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Introducing The West Coast

What a difference a mountain range makes. Hemmed in by the wild Tasman Sea and the peaks of the Southern Alps, the West Coast (aka Westland), is like nowhere else in New Zealand.

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.