Heli Hike

Way to go? How to best explore the Coast

Stretch your legs, feel the breeze in your hair and get in touch with nature. 

Ditch the car to follow less travelled paths and delve more deeply into the West Coast’s extraordinarily varied and magnificent landscapes.

Board a jet boat or helicopter, paddle your kayak or whitewater raft, go 4WD off-road, hop on the rainforest train or sit back and relax cruising on a lake. Here’s where the real adventures begin.

Cruise or kayak — Lake Mahinapua

Water, water everywhere. Serene and shimmering with beautiful alpine and forest reflections, lovely Lake Mahinapua is part of an historic network of coastal wetland waterways. Back then, it was a busy ‘highway’ in and out of Hokitika but these days it’s all for pleasure. 

Walking and cycle trails skirt the water’s edge, but the best way to explore the tranquil waterways and forested wetlands is by water. West Coast Scenic Waterways offer day time and sunset cruises on the Eco Wanderer or kayak hire (single or tandem) for self-guided exploration (BYO wine). Lake Mahinapua is 10km south of Hokitika. The Wilderness Trail passes by here, too, so you could hire a bike from Cycle Journeys in Hokitika and ride a few kilometres.

Nearer the glaciers, there are kayaks to hire, guided nature tours and boat cruises on Lake Mapourika and Ōkārito Lagoon.

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West Coast Scenic Waterways

Cruise, stay & play with us at Scenic Waterways Retreat. Experience the 'untamed natural wilderness' of the West Coast. Soak in our wood-fired hot tub, while star gazing, and enjoy delicious wholesome food produced on-site. Take time to recharge.

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Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers & Glacier Country

HeliServices.NZ Franz Josef

Scenic helicopter flights and snow landings above Fox and Franz Josef glaciers.

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Heli hikes — Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Haast

With more than 60 glaciers, Westland Tai Poutini National Park is Glacier Country. The most famous, the twin ice flows of Franz Josef and Fox glaciers extend almost to sea level — some of the most accessible glaciers in the world.

A heli hike on Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier is an extraordinary bucket list experience for anyone who dreams of walking on the ice. The half-day experience begins with a spectacular scenic helicopter flight into the mountains before landing on the ice for a 2-hour easy guided hike. It’s great fun exploring the dynamic icy landscape of blue ice crevasses, caves and towering formations.

Less inclined to hike, after a memorable scenic experience with sensational photo opportunities? Haast-based Heliservices will whisk you up to an alpine landing on the edge of a hanging lake suspended above an impressive waterfall. Less than 10 minutes flight from the helicopter base, this secluded valley is otherwise completely inaccessible. En route you’ll see South Westland World Heritage wonders — mighty snow capped peaks, glacier giants, moody alpine tarns, cascading waterfalls, impassable mountain ridges, and wild coastline. 

Jet boating — Buller and Haast 

The jet boat — an iconic Kiwi invention and tourism experience — was originally designed to access the remote, upper reaches of Southern Alps’ high country farms. Now it’s also the most convenient transportation into wilderness destinations such as national parks and World Heritage Te Wahipounamu. All you need is a river! 

Haast is the launching pad for a jet boat safari on glacial blue waters deep into the 2.6 million-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Area. Travel up the equally blue Waiatoto River into primeval forests and walk in a landscape where dinosaurs once roamed. There are no high-speed spins on a Waiatoto River Safari but the locals will enthrall you with their knowledge and respect for this dynamic landscape. 

Thrills? Award-winning Buller Canyon Jet never fails with 360-spins on a 40-minute 85kph jet boat ride on the mighty Buller River. It’s pretty too, as the West Coast’s largest river flows through pink granite canyons, past waterfalls, over whitewater rapids and into gold mining country. For a different thrill, ride the Cometline zip line at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure and Heritage Park.

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Waiatoto River Safari

Waiatoto River Safari will take you on an incredible eco jet boat adventure through the Haast UNESCO World Heritage Area. The only ocean to alps river tour in New Zealand, voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top-rated boat tours in New Zealand.

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Punakaiki
$185

Underworld Adventures

Underworld Rafting: Is a “Cave Rafting Adventure” in the Paparoa National Park. Located in Charleston.

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Caving & Rafting — Punakaiki, Greymouth

For some other water thrills, launch out on a caving adventure in the hills beyond Punakaiki or pure whitewater fun on the Arnold River between Greymouth and Lake Brunner.

Take the easy route out of pure darkness at Te Ananui Caves, floating through a cavern lit by a million tiny glowworms, popping out into the daylight for a gentle whitewater exit down the Nile River. The 4-hour guided Underworld Adventures journey through a series of spectacular caves is on foot until you reach the underground lake, hop into your tube and float on out. You can also enjoy the scenery riding the Rainforest Train up the Nile River Valley and into the forest. 

Inland Adventures offer unforgettable day tours and adventurous multi-day whitewater rafting trips on wild and beautiful backcountry rivers. Learn how to navigate the rapids with experienced guides at the helm. There are trips for every skill and thrill level, from newbies to experienced adventurers through to family groups.

Off roading — Greymouth, Franz Josef

West Coast hills and valleys (and the mud after a decent shower) are about as good as it gets for off-roading fun. And whether you’re looking to self-drive or to let someone else take the wheel, there are many ways and vehicles to experience the hills and thrills.

Explore the backcountry forests and hills around Greymouth with On Yer Bike Adventures. Choose your ride from a range of self-drive quad bikes for adults and children, off-road buggies, and a 15-seater Hägglund with a driver. Across Country Quad Bikes offer guided tours along ancient glacial riverbed and rainforest trails near Franz Josef. Learn to ride a single or double quad bike or buggy. Protective clothing provided, no experience required. 

Dig deep into the West Coast’s mining heritage with Outwest Tours of Westport. Ride a Unimog 4WD up to The Denniston Incline — an impressive 1670-metre incline railway, once described as the eighth engineering wonder of the world. Or take the 6-hour Stockton Mine Tour to visit a working open cast coal mine. 

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On Yer Bike! Offroad Adventures Ltd

Fantastic off-road adventures through native forest and beautiful scenery! Quad bikes, one-, two- and four-seater off-road buggies and Hagglund. Experience nature and adventures, protective clothing and boots provided, fully guided.

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Want to know more?

3 ways to see the West Coast on two-wheels

Venture into the wilderness on a bike, without big climbs, gnarly downhills and overnighting in huts.

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Making memories - Five great family adventures

Create great family memories and discover the West Coast’s stunning wild landscapes.

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