The West Coast on the South Island of New Zealand is renowned for its natural beauty, with sub-tropical rainforest, Glaciers and majestic landscapes. Visit the pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki among the West Coast's most famous sights. App... Show More
Tourist Information About West Coast
The West Coast on the South Island of New Zealand is renowned for its natural beauty, with sub-tropical rainforest, Glaciers and majestic landscapes. Visit the pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki among the West Coast's most famous sights. Appreciate the vivid turquoise water in the Hokitika Gorge. Enjoy some of the best brown trout fishing in NZ at Lake Brunner. The West Coast area is rich in Pounamu, also known as greenstone or New Zealand Jade. This is one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of the country, with so many beautiful sights to see and activities to do.
Best Attractions and free things to do in the West Coast
1. Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier, a major tourist attraction in this area, is one of only three spots on the planet where a glacier drops into temperate rainforest. Another is Fox Glacier, the only other example being in Argentina. Westland Tai Poutini National Park contains the glaciers.
The glacier is easily accessible due to its elevation of 250 meters above sea level. The easy 45-minute Glacier Valley Trail up to the observation platform in front of Franz Josef Glacier's face draws visitors to the tiny settlement of Franz Josef (population 330).
2. Off Road Adventure Tour
Experience the thrill of riding the unique 2-seater quad bikes or 3-seater buggies over a range of terrain, including Jurassic-like rainforest, ancient glacial riverbeds, and grassland, as the name implies! We can either enjoy the sun and enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the famed Franz Josef Glacier, or you can get down and dirty in the mud and water, as we like to say.
3. Glow Worm Cave Tour
Have a wonderful, gorgeous adventure within the Ananui Glow Worm Caves, full with historical legends and beauty. Discover the natural splendor of this Cave's Wonderland. The ancient tubes we journey through are part of one of New Zealand's greatest cave systems, full with stalagmites and stalagmites. It's a return stroll out of the Cave tunnels once you've visited the Main Entrance, where you'll see an amazing display of Glow Worms. The best part about this trip is that you get to see the formations twice! Return to the lovely Café in Charleston via our adorable small jungle trains for a hot cup of coffee and lunch with our amazing café staff.
4. Underworld Rafting
This award-winning Underworld Rafting excursion will take you on a spectacular journey of discovery through the Ananui GlowWorm Caves. In the historic upper levels of the huge Ananui GlowWorm Cave system, discover an untamed calcite paradise of stalactites and stalagmites. Then enjoy tubing on the pristine Waitakere / Nile River while floating among fantastic galaxies of GlowWorms. In the Underworld Adventure Center in Charleston, return on the Rainforest Train to a hot shower and their friendly Café'.
5. Experience Haast Package Deal
Discover the real New Zealand in Haast! Enjoy Haast with this amazing package that includes lodging, food, and local activities. This package will give you a taste of Haast Lane life! Meet some of the people, learn about the area, relax and unwind, all while exploring the area and marveling at the pristine untamed west coast nature.
6. The Hokitika Gorge
Hokitika, a former gold mining town, is the principal tourism centre on the West Coast, embracing a wild and rugged stretch of coastline with clear views over the peaks of the Southern Alps to the east. It's a hub for pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) manufacture, with a slew of boutiques displaying a wide range of pounamu jewellery and carvings, as well as a slew of other local artisan shops.
Lake Kaniere, just outside of town, offers excellent swimming and boating options, while Hokitika Gorge, with its azure water and deep native forest, makes for excellent half-day walks.
7. Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier, like Franz Josef Glacier to the north, is one of the few sites on the planet where you can see a glacier without having to be a mountaineer. The glacier's terminal face, which is surrounded by temperate rainforest and drops to 300 metres above sea level, is bordered by temperate rainforest. Visitors can travel the one-hour Fox Glacier Valley Trail for views of the glacier terminal and, like at Franz Josef, take a guided climb onto the ice itself. Hike the harder Chalet Lookout Track for a panoramic view of the glacier from above.
8. Explore the Blue Pools
Few places in New Zealand are as well-known as the West Coast's Blue Pools. The melting of the glaciers high in the Southern Alps sends ice-cold water cascading down the mountains and into the Makarora River. Then there are the river pools, which are ideal for a swim or taking photos of the beautiful blue water.
9. Lake Matheson
The reflection of high peaks on Lake Matheson's surface has made it a photographer's dream. Because of the lake's natural brown water hue, you can get an astoundingly vivid reflection of the snow-capped mountains of Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Tasman in the lake's surface on a still day when the lake's surface is calm.
From State Highway 6, near the Fox Glacier town, it's only a short walk over a suspension bridge through stands of native rimu and kahikatea trees to the lake.
10. Punakaiki & the Pancake Rocks
The famed Pancake Rocks are located near the little village of Punakaiki, at Dolomite Point. Over 30 million years, the erosive processes of water and wind formed these limestone structures, leaving behind odd layered rock towers that resemble stacks of pancakes. Various blowholes, where salt spray is whipped up, can be found among the rocks.
The Pancake Rocks are part of Paparoa National Park, and there are several more paths to explore in the area, in addition to the Pancake Rocks Walk (which takes around 20 minutes). The Truman Track down to the shore, in particular, is a delightful, gentle track through a lovely stretch of natural forest.