West Coast

The West Coast, or ‘the Coast’ as locals call it, is a wild place of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures.

Fox GlacierNever more than 50 kilometres wide, the whole stretch down the West Coast of the South Island – of which Greymouth is the largest town – is home to only 31,000 people.

It’s good if you’ve got your own transport because this is a long region and there’s a lot to see. In fact, the Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.

Hemmed in by the wild Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, the West Coast is like nowhere else in New Zealand.

The far extremities of the coast have a remote, end-of-the-road feel, from sleepy Karamea surrounded by farms butting up against Kahurangi National Park, to the southern end of State Hwy 6, gateway to NZ’s World Heritage areas. In between is an alluring combination of wild coastline, rich wilderness, and history in spades.

Built on the wavering fortunes of gold, coal and timber, the stories of Coast settlers are hair-raising. A hardy and individual breed, they make up less than 1% of NZ’s population, scattered around almost 9% of its land area.

Pancake RocksTravellers tend to tick off the ‘must see’ sights of Punakaiki, and Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, but sights such as Oparara Basin, Okarito Lagoon and the Coast’s many lakes will amaze in equal measure.

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