West Coast gearing up for a memorable summer

01 September 2023
Development West Coast
This spring and summer, the West Coast invites visitors to delve deep into the untamed natural wilderness of Te Tai o Poutini. After a winter bathed in sunshine, the region is unveiling a myriad of fresh new developments to complement its already iconic landscapes. With significant projects coming to fruition, it is the perfect time to explore the West Coast’s wonders.

Heaphy Track bounces back: full reopening on October 19

Following its partial closure due to storm damage in February 2022, the Heaphy Track is set to fully reopen, welcoming outdoor enthusiasts with renewed vigour. Two new bridges replacing the storm destroyed Heaphy River Bridge provide the Great Walk with greater resilience against future climate challenges. Come 19 October, adventurers will have unhindered access to the full iconic route. Over 9800 bednights have already been booked for the upcoming season.

Heaphy Track cycling

From soaring arches to a mirror-like tarn: full access returns to Ōparara Basin

In the heart of the Ōparara Basin, nestled within a lush rainforest, is one of Aotearoa's crowning jewels – a limestone cave system dating back 35 million years. Though weekday access had been limited during its upgrade, weekend visitors continued to marvel at its wonders. Now, after two years of enhancements, this globally renowned cave system, celebrated for its intriguing complex of caves, arches and channels amid native forest, is gearing up to welcome guests without any restrictions. Mark your calendars as the road fully reopens 1 December.


Punakaiki gets a boost

The long-awaited new visitor facilities at Punakaiki’s Dolomite Point, famous for its Pancake Rocks and blowholes, will start to open this summer. The key aspect of the Dolomite Point Redevelopment Project, led by the Department of Conservation, is the re-establishment of a cultural footprint at site for Ngāti Waewae who will own and operate the new Experience Centre. DOC’s Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre will move into the new building. Other redevelopment work through the project includes a shared use pathway connecting Punakaiki visitor sites, improved parking and new toilets.

Dolomite Point Experience Centre in Punakaiki - architectural image.

Hokitika Gorge still gleaming

At the heart of a West Coast journey lie the mesmerising turquoise waters of the Hokitika Gorge. Most of the world-famous walk, including the recently established upper swing bridge and new wilderness track built by DOC, is open and in pristine shape despite the lower swing bridge being inaccessible from October until work there is complete. The iconic viewing platforms still offer breathtaking panoramas of glacial waters, set against the majestic backdrop of the Southern Alps and expansive South Island farmland.

Tourism West Coast - Hokitika Gorge (7).jpg

Pounamu Pathway's first experience centres near completion

Construction is well underway on the first of the Pounamu Pathway experience centres – a $34.5m project with four interpretation centres across the region. Te Ara Pounamu promises an enriching exploration of the Coast's deep-seated culture and history with an emphasis on pounamu and early Māori connection. Developed through a joint effort involving Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, DOC, and Development West Coast, this exciting initiative will unveil its first immersive interpretation centres in Mawhera Greymouth and Kawatiri Westport in December 2023.

Pounamu Pathway Mawhera building Feb 2023

Kawatiri Coast Trail’s fusion of heritage and scenic splendour

The Kawatiri Coastal Trail, the country’s newest cycle trail, is already welcoming enthusiasts and will be completed mid- 2024. Tracing gold and pounamu trading routes, this Grade 2, family-friendly cycling and walking heritage trail will connect the Buller District towns of Westport and Charleston. Featuring stunning coastal views of Tauranga Bay, Cape Foulwind, Carters Beach, and a historic Māori Archaeological Site dating back to around 1350, it is the perfect family ride. When completed the Kawatiri Coastal Trail will consist of 8 diverse sections. Currently there are 5 sections open for the public to use.

Kawatiri 3

Fox Glacier's new jewel: Te Kopikopiko o te Waka

Visitors are already flocking to Te Kopikopiko o te Waka, a stunning new Glacier Country visitor attraction near Fox Glacier/Wekeka township. Offering breathtaking views of Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps, it embodies the Ngāi Tahu creation story of the Southern Alps and Te Waka o Aoraki. While the South Island is commonly referred to as Te Waipounamu, its older name, Te Waka o Aoraki, speaks to its rich heritage. A Tohu Whenua site it celebrates its significance as a taonga both for its natural splendour and its deep cultural resonance to Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio. The area is landscaped with walkways suitable for all fitness levels and a waka presents the whakapapa of manu whenua.

Te Kopikopiko o te Waka Fox Lookout, West Coast 4 (credit Clint Trahan)-medium

There has never been a better time to explore the untamed natural wilderness of the West Coast. As the awareness of our environmental impact while traveling grows, we must ensure we preserve this treasure for future generations. A host of regenerative tourism operators stand ready to guide you through the untouched beauty of our natural estate – ensuring visitors can play an active part in preserving this treasure.

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