Discover the rugged natural beauty, unique experiences and gold mining history of the West Coast. Check out the top 10 experiences on the West Coast.
Explore the dramatic Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. Descending from the Southern Alps down to rainforest just 300 metres above sea level, there are several ways to experience these natural wonders. Join a guided walk to the Franz Josef Glacier terminus, take in the sights of both glaciers from above with a scenic flight, or hike on the ice via helicopter.
A journey to the West Coast is not complete without a visit to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Formed over 30 million years ago, these ancient limestone stacks are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast. For the best view, visit at high tide when you can witness the blowholes in action as well.
Discover the Oparara basin in the Kahurangi National Park. Let the knowledgeable local guide of The Oparara Experience(opens in new window) lead you through its unspoiled native subtropical forest, cathedral-like arches, limestone formations and cave system. Uncover stories about the fascinating moa bird that roamed the forest hundreds of years ago.
Stopping to view the turquoise waters of Hokitika Gorge is a must-do. A short walk takes you to a lookout where stunning upstream views of the glacial river are surrounded by beautiful native rimu forests. Several tour guides offer transport to this unique location such as; Hokitika Scenic Tours(opens in new window), West Coast Encounters(opens in new window), and Weka Tours(opens in new window).
Explore the largest lake on the West Coast and take your pick of water activities from jet boating and yachting to swimming and kayaking. Birdwatchers will enjoy the multitude of bird species that feed, roost and breed on the lake's edges. The lake is also a mecca for trout anglers, with fishing available year-round.
For a taste of true wilderness take a jet boat safari(opens in new window) or scenic helicopter(opens in new window) trip through Haast UNESCO World Heritage Area. Known to the original Māori inhabitants as Te Wāhi Pounamu – the greenstone waters, the 2.6 million hectare site covers almost 10 per cent of New Zealand’s total land area. From mountain to sea, this is an area of primeval vistas.
Explore local history and natural wilderness on the West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail. Retrace old packhorse tracks, tramlines, railways and even water races, as you travel through world-famous scenery from Greymouth to the gold town of Ross. Contact Wilderness Trail Shuttle(opens in new window) to help plan your journey.
Pounamu is found in many places on the West Coast and is prized for its strength, durability and beauty. Used by the Māori for generations, it denotes great status. Its beauty is still well appreciated as it is found in many West Coast shops and galleries. You can also discover the legends around this greenstone and the land on the Arahura Greenstone Tours(opens in new window), a unique Māori cultural experience.
Like its landscape, West Coast's food is wild, offering something different for gastro-enthusiasts. From huhu grubs, duck heads and scorpions to more mainstream gourmet sausages, smoked salmon, and whitebait fritters, take your taste buds on the ride of a lifetime at the annual Hokitika Wild Food Festival(opens in new window) (March) and other spots in the West Coast. A visit to the 50-year-old Monteith's brewery(opens in new window) is the ideal place to wash down the wild flavours of this region.
Experience the most remote and challenging of New Zealand’s Great Rides. This epic wilderness adventure follows an old gold miners’ route between the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast. Old Ghost Road(opens in new window) traverses beautiful native forest, open tussock hilltops, river flats and forgotten valleys.