Travelling between Haast and Fox Glacier on the South Island’s West Coast is a great addition to any NZ road trip. Rich in history, abundant with wildlife, spectacular landscapes and incredible diversity; the West Coast is like something out of a fairytale. Escape into the bush, discover the beaches, and walk on glaciers or tick skydiving off your bucketlist. There are no shortage of attractions and activities on the West Coast but, in no particular order, here is our top 4.
One of New Zealand’s Nine Great Walks, the Heaphy Track is a beautiful walk that takes you through a range of diverse terrain. Beaches, forests and karst landscapes all feature on the trail through Kahurangi National Park. If you’re not up for the 4-6 day tramp, there are day options available starting in Karamea. Base yourself at Karamea Holiday Park and ask Margret for guidance – she has wealth of information on the area.
2. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
Both Franz and Fox Glaciers are well known highlights of New Zealand. Getting to experience glaciers this close up is a unique experience anywhere in the world and is not to be missed. There are well-maintained walking trails to both glaciers, which offer spectacular views that will blow you away.
If you want to walk on the glaciers, take a helihike tour or for the more adventurous, ice climbing tours are also available. For a different perspective, why not get the adrenaline pumping with NZ’s highest skydive (19,000ft) with spectacular views over Franz Josef Glacier. If you are planning on getting airborne, try and give yourself a few days in the area. The weather can be quite erratic and trips are weather dependent – be flexible and avoid missing out.
3. Surf and Dirt
Westport is the surf capital of the south island and rightly so. With a variety of breaks in the area, there is always a wave somewhere. You can take surf lessons in town or experienced surfers can rent boards and hit the waves. Go, search and see what you find. Tauranga Bay is the most well-known spot but depending on the conditions, there are waves to be found.
If water and waves don’t excite you, head up to Greymouth for a 4×4 offroad adventure. Taking you through over 250 acres of farmland, through streams, rivers and mud pools, this is a fun and unique way to get out and see some of the countryside.
4. Coastal Drive
Driving the west coast is an experience in itself, particularly the section between Hokitika and Charleston. Rugged and remote, the coastline here has a real wilderness feel. If the sun is shining the sea shimmers and the dramatic cliff faces really come to life. Sea stacks, arches and untouched beaches are around every corner and even if the sun doesn’t shine you will still be blown away. The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks steal the show however – it’s a straightforward 15minute loop walk from the main road and worth every step.
While you’re here, check out our Karamea video from our “On the Road”series!