The West Coast, or ‘the Coast’ as locals call it, is an untamed natural wilderness of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. Never more than 50 kilometres wide, the whole stretch down the West Coast of the South Island – of which Greymouth is the largest town – is home to only 31,000 people.
It’s good if you’ve got your own transport because this region is 600km long and there’s a lot to see. In fact, the Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet..
Visit the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. These giant rivers of ice have squeezed down the valleys to just 250 metres above sea level.
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.
Marvel at the Oparara Arches in the north near Karamea, try your hand at fly fishing on Lake Brunner, or have your breath taken away in Haast World Heritage Area.
The West Coast is New Zealand’s only source of greenstone (pounamu) with the boulders found in the West Coast rivers. In Hokitika you can take a tour and watch the greenstone carvers at work.