The West Coast, or 'the Coast' as locals call it, is a wild place of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures.
It is so awe inspiring UNESCO named it a world heritage area. You need to spend a while to truly discover the West Coast. It has eight unique areas - each with their own character. From Westport and Karamea in the far north, Reefton and the Great Coast Road (recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet), as you head down the Coast, Greymouth, Lakes District and Jade Country mid way down and the Glacier Country and Haast in the far south. Discover Nikau palms and semi tropical fruit trees in the north to ice, snow and temperate rainforests in the south. In between are wild coastlines, deserted beaches, dense forests of giant trees, ferns and mosses, big rivers and little creeks, lakes to boat on and walk around, glaciers to explore and the lofty snow covered mountains that form the Southern Alps.
The northern West Coast has one of the mildest climates in New Zealand, perfect for scenic walks, amazing adventures, and relaxation on the wonderful beaches. With two national parks, Kahurangi and Paparoa and extensive bushlands, there are many walking and tramping tracks providing access to one of the world's most beautiful natural environments. The forests are host to a myriad of native birds including rare species, while at Cape Foulwind you can visit a seal-breeding colony.
The pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki are among the West Coast’s most famous sights and a definite 'must-see' in this region. Only 45 minutes' drive from Punakaiki is the Denniston Experience, where you'll journey by train deep into a historic coal mine for a fascinating insight into West Coast mining history. Take in the views from the new Westcoast Treetop Walk among ancient rimu, marvel at the limestone cliffs of Paparoa National Park and the vivid turquoise water in the Hokitika Gorge.
For more inquisitive or adventurous types, descend into an underground labyrinth, investigate a limestone cavern system, challenge the white waters by raft or kayak, surge the rivers by jet boat, or explore the bushlands by mountain bike, Argos, or on horseback. Raft through the surf on a dolphin encounter, tube raft through underworld tunnels and glow worm grottos, grab a surfboard and ride the big West Coast waves, or take hold of a fishing rod on a chartered fishing boat. Jump in a unimog and go for a spin.
The West Coast is New Zealand’s only source of greenstone (pounamu) with the boulders found in the West Coast rivers. In Hokitika and Greymouth you can take a tour and watch the greenstone carvers at work.
Visit the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. These giant rivers of ice have squeezed down the valleys to just 250 metres above sea level.
There are many exciting places to dine, some award-winning, and many offering local delicacies from the land, sea and rivers. Try the local range of beers from the local boutique brewery, Miners, and meet the ‘coasters’ as the locals are known and you’ll find a bunch of independent, self-reliant but hugely friendly and hospitable people.