Simple pleasures. There is nothing quite like the great outdoors to set the scene and inspire the most memorable family adventures. We’ve found five adventures set on the West Coast to help inspire and plan your next family get-away. There’s something to suit a variety of ages, tastes for adventure, and holiday budgets. They’re closer than you think and you’ll also get to experience some of the West Coast’s most iconic locations. Choose from biking, kayaking, tramping, overnight camping, caving in the depths or watching the sunset over the water as you warm your toes around your personal beach bonfire.
Timber is something that the West Coast has in abundance. Tons of it ends up as driftwood on the beaches and, with 600km of uncrowded beaches, there’s plenty for everyone. Stay over — in a camp, cabin or family apartment — at Carter’s Beach Top 10 with the wide sandy beach on your doorstep. There’s a playground for the children, grass for picnics and readymade piles of silvery driftwood. Spend the day building castles in the sand, beachcombing and gathering driftwood for your bonfire then finish it off under the stars toasting some marshmallows in the embers.
Load up the bikes and head west for a free-wheeling family adventure on the West Coast’s growing cycle trail network. It’s all free plus you choose where you start, finish and level to suit your riders. For a family-friendly excursion, explore the new Kawatiri Coastal Trail — a 19.5km ride from Westport to Tauranga Bay, part of a scenic 55km easy (grade 2) ride that will eventually connect Westport and historic Charleston. Suspension bridges, boardwalks and a seal colony en route should help keep the kids pedaling. For older families the multi-day Wilderness Trail between Greymouth and Ross (grade 2 and 3) offers several longer, slightly more challenging options.
● Take a trip up to the Denniston Incline
● Go off-road and back in time with Outwest Tours
● Eat at family-friendly Donaldo’s Beach Cafe
Launch out on a family kayaking expedition to learn some cool new water skills on the usually calm waters of beautiful Ōkārito Lagoon. The shallow, sheltered coastal wetland forest, with a spectacular alpine backdrop, is great for novice kayakers. Ōkārito Kayaks run guided tours and kayak freedom hire. The double and single kayaks are super stable, and owner/guides Baz and Gemma will carefully outfit and prepare your family with all the necessaries for a safe outdoors adventure. There’s an overnight (byo camping equipment) option for a wilderness sleepover where you may even hear kiwi calling at night.
Ōkārito Trig Walk — an easy 4.2km / 1.5 hours return with fabulous mountain to sea views
Great coffee and counter food at Ōkārito Kitchen
For a thrilling day out, go underground into the fascinating Ananui caves, near Charleston (halfway between Punakaiki and Westport). Suitable for eight years and up and adventurous big kids, the guided journey starts with a full fit-out — wetsuit, life jacket, headlamp, tubes for flotation — and safety briefing at Underworld Adventures HQ. Then, it’s all aboard on the little Rainforest Train for a scenic ride along the Nile River before an 180-step climb up to the cave opening and into the darkness. As you make your way down through this vast unmodified network of caves, underground streams and waterfalls, you’ll see breathtaking formations (stalactites, stalagmites and more), and experience true darkness before floating out via twinkling glowworm caverns and a gentle whitewater tube back to your train.
Blink and you could miss the historic little gold mining town of Ross (south of Hokitika on SH6) but stop off for a morning or afternoon, hire some gold pans and you might be in luck like the miner who found New Zealand’s biggest-ever gold nugget right here in 1909. While the miners have mostly gone now, you can learn about what it was like back in their day at the old miner’s cottage and little museum where you hire the gold pans— they’ll tell you where to go. Discover relics on the trails through the Ross Historic Goldfields area, and stay over in a variety of accommodation options at the Ross Beach Top 10.
● Cycle the Wilderness Trail from Ross to Hokitika
West Coast's wild and spectacular mountain to sea landscape.Learn more