We continue our South Island exploration with our drive north from Hokitika to Westport and then Route 67 to as far north as one can drive on the West Coast.
For those who wish to explore inland east of Hokitika and experience a little more of the region take the road to Lake Kaniere. Here you will discover a beautiful body of water that provides a lot of water recreation for the area. For the visiting camper van there are a couple of great parking spots.
It is a twenty-five kilometre drive from Hokitika north to Kumara Junction where, if you continued east, Route 73 takes you through Arthur’s Pass en-route to Christchurch (255 kms). This is a trip all its own and one of the most scenic routes in the South Island but for now let us continue the dramatic route north toward Karamea.
But first perhaps a short detour for explorers. Outside of Kumara Junction on Route 73 a few kilometres east take the Kumara-Inchbonnie partial dirt road north out of Kumara to Lake Brunner the largest lake on the West Coast. On the south shore of the lake there are a couple of small parking spots right on the lake. Fabulous place to do some trout fishing or just relax in the wilderness beauty.
You can return the way you arrived or an interesting route from that area is to continue around the lake and through the small community of Moana. From there you can circle back to Greymouth. A few kilometres north from Moana you will reach Route Seven where you turn left and follow the Grey River back to Route Six.
Greymouth, built on the Grey River, is the largest town on the West Coast. Near the mouth of the Grey River is a favourite overnight stop for campers. When in town visit the Jade Boulder Gallery, 1 Guinness Street, for the ultimate in jade work plus their cafe for the best coffee in town. Ten kilometres south is Shantytown, a restored 1800's pioneer town based upon the West Coast gold rushes of the mid 1800's. It is more than just a tourist trap and well worth a look around.
Behind the Caltex station on Tainui Street is a place for showers and washing/drying plus a dumpsite. Two miles north of Greymouth over the bridge and turn left past Cobden just past Jellystone Park is a great spot to overnight on the ocean and one of the best locations to experience a West Coast sunset.
From Greymouth to Westport it is a 102 kilometre drive along a world class scenic view one of them being the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks forty-six kilometres along from Greymouth. A tourist stop but one not to miss. Usually plenty of parking space. The next portion of the coastline is our favourite in New Zealand. You twist and turn along the coastal highway as the fabulous scenery along the way provides the dramatic confirmation that identifies New Zealand as a wild and wonderful place. Plenty of parking spots for a better look and photo opportunities along the route.
We enjoy stopping at the Punakaiki Canoes just north of the Rocks to chat with the owners. You will get a real surprise at the quality of the local artwork by the owner/artist and he can even create a good espresso. Over the bridge you can also stop for the night.
There is also a very nice stay over is the Punakaiki Holiday Park with a great pub in walking distance.
At Westport Route 6 joins with Route 67. Six kilometres from the start of route 67 take a left on Route 67A to Cape Foulwind. A walk up the hill to the lighthouse provides you with the scenery Cook must have witnessed as he passed by. You might want to visit the seal colony also when out there. Just follow the signs.
The town of Westport is eleven kilometres to the north. Be sure to stop by the Information Centre in the centre of the town on Brougham Street. Pick up the finer details of information and meet the friendly staff of helpful people.
For a special, right on the beach freedom campsite, continue on Brougham Street four streets on the left after the Information Site (Derby Street) turn left and go to the edge of town turning left on Coates Street. You can go out to the mouth of the Buller River from here but just before you pull up on the causeway there is a dirt road to the right that will take you to a well kept private open area just for freedom camping. Have fun!
Two interesting places to visit in Westport, the Miners Brewing Company (Lyndhurst St) and the Coaltown Museum on Queen Street. There is a dump station at the Fresh Choice grocery at the corner of Fonblnaque and Russels Streets. The store is also the best place to pick up essentials in Westport.
Now it is off north toward Karamea..............This is one of our favourite regions in the country north of Westport. We recommend a side drive up to Denniston. Turn off to the right at Waimangaroa on well sign posted roads.
The Denniston Rose , written by Jenny Pattrick, is your introduction to Denniston and perhaps the West Coast of New Zealand and soon to be a movie is the rumour. It is the story of a pioneering mother and daughter struggling in 1880s in Denniston and reveals how life must have been in those early pioneer days. One of the best books we have ever read and there is a sequel!
High up on the mountain of coal at 600 metres above sea level you can take your vehicle to the very top by a good road. Sometimes as you go along you are looking down at aircraft. The sea is far below as seen along the way. A dramatic and most scenic outlook. The story of one of the world's greatest engineering feats with the building of the incline to bring the coal down. From 1880 to 1967 12 1/2 million tons of coal were brought down this incline so steep it was unbelievable as you look at it even today. Be sure to go on the side road that takes you to the bottom of the incline to see some of the items still remaining. What a history!
Returning to Highway Six at Waimangaroa directly across the road there is a dirt road beside the pub that leads to the beach. Great spot to spend the night and the opportunity to have a walk around the old graveyard close by where many of the early residents of Denniston were buried. They couldn’t be buried on the mountain, as the ground was too hard. Many residents never came down from there after arriving except to be buried.
Continuing north of Westport along a twenty-eight kilometre drive you will come to the small town of Granity one of our favourites in the country. Two good places to stop in the town, Steve Terry's "Drifter's Cafe" in the centre on the right. On the ocean side going north out of town "The Big Fish" be sure to stop and say hello to Kevin and Pauline.
Continuing north on route 67 you pass through the town of Hector. There is a country/western music museum worth stopping to see if that's your thing. What an amazing collection of music and photos by the owner who is definitely into his country music.
The next stop we recommend is on the north side of the Mokihinui River on the left. A narrow dirt road takes you to Gentle Annie’s Campground. No electricity (showers good though) to the campsites but do have one of the best locations where river, ocean and bush join. They also have the Cowshed Cafe on site. Off the beaten path. You'll love it!
From here it is a seventy kilometre drive north to Karamea and the end of the road at the Kohaihai Bluff. Here is the location of the south end of the Heaphy Track. One of the most exciting meetings of river and ocean punctuate the beauty of the DOC camp on the Karamea River. If you are the tramping kind you may wish to take the trip through the Kahurangi National Park to Golden Bay via the Heaphy Track or maybe just a short excursion along the path while you are there.
Thus you will experience the northern half of the West Coast and all its glory. Be sure to stop and chat with the locals. They are a great bunch to have a drink with.