West Coast

Blue River, West Coast | Image: Katie McBroom

West Coast

The South Island’s West Coast is an unforgettable land where blue-white glaciers, dense rainforest, moody rivers and quaint towns are bounded by forest-clad mountains and endless stretches of pounding surf. Get active in the great outdoors or experience local hospitality in a cosy pub.

Around the West Coast Region

Journey into New Zealand’s pioneer heartland; the West Coast is a rugged region boasting an astonishing variety of landscapes, rich human history and abundant wildlife. Sandwiched between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea, this region is home to five national parks protecting New Zealand’s highest mountains, longest caves and, most famously, its lowest glaciers. Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, nestled among rainforest, are truly unforgettable.

Regional Destinations

Fox Glacier and Franz Josef villages Picturesque base villages for trips to the glaciers.

Greymouth Historic main commercial centre of the West Coast.

Haast Wildlife paradise in the heart of South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

Hokitika Once a booming gold-rush town, now a peaceful town known for pounamu (greenstone) and its Wild Foods Festival.

Westport Busy port town and gateway to Buller Gorge adventure activities.

Reefton Small village offering outdoor adventures such as hiking and fishing.

Lake Brunner Hiking and fishing in a tranquil alpine landscape.

Karamea Gateway to the Heaphy Track and northernmost town on the West Coast.


Hike the Heaphy Track north of Karamea. See the waves crash at Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Experience a range of adventure activities including jet boating, hiking and a flying fox ride in the Buller Gorge. Explore pioneering history at Shantytown. Experience the thrill of glacier walking on a guided tour. Soak in a soothing hot pool surrounded by green rainforest. Take a helicopter ride to see the glaciers. Drive the spectacular road from Haast to Jackson Bay. Explore the wild Haast River on a river safari.

Glacier Country

The southern part of the West Coast is a breath-taking region of immense natural beauty, from spectacular glaciers nestled in bush-clad valleys to pristine rainforests. Just a few kilometres from Franz Josef Glacier, the Franz Josef village is an ideal base for exploring, and has a range of accommodation and eateries. Activities include glacier adventures, hiking, rafting and wildlife encounters. The smaller village of Fox Glacier has a range of accommodation and cafés, as well as a general store. From here, visitors can embark on scenic flights, heli-hikes and glacier walks. If you’re planning to experience the West Coast’s glaciers, here’s a quick guide to understanding some of the lingo. Crevasse: Crack in the glacial ice. Dead ice: Left behind after the glacier retreats. Kettle lake: Formed when the dead ice melts. Moraine: Debris formed at the glacier’s side or end.


Destinations, South Island

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