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The West Coast

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Deemed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area, the West Coast cannot be missed. The West Coast of the South Island mixes the natural beauty and history integral to the development of New Zealand.

Tourist attractions are a mainstay of the West Coast that stretches along the backbone of the South Island from Kahurangi National Park in the north to the settlement of Haast in the south. Visit the glaciers that carve through the steep mountain gorges and take in the views of beautiful lakes, native bush, rivers and waterfalls.
Enjoy the quiet, long, beaches that go on for miles along the coastal highway.

The largest area of protected land in New Zealand lies on the West Coast. It contains five of New Zealand's 13 National Parks, and is a must see for those tourists interested in wildlife, flora and fauna. Tramp along the great tracks and enjoy the facilities provided by Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur's Pass, Westland and Mt. Aspiring National Parks. Tramping can be arranged to meet the individual needs of the tourist and can be in an unguided or guided manner.

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The West Coast grew, and was settled quickly in the 1870's after significant gold finds. Settled primarily by Irish and English settlers keen to make their fortune, the West Coast still reflects this heritage. Just south of the Coast's principle town, Greymouth, is Shanty Town. This attraction combines original and replica elements of the glory days of the golden age of gold, timber and coal. Take the train from the settlement to the sawmill nestled amongst the native bush. Enter the historical buildings around the tall spire of the Church, and watch some of the commercial success stories of New Zealand that originated on the West Coast.
On the back of the Gold Rush, original inhabitants turned too more intensive mining, primarily for coal. This enabled the gold-diggers to stay and the region to flourish with the influx of new settlers. The European influences remain, as can be seen with the architecture of the towns that line the Coast. As with all of New Zealand the West Coast has friendly locals, quality accommodation, fine cafes and restaurants. You can also find some interesting art and crafts when you visit the galleries.

Greymouth is reached by winding, mountainous roads and is the major town of the West Coast. It is served by an airport and the famous Tranz Alpine rail service from Christchurch. Greymouth has a great mix of activities. To carry on your New Zealand adventure go underwater caving, swim with the rare Hector dolphins or view the fur seals from a Boat Cruise.
A short trip inland is Moana at Lake Brunner. Slow down here to take in a picturesque bush walk after the swing bridge over the River Arnold has been crossed. Lake Brunner offers many aquatic pleasures, including fishing, boating, yachting, canoeing and water skiing and is becoming more and more popular every year.

North of Greymouth lies historic Westport. The scenery around this town offers beaches, rivers and streams. Westport offers a variety of attractions for the tourist. Visit the seals and wildlife at Cape Foulwind, tramp the Creek Walkway or go boating, surfing, mountain biking, caving, kayaking or horse trekking.

South of Greymouth along the coastal road lies the township of Hokitika, famed worldwide for its Whitebait. The original hub of the Gold Rush, Hokitika is the classic West Coast. Thousands of tourists and locals flock annually to this area for the Wild Food Festival. Greenstone, which attracted the early Maori, is now a feature of Hokitika's commercial activity. The gold mining tradition spills over into the neighbouring township of Ross, where a tourist can visit a working gold mine or pan for gold.

The Southern West Coast is a collection of rustic towns, just to remind you of the way the Coast was. All allow easy access to Beautiful New Zealand forests, rivers, mountains and sea. Harihari, noted as the landing place of the first trans-Tasman solo flight let's you take in the relaxed atmosphere the West Coast. A small dairy farming community, be welcomed by the friendly Coast locals and enjoy the old log tramway, a relic of the once flourishing forestry industry.
Whataroa is world renowned for its wildlife sanctuary. Its most precious visitor is the White Heron or Kotuku, of which only 150 remain in the wild. Whataroa is absolutely unique in the world and should be seen. Boat rides from November to March allow visitors a closer look and greater information on the habits of the precious bird.

White Water Heli Rafting Adventure, West Coast, New Zealand

One of the highlights of the West Coast are the Glaciers at Franz Josef and Fox. Descending over 2500 metres in just 13 kilometres. Easy to drive roads service these glaciers and actual walks are taken with experienced guides. If you want to take the best look at the Glaciers take a helihike and experience the glaciers from both air and ground level.

The settlement of Haast means you have come to the end of the West Coast. The drive leaves you with beautiful and unforgettable memories of the unspoilt Coast, past rugged coastline and through green native forest.
Enjoy the relaxed feel of the West Coast of New Zealand.

New Zealand South Island West Coast campervan

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West Coast Map

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The West Coast's climate:

Average Summer temperature; 19.5c
Warmest months; December to March
Average Winter temperature; 12.5c
Average Hours of sunshine per year; 1845hrs
Average annual rainfall; 2575mm

Popular West Coast activities

Rafting on the Buller River
Walking the Oparara limestone arches and Honeycomb caves at Karamea
Visit Shantytown
Picnic or fish at Lake Brunner
Visit Blackball where The New Zealand Labour Party was born
Visit Ross and see the one of the deepest mining operations in the Southern Hemisphere
Visit the Seal colony at Cape Foulwind
Visit the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes
Visit the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

Key Features

Ice climbing is an exhilarating sport, and Fox Glacier is a great place to do it.


Ancient rivers of ice
Of all the glaciers in the Southern Alps, only the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers have crept as far as the rainforests. These giant tongues of ice have squeezed down their valleys to just 250 metres above sea level.

Visit Punakaiki at high tide and be blown away by the blow holes.


Punakaiki's pancake rocks
The pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki are among the West Coast's most famous sights. The fascinating 'pancakes' are thin, horizontal layers of limestone, about two to four centimetres thick.

The Oparara Arches


The Oparara Arches
The largest of the three limestone arches at Oparara is a natural tunnel 200 metres long, 49 metres wide and 37 metres high. A riverbank walkway will lead you through silver beech forest right into the arch.

Key Tips

  • The West Coast is the longest region in New Zealand. Allow enough days to experience everything.
  • Walking is one of the best ways to appreciate the spectacular landscapes. Stop often for a stroll or a hike.
  • The TranzAlpine over Arthur's Pass is listed as one of the world's greatest train journeys.
  • Regular bus services connect the West Coast with Wanaka, Queenstown, Christchurch, Nelson and Picton.





Population: 31,000
Area: 42,000km2

Reviews / Comments for The West Coast

Rating Averages


If you're into Jade (Greenstone in NZ) you will have to visit Hokitika.

The locals are really friendly!

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West Coast: Rented a car in Queenstown and drove first to Wanaka. Quieter and less expensive than Queenstown, Wanaka otherwise wasn't our favorite. Our hostel, Matterhorn South, was pretty run down and dingy. But the drive north along the coast from there is the most scenic drive we've ever done. It reminded us of a combination of Big Sur and Hawaii. Stayed in Fox Glacier at the Ivory Towers. That hostel is fine, nothing great. Lake Matheson at sunset is amazing. And the hike to the glacier is a good one. We tried to skydive here but the jump plane (the only one in the area) was broken.

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I have been to a lot of countries but NZ, as in -West Coast NZ - rates as one of the best experiences I've had. I was amazed by the light, the variety of greens, the volume of water (it rains by the bucket load) and the uniqueness of the locals. West Coasters are such characters, you won't forget them.
The West Coast gets under your skin and you itch to get back.

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