Nowhere is solitude sweeter than on the West Coast. A few marvels pull big crowds – like Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and the magnificent Pancake Rocks – but you'll need jetboats, helicopter rides and tramping trails to explore its inner realms. Hemmed in by the Southern Alps and the savage Tasman Sea, the West Coast forms almost 9% of the land area of New Zealand (NZ) but contains less than 1% of its population.
Nineteenth-century European settlers in this region faced great hardships as fortunes built on gold, coal and timber wavered. A chain of ghost towns and forlorn pioneer cemeteries were left in their wake, and only the hardiest remained. Present-day Coasters exhibit the same grit, softened with ironic humour and unquestioning hospitality. Time spent in these indomitable communities will have you spinning yarns of the wild West Coast long into the future.