The West Coast
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.
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
West Coast Map
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
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
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