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West Coast, New Zealand

The wildest side of New Zealand, the West Coast has the power to touch your soul with its landscape of brooding mountains, icy glaciers, primal forest and surreal coastal formations.


West Coast region, New Zealand

In New Zealand, the West Coast generally refers to the narrow strip of land between the South Island's Southern Alps and the TasmanSea.

General Facts

As of June 2005, the West Coast's estimated population was 30,500.

The West Coast is a wild and sparsely populated region with some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand. It is an area of soaring mountain peaks, impressive glaciers, tranquil lakes and raging rivers, lush rainforest and a magnificent coastline that stretches for 600 kilometres.

The West Coast contains the largest area of protected land of any region in New Zealand and provides access to five of New Zealand's 13 national parks.

The southern West Coast area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its uniqueness and recognition as a 'special place' in the world.

The Coast's reputation for hospitality is legendary. "Coasters" display a sincere friendliness and strength of character as unique as their surroundings.

In the townships of Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika, you can learn about the West Coast's colourful past and shop for pounamu (greenstone or jade). Pounamu is the local treasure that's only significant source within New Zealand is from the West Coast's raging mountain rivers.

Main Attractions and Activities

The West Coast region offers a variety of short scenic walks and hiking opportunities, as well as exciting adventure activities for all ages and levels of competence. Anglers will find they are in paradise anywhere on the coast.

Try rafting a subterranean stream through a weird world of stalactites, stalagmites and glow-worms. Between Westport and Greymouth is a wild, ruggedly beautiful coastline that features the unique Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki.

Near Whataroa, on the shores of the Okarito Lagoon, is New Zealand's only nesting colony of the white heron (kotuku). Boat trips on this primeval swamp reveal these elegant birds in their natural glory.

Graded glacier trips at both Fox and Franz Josef accommodate every level of fitness and experience, and there are scenic flights and helicopter excursions for those who wish to view the glaciers from the air.

The coast is also strewn with relics of the heady goldrush days of the 1860's, and tracks and walks explore many of the old workings. You can try your hand at gold panning at Shantytown, a replica goldfield town of last century, near Greymouth.

Don't Miss

West Coast, New Zealand
West Coast
  • Oparara arches and honeycomb caves, Karamea
  • Cape Foulwind seal colony
  • Coal Town Museum, Westport
  • Paparoa National Park and Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes
  • Shantytown, Greymouth
  • Jade Boulder Gallery, Greymouth
  • Lake Brunner/Moana
  • Hokitika working artisans and craft galleries
  • Hokitika West Coast Historical Museum
  • Lake Kaniere and Hokitika Gorge
  • White heron sanctuary, Whataroa
  • Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
  • Lake Matheson

Main Centres

  • Westport - the main town in the north with nearby fur seal colony and in the north the Oparara Caves
  • Greymouth - the major town on the West Coast and the terminus for the TranzAlpine rail journey from Christchurch
  • Hokitika - the other main centre in this area, the hub of the early gold rush
  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier - base camp for trips onto the glaciers
  • Haast - offers a range of local sights to break the journey when travelling from Queenstown or Wanaka