Unpack, unwind, unforgettable West Coast, South Island
Where the best adventures happen and holiday memories are made
The remote South Island, West Coast invokes a sense of curiosity. There are places to go that suit every taste. Glorious scenery is folded into visitor experiences from wild water jet boating, kayaking, horse trekking, bird watching on lagoon waterways and, let’s get your gold prospecting skills polished, gold panning. Let’s get you started with a bucket list of West Coast attractions.
For an overview of Aotearoa New Zealand attractions, things to do and places to visit check out the definitive New Zealand travel guide.
Check out Amazing 12 New Zealand Attractions and pop them on your bucket list.
Where to go is outdoors. Irresistible West Coast scenery is the drawcard. The attraction of a pristine native forest wrapped around mountain ranges, lush dense coastal forests and untamed wild ocean beaches creates memory moments. Stunning, unforgettable are geological sculptural arches, layers to the world’s most accessible glaciers.
New Zealand’s West Coast is nature on steroids. Unpack, unwind and unforgettable, the visitor experience is summed up beautifully by the West Coast marketing slogan. Be prepared to be spoiled by the scenery and plan your return.
Explore the diverse landscape of the West Coast from Glacier Country with its accessible glaciers and mirrored lakes to lush rainforests tumbling down cliff faces onto small river beaches. Top sights include tea washed crystal clear creeks, streams and rivers. Leaf tannin leaching tints the water with a copper glow. Marvel at geological forms from natural rock arches to the symmetry of pancake rocks at Dolomite Point and enormous granite boulders in glacial river beds. A place where nature has been in charge for millennia.
The West Coast inspires visitors to get outdoors, go for a walk and explore the landscape. Lace up the hiking boots and give it a go; it’s unforgettable.
Unforgettable scenery with gems to discover on numerous walking trails from an enormous Londonerry Rock towering over a denuded 19th century gold mining landscape to trails following tea coloured crystal clear water. Glacier Country offers the chance to walk through the moraine landscape of melting glaciers to the headwaters of receding glaciers. There is the opportunity to explore quiet backwaters where sand dunes lead to beaches where rare penguins nest. The West Coast is a landscape born for walkers and hikers to visit.
Undeniably the top attraction for the West Coast is the phenomenal variety of walking trails. Relish lush bush and forest scenery as you take a dip in crystal clear river pools. Enjoy spectacular views of geological rock formations in Punakaiki and observe seals basking in sun warmed rocks at Cape Foulwind.
For details about walks, getting there and walk highlights check out West Coast walks & hikes for your holiday inspiration. For tips on recommended clothing and supplies check New Zealand day walks, what to wear, supplies and fitness required. Remember to check the local weather report before departing.
UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURES ON THE WEST COAST
Raw untamed natural wilderness is found in the five National Parks, two wilderness areas, two kiwi sanctuaries and a southern landscape defined as a UNESCO world heritage area. Glaciers and alpine ranges contrast with temperate forest of nikau palms. Surging white water rivers gleam cobalt blue as they roar their way to the coast. Take a trip to the ice age, unmissable things to do in Glacier Country and find the white heron and mirrored lakes reflecting the southern alps in their glassy depths.
Stand by Lake Brunner what to see and do with its inky reflective water and swamp Kahikatea dominating the watery landscape. It is otherworldly and beautiful in its remote glory.
Whip out the phone and snap a photo, get the camera battery ready for scenery found nowhere else in the world. Wildlife, the cheeky kea parrot and the tui greet visitors as they walk through lush forests. Charleston Things To Do – Best Bits offers visitors a chance to explore this wilderness and view the iconic pancake rocks, folded rock layers spectacularly spouting metres of sea water as the tide surges through blowholes.
Read more about the West Coast National Parks
UNMISSABLE HERITAGE PLACES TO GO ON THE WEST COAST
The story of human sheer determination to finish the journey to the West Coast is the story of the Coast. Uncover the human story of the West Coast on its many heritage trails.
Abandoned places buffs – the West Coast delivers with Waiuta ghost town and a schoolhouse where the door is still open.
Westport is sometimes overlooked in the rush to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Hokitika and Glacier Country. The quiet coal mining town is a rich repository of West Coast tales about fortitude on the harsh Denniston Plateau coal mining village. There are tales about adventurous souls establishing coal mines in Charming Creek (now an amazing shared cycle / tramping trail). Observe lycra clad surfers braving the wild tempestuous ocean swells for the perfect break and enjoy strolls on driftwood beaches.
Karamea is the end of the road yet you have arrived where you want to be. Unwind in the northwest corner of the West Coast, South Island. Places to go are deserted wild beaches and river estuaries rich in bird life. The star attraction is the incredible Oparara granite and limestone cliffs, caves and arches carved by nature over the millennium. Check out Westport Travel Guide, Karamea top sights and Day trip from Westport to Karamea for holiday inspiration.
Read more … Westport, Karamea and Buller travel guide.
A rock star gets celebrity status with its own entry in the hall of fame, West Coast, South Island. The much visited pancake rocks is a pocket sized marvel offering visitors a snapshot of layered rock forms complete with stupendous blow holes announcing tidal flows. Punakaiki lies halfway between Greymouth and Westport on one of the most spectacular coastal highways in New Zealand. Getting there is half the joy and you’ve just parked the car.
Uncover a national park with limestone towering cliffs, fissured rocks draped in dense forest and emerald green fern filled gullies with dense stands of tree ferns. Paparoa National Park is a place of spectacular river canyons with beautiful tea coloured water inviting you to kayak, swim and laze on small river beaches. Check out Guide to Charleston, Paparoa National Park & Punakaiki Pancake Rocks for tips on attractions and things to do.
Multiple day tramp Paparoa Track crosses the Paparoa Range. It takes you through alpine tops, limestone karst landscapes and thriving rainforests, and provides breath-taking views. For more details check out Paparoa National Park for up to date information about track status.
A quiet service town with a surprisingly amount of places to go and things to do.
READ MORE … GREYMOUTH TRAVEL GUIDE
Hokitika, West Coast has a gloriously quirky beach specialising in driftwood sculpture, great visitor attractions from the Hokitika National Kiwi Centre, heritage trails and the striking Hokitika Gorge.The polished visitor centre for the West Coast, South Island Hokitika is known as the ‘Cool Little Town.’ Places to go, while you are not sipping delicious coffee in the many cafes are various with plenty to do and see.
Hokitika is one of the major hubs for the well known West Coast Wilderness Trails, a shared cycling / walking trail.
West Coast Wilderness Trail rides 19th century gold mining trails. The wide well maintained trail passes water races, bushtram tracks and relics of a bygone era wrapped around glorious scenery. The wide well maintained trail passed water races, logging bushtram tracks and relics of a bygone era wrapped around glorious scenery.
Embrace everything the West Coast has to offer
For more information about the trail check out West Coast Walks & Hikes.
While there are rivers of ice within easy reach of Franz Josef and Fox townships the area’s rivers, mirror lakes, seas and lagoons are the icing on the cake. An untamed natural landscape is a bucket list destination.
The two towns of Franz Josef and Fox are the accommodation and tour operator heart of the region with cafes, restaurants and places to stay. Check out What’s so great about Okarito and Whataroa for inspiration on what to do and see.
READ MORE Glacier country guide: Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – Best Bits for holiday inspiration.
The alpine roads of glacier country are narrow mountain passes where the Southern Alps are in technicolor before washing over you a sense of timelessness. There is KNIGHTS POINT where visitors view the Tasman Sea as it pounds the West Coast. GATES OF HAAST viewpoint is torrents of water, glacial blue tinted foam swirling rapids crashing over rocks. For more details about a road trip through Glacier Country check out Great West Coast road trip.
Lake Brunner is a local secret. Deep inky waters are home to wild brown trout. The largest lake on the West Coast is a year round treat.
Photographers relish the backdrop of the Southern Alps sharply reflected on the lake’s mirror surface. Snow tipped Southern Alps are the stuff of picture postcard scenery. In summer there are water sports from kayaking, fishing, swimming and hanging around the lake’s shoreline. Lake Brunner’s railway station Moana is a Tranzalpine stop encouraging visitors to disembark and explore the district. For holiday inspiration check out Lake Brunner what to see and do.
Lake Brunner is a hustle and bustle of a town where visitors congregate and boats are attached to every 4WD. Moana has a tiny permanent population yet in the busy summer months it is very popular as a camping spot. Pop down to the lakeside and view the activity and listen to the fishing crowd exclaim the size of their catch. Read more about Greymouth, an inland day trip to Kumara, Lake Brunner, Moana township and Jacks Mill – Best Bits.
WANT TO STAY MOANA (LAKE BRUNNER)
TRANZALPINE TRAIN – MOANA
Journey in style to your lakeside accommodation and/or pick up a rental car in Greymouth.
The train passes the Arthurs Pass National Park, one of New Zealand’s treasured natural places. Panoramic windows means guests do not miss any of the spectacular views as they pass by.
FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN MOANA CHECK OUT
Discover Reefton as you farewell / arrive on the West Coast, South Island on your way to Christchurch via the Lewis Pass. Attractions include a local distillery, botanical gins with local ingredients or enjoy gold panning right on the main street at the Bearded Miner at the Miner’s Hut. Things to do embrace Victoria Conservation Park, the outdoors with rafting, fishing and hunting and heritage trail to an abandoned coal mining town, Waiuta.
Want to try skateboarding, mountain bike jumps then you are in the right place, Reefton Skateboard Park, a surprising world class attraction in a small town.
The Lewis Pass gateway town to the West Coast is founded on gold prospecting miners intent on striking it rich in the 19th century.
Read more … What’s so great about Reefton
Ditch the flowers and visit the West Coast, South Island instead. Borrow luscious scenery and the day is sorted. Remember to pack a waterproof jacket and insect repellent; think of repellent as romantic equipment.
… Learn more about romantic places to go
You can STAY at the Theatre Royal Hotel (near Greymouth in Kumera). For road trip ideas check out Greymouth, an inland day trip to Kumara, Lake Brunner, Moana township and Jacks Mill
One of the world’s top ten coastline roads (Lonely Planet) Westport to Hokitika scenery is amazing.
Take the holiday of a lifetime, the road trip where State Highway 6 is a roll call for threading your way from the top of the South Island to the bottom. The road trip skirts river gorges, remote settlements, heritage gold mining settlements and Alpine country as you pass through the Haast Pass into Otago and Queenstown. Unforgettable, beautiful remote West Coast of the South Island touring route is a must-go for visitors.
Villages, towns spring up to as quickly disappear and melt into the regenerating bush. Remnants of buildings and graveyards are the trail heritage buffs will follow today. Industrial history fans will relish time spent on the Denniston Plateau, Westport what to see and do.
Westport Whitebait Festival – October
The elusive whitebait is avidly fished in the brief season. competing to make the best fritter & having the town party in the streets.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival where nothing is off the menu
Hokitika Driftwood Festival celebrates the wild West Coast beaches and the large amount of driftwood thrown up on the foreshore during storms and high tide.
The best time to visit the West Coast, NZ is from December to mid-February.The Coast is beautiful in its remoteness and the sandflies, the summer humidity and high rain add to the charm.The West Coast is the wettest place in New Zealand making winter a toss up between the showers or days of continual rainfall. Summer is the best time to visit. Just make sure you have stocked up on insect repellent.
Check out our mini guide to FAQ about the West Coast from the best way to get there to where is the best location for getting around the West Coast. There are often questions about the ‘problem’ of insects and the high rainfall levels.
High rainfall creates the beautiful lush forest you are looking at. Simply take a shot of misty emerald magical nature and wear waterproof layers.
For more tips and questions check out West Coast, frequently asked questions.
Westland Weather Forecasts and Observations – MetService New Zealand
The West Coast is New Zealand’s wettest region. For example the average rainfall in Hamilton (Waikato) 1,190mm, New Plymouth 1,432mm (Taranaki) Westport 2,274mm, and Milford Sound 6,749mm.
The best time to visit the West Coast, NZ is between December to February when it is warmer and there is less likelihood of consistent heavy rainfall.
Unpack, unwind and unforgettable West Coast invites visitors to breathe deeply and relax. Where to stay choices range on the coastal strip of the South Island known as the West Coast. From northern Karamea and the Oparara Cave systems to Glacier country the connecting thread is state highway six. Inland is Lake Brunner and the holiday town of Moana as well as a network of 19th century gold mining settlements.
For more details about which is the best location check out NZ West Coast, South Island where to stay and best accommodation locations and get excited about your upcoming holiday.
FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS CHECK OUT
CAMPING ON THE WEST COAST
Hang on – coming soon
Insect repellent is necessary as the swarms of black clouds of sandflies is known to cause acute discomfort to holiday makers. Repellent such as deet can be effective, but many people don’t like using it. There are numerous natural remedies available. Sandflies do not like wind, smoke and rain. Sandflies are most numerous during daybreak and dusk in humid, overcast conditions, just before it rains.
The West Coast of the South Island, particularly Fiordland, is notorious for New Zealand’s biting insects.
When do they bite?
Sandflies cannot see at night, so they seldom bite in the dark, and generally remain outdoors. Peaks in biting often occur when light intensity increases in the morning and decreases at dusk. The morning peak comes from young sandflies that have recently emerged from pupae, and the higher evening peak is often the result of sandflies taking blood after laying eggs earlier in the day.
Sandflies are most active in dull, overcast and humid conditions, when they may bite at a similar rate throughout the day.
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE
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