the West Coast
Thanks to its rugged landscape, the West Coast features a number of boating, mountain biking, white water rafting, caving and hiking opportunities. It also includes five of New Zealand's fourteen national parks including Kahurangi National Park, Paparoa National Park, Arthur's Pass National Park, Westland Tai Poutini National Park and Mt Aspiring National Park, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Area Te Wahi Pounamu. Make sure you stop by the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers while you're there - they offer a rare opportunity to experience a temperate alpine glacial environment, while being within easy driving and walking distance from the main highway.
While visiting the West Coast, you'll also have the chance to see New Zealand wildlife up close - including the seals, whales and dolphins this coastal region is so well known for. Or, you can visit the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see the New Zealand Kiwi up close.
How to get there
New Zealand's West Coast is easily reached via flight from Wellington or Christchurch - or a drive through Nelson, Canterbury or Otago. With a number of cities, stops and landmarks along the way, it's the perfect place to enjoy the landscape, friendly people, and unique culture of New Zealand.
During your exploration of the rugged West Coast, you'll find friendly, comfortable accommodation at Kiwi Holiday Parks in Greymouth, Hokitika and Westport.