When spring is in the air and days are lengthening, nature is at its best with new growth and wildlife activity. This is a beautiful season to rediscover the outdoors, relish the excitement of new life and work up your fitness.
If you’re emerging from your winter hibernation and want to test the legs, the West Coast is a dream destination with an endless parade of mountains, beaches and more than its fair share of forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands.
Get your boots on and your natural fill in the West Coast where trails, landscapes and adventures await.
NOTE: While walking, tramping and hiking is a year-round activity on the West Coast, you should always check weather and track conditions before setting out. Always take warm, waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
Blow the cobwebs away on spectacular Cape Foulwind. This rocky promontory is hard to beat if you’re looking for a burst of fresh air and interesting wildlife activity. Just for the record, history tells us that it was the elements, and not the air quality, that inspired the name given by Captain Cook way back in 1770.
It’s a short, easy walk but none-the-less impressive. Nature is at full force as the pounding westerly swell thunders into the rocks below the lighthouse. The return journey reveals magnificent vistas of the Southern Alps. Look carefully for the colony of kekeno / NZ fur seals in residence year-round; breeding is in full swing during November to February,
Travel Tips: The Cape Foulwind Walkway is 16 kilometres west of Westport. The 3.4km walk takes 1hr 15 min one way or 2.5hrs return. There is a shorter 15-minute option to a viewpoint above the seal colony.
Tiny Ōkārito, on the Ōkārito Lagoon just north of Franz Josef, has about 30 human inhabitants sharing their little piece of paradise with thousands of resident forest and sea birds including the elusive rowi kiwi and the elegant kotuku/white heron. That makes spring easily the noisiest time around here when breeding is in full swing.
While kayaks are the best way to get around the lagoon (New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland) there are unbelievably spectacular 360-degree views of the mountains and sea from atop the Ōkārito Trig. It’s a relatively easy uphill hike through the lovely beech forest but you’ll want to stop a while to catch your breath and enjoy the views.
Travel Tips: The Ōkārito Trig Walk starts in Ōkārito village and begins with a boardwalk across the wetland. The 4.2km trail is a 1.5hr return walk. The longer Three Mile Pack Track – Ōkārito Coastal Walk (9.8km/3hr return) travels along the beach and is subject to tidal conditions.
Just south of Ross, the Harihari Coastal Walkway could be the most scenic walk on the entire West Coast. The 7.6km / easy 3-hour loop between the Wanganui and Poerua rivers follows historic logging trails through estuaries and wetlands, revealing spectacular coastal and alpine views.
The track follows the remnants of old pack horse tracks and an old logging tramway through a swamp forest and a bunch of whitebaiters huts. Take your fishing gear to the Wanganui River mouth — it’s a popular spot for whitebaiting, angling and eeling.
Travel Tips: Harihari is 72km southeast of Hokitika on SH6. The walk starts 20km from Harihari at the end of La Fontaine Road. Check tide times posted at the start of the walk as the beach and estuary section of track are only passable within 2 hours of low tide.
Looking for an exceptional day out in the hills? Karamea is the gateway to Kahurangi National Park and the underground wonders of the Ōpārara Basin.
The Ōpārara Valley Track is a new full day walk (14km/5 hours one-way) through bird-filled virgin rainforest and along the Ōpārara River. It incorporates the Fenian Track heritage gold mining trail, and includes a suspension bridge and some challenging ups and downs requiring a reasonable level of fitness.
There are two shorter round-trip options with a turn-around point at the Sunshine Flat Shelter (1h30min one-way from the Ōpārara Basin; or 3h30min one-way from The Fenian car park).
Travel Tips: The track begins or ends at either the Ōpārara carpark (25km north of Karamea) or Fenian carpark (15.5km north of Karamea). For a one-way walk, you will need to organise a pickup at the other end.
The infamous Denniston Plateau, in the hills above Westport, was a bleak 19th century coal mining settlement. The residents are long gone but old mining relics of what was once the New Zealand’s largest coal mine are still in evidence, and the views of the coastal plains below are magnificent.
Also known as the Bridle Path (4.2km/5.5 hours return), it’s a steep bush walk with several creek crossings, requiring a good fitness level. The remains of old buildings and the treacherous Denniston Incline railway — an engineering feat in its day — pop up from the scrub, testament to the hard old days of before.
Travel Tips: Denniston is 18km northeast of Westport.