The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand provides spectacular and varied scenery, wild natural coastline, rugged mountains and wonderful walks,natural features and brilliant birdlife. The rawness of the West Coast provides a wonderful backdrop to friendly people and attractive settlements. Luxuriant rain forest, breathtaking coastal scenery and fascinating mountain to sea eco-systems fringed by the Southern Alps on the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, the West Coast is among the most strikingly attractive and fascinating natural regions in the world.
The West Coast is 600 kilometres from the top in the north (Kahurangi Point) to the bottom in the south (Awarua Point) and includes five major national parks. With an intriguing history of early Maori settlement followed by European settlement in the 1800s, the West Coast has hosted extensive mining, from gold to coal, has a history of rail services (many now discontinued) and has had prominent involvement in forestry.
Shantytown, just 10 kilometres south of Greymouth, is an authentic recreation of the West Coast including steam trains, gold panning, historic walks and the chance to learn the Coast’s fascinating past and exciting future.
The West Coast is now an expanding destination where visitors can experience scenic walks, visits to heritage sites, fishing and hunting, tramping and viewing the spectacular Southern Alps, its rivers and glaciers.
There are a number of major road routes to the West Coast. From Nelson the drive encompasses the stunning Buller Gorge while from Christchurch the routes available go through either the Lewis Pass or over Arthur’s Pass both noted for stunning natural alpine scenery. The scenic and spectacular Haast Pass links the south of the West Coast to Wanaka and the Queenstown region.
Once on the West Coast, spectacular and intriguing helicopter excursions include the unique experience of snow landings high in the alps, and a ride across the main divide of the Southern Alps to Mt Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand.
The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to the south of the West Coast demonstrate the awesome beauty of nature. The glaciers cut through dramatic glacial valleys to flow into temperate rainforest and still flow almost to sea level. Again a helicopter excursion to view the glaciers is a recommended option. Franz Josef Glacier Guides also provide an exciting and rewarding experience.
The West Coast is dotted with small towns offering excellent hospitality, distinctive cuisine and excellent locally brewed beers. From isolated Karamea in the north which is perfect for campers, trampers, kayakers and those who enjoy the outdoors through to Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika and Haast, each town has its own appeal and is a gateway to numerous walks and attractions.
Cape Foulwind Fur Seal Colony, Charleston Limestone Caves, Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Maruia Springs, Lake Brunner and Bruce Bay are all places to see as you drive down the West Coast of the South Island, one of the great natural regions of the world.