Enjoy one of the world’s most scenic train journeys – the TranzAlpine – before taking to the road in your rental car and exploring a region famed for its wild natural beauty. You’ll discover natural wonders like the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes at Punakaiki and drive on a spectacular coastal highway. There are ancient glaciers to walk on, a rich history to learn about and wilderness walks that take you past clear blue pools, across swing bridges and into a pristine native forest.
Day 1: Christchurch to Punakaiki (via Greymouth)
Take the scenic TranzAlpine train(opens in new window) from Christchurch to Greymouth, a journey truly worthy of Instagram and full of amazing contrasts – from pastoral scenes and dry tussock of the Canterbury Plains to the majesty of the Southern Alps and the lush rainforest of West Coast.
That afternoon, collect your rental car from the Greymouth Railway Station and head north on The Great Coast Road to Punakaiki to see the ancient pancake rock formations – a true natural wonder.
Day 2: Punakaiki to Westport
Continue north to Westport to experience the magic of Oparara, born from a million years of undisturbed isolation within the rainforest of Kahurangi National Park. The arches can even be found on maps that date back to the 1880s. Height restrictions apply at the entrance of Oparara Road, affecting campervans. Alternate transport can be arranged at at the Karamea Information Centre(opens in new window) and Rongo Backpackers.
There’s more history to be discovered on The Old Ghost Road track, still displaying relics from a bygone mining era. Adventure enthusiasts will appreciate the thrills that await them below the surface at UnderWorld Adventures(opens in new window).
Day 3: Westport to Hokitika
A region with rich mining history, top hops & pristine lakes
Drive south towards Hokitika, soaking in the rich mining heritage of this region. Your first stop is Reefton, a town renowned for its gold-mining heritage and also as being the first in the Southern Hemisphere to receive commercial electricity. Then head to the stunning Lake Brunner for brown trout fishing before celebrating your fishing wins at Monteith’s Brewing Company(opens in new window) for the finest quality craft beers.
Day 4: Hokitika & Greymouth
Stay in the area for more of history, culture and unspoilt nature. Arahura Greenstone Tours(opens in new window) is a fantastic way to hear the legends and people who’ve shaped this land, and visit a river that’s a source of the precious pounamu. For those who like active pursuits, the West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail and the Hokitika Gorge Walk with its blue-green waters a must-do.
Day 5: Hokitika to Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
A scenic drive south gets you to Franz Josef, one of the slightly bigger Glacier Country townships and a great base for your adventures. You can walk to the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier, helihike on a glacier; get up, close to a kiwi at the West Coast Wildlife Centre(opens in new window) and kayak in isolation in the tiny coastal settlement of Okarito(opens in new window) with white herons for company.
Day 6: Explore Glacier Country
Continue your explorations of Glacier Country today. Visit Lake Matheson, nestled within ancient forest and renowned for its reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Then continue your journey to Haast, located in the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, renowned for its legendary landscape, river safaris, and fur seal and penguin colonies. Finish the day with a dip at Glacier Hot Pools(opens in new window) - hot pools in the middle of a rainforest.
Next day depart for your next New Zealand adventure, returning to Christchurch via the TranzAlpine from Greymouth or continuing south to Wanaka and Queenstown.
Getting around West Coast is easy with familiar road signs and a great range of transport options available.
There are plenty of accommodation options for every budget and travel style.
Visit in Spring or Autumn to enjoy warm weather, lower prices and short queues.