Introducing The West Coast
Opposite ends of the coast have a remote end-of-the-road feel. In the north the surf-battered coast highway leads to sleepy Karamea, the preferred getaway for alternative lifestylers drawn by its isolation and surprisingly mild climate. The southern end of spectacular State Hwy 6 continues to Haast, an entrée to the excitement and awe of the surrounding wilderness.
With less than 1% of NZ’s population scattered amid almost 9% of the country’s area, West Coast locals have adapted to become a rugged and individual breed. They may not be too concerned with what’s happening in the country’s cities, but in the West Coast’s heritage pubs you’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome that’s tinged with a laconic sense of humour. Just don’t be too surprised if ‘closing time’ is viewed as a recommendation, not a directive.
The coast’s sublime scenery can be almost too popular, and during summer a phalanx of campervans and tourist buses tick off the ‘Must See’ Punakaiki Rocks and Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. The thing is, they are truly ‘Must See’, and even if you’re sharing your glacial gaze with other Franz and Fox aficionados, it’s not too hard to return to the heartland of the West Coast in laid-back coastal hamlets such as Okarito, Granity and Jackson Bay.
Best places to stay on the West Coast
New Zealand's South Island travel guide
Soaring alpine peaks, misty fiords and a ruggedly beautiful coastline provide the South Island with a compelling backdrop for outdoor adventure and activities, and a surprising food and wine scene.
The West Coast destination guides
Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Literally the biggest highlights of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park are the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Nowhere else at this latitude do glaciers come so close to the ocean. The glaciers’ staggering development is largely due to the West Coast’s ample rain.
Heli Hiking Franz Josef
Combine a scenic helicopter flight over Franz Josef Glacier with a two-hour guided walk amongst the ice caves, pinnacles and seracs of New Zealand's South Island. You'll learn about glacier processes and enjoy supreme panoramic views on your small group tour, as your local guide shows you the most spectacular ice formations.
Glaciers and West Coast Trekking
Explore glaciers and remote hot pools set in spectacular mountains and primal rainforests