Walking and Hiking Trails on the West Coast
Get out amongst the wild West Coast on the myriad of hiking trails that awaits. With four of New Zealand’s national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the West Coast holds some breathtaking and untouched landscapes that are well worth exploring. Check out some of the walking highlights with this list of walks on the West Coast. There’s something for everyone, from short walks to day walks to multi-day hikes!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 10 West Coast Must-Dos
1. Heaphy Track (5 Days One Way)
Discover one of New Zealand’s Great Walks right here on the West Coast. The Heaphy Track is the longest of the Great Walks and features a wide range of landscapes, from rugged coastlines and beaches to sub-alpine tussock lands. There are huts to stay in along the way and the trail ends in Golden Bay. The West Coast side of the trail begins just north of Karamea. Learn more about the trail and the short walks you can do along the Heaphy Track in 10 Best Walks in Karamea.
Location: Kohaihai car park, 15km (9 miles) north of Karamea.
2. Oparara Arch (35 Minutes Return)
The Oparara Arch walk is one of many walks and hiking trails in the magnificent Oparara Basin. Discover caves and arches in this ancient forest basin in the Kahurangi National Park. The largest arch is the Oparara Arch at 200m (656ft) long, 49m (161ft) wide and 37m (121ft) high. Learn about this walk and more in our 7 Amazing Oparara Basin Walks.
Location: McCallumsMill Road, 25km (15.5 miles) north of Karamea.
3. Charming Creek Walkway (30-minutes-3 Hours One Way)
Follow an abandoned railway through a dramatic river gorge on the Charming Creek Walkway. The walk can either be hiked or biked and features old mining relics, such as coal bins and railway tunnels. The gorge walls are constantly tricking with small waterfalls, but the most impressive of them all is the stunning Mangatini Falls.
Location: The southern end is accessed just off State Highway 67 atNgakawau, 35km (22 miles) north of Westport. The northern end is at Seddonville, 50km (31 miles) north of Westport, which includes 10km of gravel road.
4. Cape Foulwind Walkway (1h30minutes One Way)
A sealed walkway from start to finish, the Cape Foulwind Walkway is a popular stop for all kinds of traveller to see a seal colony and admire the coastal views. The walk features a viewing platform above a seal colony, as well as historical sights such as the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse. The walk is located just outside of Westport, where you’ll find more walks to tackle in 9 Best Walks in Westport.
Location: Tauranga Bay or Lighthouse Road, 14km (9 miles) west of Westport.
5. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blow Holes (20-minute Loop)
Get that iconic photo of the West Coast coastline at the Pancake Rocks Walk. See ancient limestone formations that look like stacked pancakes along this sealed loop walk accessible for all abilities. The best time to visit is at high tide to see the blow holes in full force. See more walks nearby in our 8 Best Walks in Punakaiki.
Location: Just off State Highway 6, 900m (984 yards) south of Punakaiki village.
6. Rakaitane Walk (45-minute Loop)
One of the spectacular inland walks of the West Coast lies on the shores of Lake Brunner and the small town of Moana. This easy loop walk goes through some picturesque forest and alongside the Arnold River. The walk can be easily paired with walks along the shores of Lake Brunner. See 10 Hikes Around Lake Brunner for more inspiration.
Location: Start from the end of the Arnold River swing bridge, Moana.
7. Hokitika Gorge (15 Minutes One Way)
A short walk through an attractive forest leads to viewpoints and a swing bridge crossing the Hokitika Gorge. The milky blue waters among the towering grey-rock river gorge make for some stunning photos. Continue across the bridge where the trail leads all the way to the bank of the river. Get inspired by more walks around Hokitika with our 23 Unforgettable Walks in Hokitika.
Location: The end of Kowhitirangi Road and Whitcombe Road, 25km (15.5 miles) east of Hokitika.
8. Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk (1h30mins Return)
Walk through a breathtaking valley carved by the Franz Josef Glacier. The valley walk features waterfalls on the way to a viewpoint before the Franz Josef Glacier terminal face. Return the same way. The walk can be done paired with the Te Ara a Waiau Walkway (2 hours return) connecting the valley walk to Franz Josef town. Find more walks in Franz Josef with our 10 Best Walks in Franz Josef.
Location: Glacier Access Road, 5km (3 miles) from Franz Josef just south of the Waiho River Bridge. Alternatively, the Te Ara a Waiau Walkway starts from Cron Street.
9. Lake Matheson Walk (1h30mins Loop)
Walk around one of the most reflective lakes in New Zealand with vivid reflections of the Southern Alps from a jetty viewpoint. The loop walk near Fox Glacier goes through the luxuriant rainforest and features several lookouts across this picture-perfect lake. Find more walks in the area in 9 Best Walks in Fox Glacier.
Location: Cook Flat Road, 5km (3 miles) west of Fox Glacier town.
10. Blue Pools of Haast Walk (1-hour Return)
As you’re leaving or entering the West Coast region from the south, don’t miss this stunning walk along the Haast Pass between Haast and Wanaka. This 1-hour walk goes through the ancient beech forest of the Mt Aspiring National Park and crosses two suspension bridges over crystal clear glacial waters. Check out more walks around Haast in 6 Best Walks in Haast.
Location: State Highway 6, 69km (43 miles) south of Haast.