The West Coast of the South Island
The West Coast road is one of New Zealand’s iconic routes; wild, unpopulated, forested, mountainous, coastal and breathtakingly beautiful. It has glaciers, world heritage rain forests and vast national parks, stunning coastlines, caves, wild mountain rivers, secluded lakes teaming with wildlife and a sense of being far removed from a busy world. Allow time to explore enroute as there are well-marked view points, walks or beach access tracks along the way. The road “starts” at Karamea and ends at Haast, but most people join it at either Westport (coming from Nelson) or just south of Greymouth (coming from Arthurs Pass). You can also catch the Tranz Alpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth and pick up your car there. Lots of small boutique lodges along the way as well as some in spectacular wilderness settings.
River and fly fishing country - greenstone rivers cutting clear through densely forested valleys to the sea offering a fisherman’s paradise.
Famous for its coastline and “pancake rocks,” but the inland rivers such as Pororari are also beautiful and offer good day hiking. The area is known for dramatic limestone cave systems - such as that at the Paparoa National Park where Underworld Adventures operates near Charleston.
A small art deco township with a beautiful beach. Indulge in some of the freshest fish and chips from the takeaway store on the river esplanade.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
The glaciers are the jewel in the crown of this route. The landscape is increasingly forested as you head south, and the mountains get bigger, with magnificent views of Mt Cook. Enjoy a wide choice of walks and guided hikes, glacier tours and flights onto the glacier and around Mt Cook. We also recommend the Kiwi House and the tours of Okarito Lagoon at Franz Josef. Half and hour south of Franz Josef is Fox Glacier, a slightly smaller township with an equally amazing glacier and options for hiking and heli-hiking. Visit Lake Matheson and enjoy both the lakeside forest walk and spectacular views of Mt Cook from the excellent cafe there.
Westport-Hokitika: 2 hours
Hokitika-Franz Josef/Fox Glacier: 1 hour 45 mins - 2 hours
Fox Glacier-Wanaka: 3 hours 30 mins
Christchurch-Hokitika: 3 hours
- Birds Ferry Lodge near Punakaiki, West Coast
- Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki near Haast, West Coast
- Mahitahi Lodge south of Glaciers, West Coast
- Glacier Walks & Heli-Hikes Fox Glacier, West Coast
- Holly Homestead Franz Josef, West Coast
- Glowworms and Cave Rafting Charleston, West Coast
- Rimu Lodge Hokitika, West Coast
- Okarito Birdlife Tour Okarito, West Coast, Franz Josef
- Guided Glacier Trips Franz Josef, West Coast
- Hot Pools & Massage Franz Josef, West Coast
- Ocean to Mountains Jet Boat Haast, West Coast