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10 West Coast Must-Dos

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Things You Can’t Miss Along the Wild West Coast!

The long stretching region of the West Coast on the South Island is as rugged as it gets! In fact, Kiwis are more accustomed to calling it the “Wild West Coast”. It is an almost deserted area, as the biggest town is Greymouth with a population of only 31,000. Clearly, this is a place where nature takes control, which is evident is some amazing natural features, such as the Pancake Rocks, the Blue Pools of Haast, and the glaciers. With an abundance of New Zealand jade, you are never too far from the jade souvenirs and even do-it-yourself workshops. All in all, any adventurous and curious traveller will not get bored in the West Coast of New Zealand! With all that in mind, here are some absolute West Coast must-dos!

1. Witness History Being Made

Explore one of the two most accessible glaciers in the world, the Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier. Retreating at the moment, the two glaciers are living proof of our impact on our fragile climate. Learn more about experiencing the glaciers at 7 Ways to Take on New Zealand’s Glaciers or book straight onto the Fox Glacier heli-hike tour on Klook!

Location: Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

2. Be Part of a Close Encounter

The West Coast of New Zealand harbours three wildlife centres. Some of which are home to brown kiwi, where you can get to know New Zealand’s flightless mascot. Alternatively, see a rare species called the white heron while on an eco-tour of the Okarito Lagoon or cruise to the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary from Franz Josef.

Location: Franz Josef, Hokitika and Okarito

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Pace Yourself and Enjoy the Journey

The Great Coast Road that links Westport and Greymouth has been described as one of the “Top 10 Coastal Drives in the World”, that’s got to be worth something, right?

Location: State Highway 6

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

4. See it for Yourself!

The Oparara Valley in Karamea hides a pretty well-kept secret: one of the largest limestone arches in the Southern Hemisphere! Go check it out in the Oparara Basin in the Kahurangi National Park.

Location: Karamea

10 West Coast Must-Dos© NZPocketGuide.com

5. Embark on a World-class Train Journey

The TranzAlpine train (bookable on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) leaving from Greymouth to Christchurch is up there amongst the most scenic train journeys in the world. Find out more in Train Network in New Zealand.

Location: Greymouth, Arthur’s Pass, Christchurch

Kiwi Rail© KiwiRail

6. Immerse in the Mining History

The west coast of New Zealand has a rich mining history. Around the Denniston Plateau, you will find breathtaking scenic views of mining areas along with dark but accessible coal mines. The Denniston Plateau is also a top spot for mountain biking on the West Coast.

Location: Denniston

The-Organist on Wikipedia© The-Organist on Wikipedia

7. Make Your Own Souvenir

New Zealand’s jade is called “pounamu”. It is plentiful near Hokitika where you can be taught how to carve it into your own jade souvenir. Learn more in our 5 Hokitika Must-Dos.

Location: Hokitika

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Take Snaps of the Pancake Rocks

You cannot drive along the West Coast of New Zealand without stopping by Punakaiki nestled in the Paparoa National Park. It’s most famous attraction are the pancake stack-like limestone formation and powerful blowholes.

Location: Punakaiki

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Delve into the Bluest Pools

One of the most popular stops on the Haast Highway is the Blue Pools walking track. The 15-minute walk will lead you straight to a turquoise river bluer than any postcard picture could ever show so blue that you will want to jump in!

Location: Haast Pass

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

10. Check Out New Zealand’s Most Reflective Lake

Lake Matheson reflects a picture-perfect view of the Southern Alps on a clear day. Check it out for yourself on the Lake Matheson Loop Walk (1h40min loop). It’s one of the many great things to do in Fox Glacier.

Location: Fox Glacier township.

Pixabay© Pixabay


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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