If you’re after a true-blue New Zealand holiday filled with lush nature, cool glaciers and some of the best coastal sunsets you’ll ever see, it’s high time you booked a trip to Aotearoa’s wild West Coast.
Stretching along the west of the top half of the South Island, you won’t be short of epic adventures as you travel through its spectacular scenery. It’s perfect for nature-lovers, keen photographers, avid outdoorsy folks, and even those who just want to explore a treasured part of New Zealand.
THINGS TO SEE
You’ll be instantly wowed by the vivid colour of the water at Hokitika Gorge, juxtaposed against some of New Zealand’s beautiful native bush. The shade of blue of the water is from the mountains, where rocks are ground into a fine powder by the movement of nearby glaciers. Just a hop, skip and a jump from the carpark is a swing bridge where you’ll be treated to epic views across the rocky gorge.
It’s no wonder that the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast. Dating back to 30 million years ago, the foundations were laid that form today’s pancake-like rock stacks. Try and time your visit for high tide as there are some amazing blowholes to be found here along the easy walking track, too. Plus, you may even be lucky enough to spot a pod of Hector’s dolphins on the shoreline!
The West Coast is home to 5 National Parks, 2 wilderness areas and 2 kiwi sanctuaries. Being surrounded by mountain ranges, native bush and the Tasman Sea offers the opportunity to tick off an abundance of wildlife! The West Coast Wildlife Centre will get you up close and personal with New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the rowi, and the endangered tuatara. Stop off at Monro Beach and try your luck at spotting the Fiordland Crested penguin, best seen between August and November. There’s also no doubt that you’ll have encounter a cheeky kea, well-known for their olive-green plumage and for their innate ability to spot your shiniest possession and go for it!
THINGS TO DO
Franz Josef glacier
It isn’t a trip to the West Coast if you didn’t take a walk on cool (literally) Franz Josef! Depending on your budget, the best way to see the glacier is via heli-hike, guided ice walk or from the skies. From its valley floor to the blue ice formations higher on the glacier, Franz Josef is a remarkable natural beauty.
Known as one of nine of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Heaphy Track is perfect for the avid hiker. Choose from up to 5 nights staying in a DOC (Department of Conservation) hut as you venture out into the wild and go off the grid on this 82-kilometre walk. What makes it so special is the ever-changing scenery – one day you’ll be walking through lush forests, then the next you’ll come across a surf beach. Historically, the Heaphy Track was used by Maori pounamu (jade) hunters as they travelled from Golden Bay to the pounamu rivers of Westland.
Maruia Hot Springs
If you’re after a more relaxing holiday, there are a number of hot springs to check out on the West Coast including the Maruia Hot Springs. Found on the Lewis Pass national reserve, treat yourself to a soak in their natural geothermal mineral outdoor pools. You can even stay at the Hot Springs to make the most of their wellness classes, day spa offerings, sauna and more!
Hokitika Wild Foods Festival
Don’t miss out on Hokitika’s biggest annual event, the Wild Foods Festival! Held in March, this isn’t your normal food festival as the name suggests. Are you brave enough to try home-brewed moonshine or huhu grubs? Bite the bullet and tempt your tastebuds with an array of unusual food and drink.
You can explore the West Coast on the Cosmos South Island Showcase tour or the Globus Naturally New Zealand tour.