Follow naturally inspiring, quiet trails to spectacular views and breath-taking photo stops.
Get away from the crowds, discover hidden gems, stunning landscapes, wide open spaces, tales of old stories on these West Coast trails.
For a real immersion experience, two legs is undoubtedly the most rewarding way to discover the sights, sounds, smells and stories of New Zealand’s real West Coast.
This region is literally riddled with great walking tracks and trails revealing countryside that you will never see from the car window. Between the many short walks and multi-day tracks, there is a huge variety of great day walks worth taking the time to include in your West Coast break.
Here’s a small sample of some of the best day walks on the ‘Coast to consider including in your holiday itinerary. Most of these walks require a moderate to good level of fitness.
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.
5hrs / 14km one way
Karamea — the West Coast’s best kept secret — is the gateway to some of New Zealand’s most amazing outdoor adventures including Kahurangi National Park and the underground wonders of the Ōpārara Basin.
The Ōpārara Valley Track (5hrs / 14km one-way) is a stunning new full day walk through ancient rainforest, along the Ōpārara River. Highlights include ancient stands of rimu and kahikatea cloaked in mighty rata vines, prolific forest birds (kākā, kea, tomtit/miromiro, robin/kakaruai, parakeet/kākāriki), historic goldfields and a suspension bridge. This walk requires a reasonable level of fitness, as there are some challenging ups and downs.
The track begins or ends at either the Ōpārara carpark (25km north of Karamea) or Fenian carpark (15.5km north of Karamea) and includes the Fenian Track — a heritage gold mining trail. For a one-way walk, organise a pickup at the other end; alternatively, walk to the Sunshine Flat Shelter (1h30min from the Ōpārara Basin or 3h30min from The Fenian car park) and back to your starting point.
The Denniston Plateau is a former 19th century coal mining settlement, where families lived in extreme conditions. There’s nobody living there now but the views of the coastal plains below are magnificent, and you can walk the 1884 Bridle Path and listen to the Denniston Rose app to learn about the hard old times.
Also known as the Denniston bridle path, this track makes a pleasant if steep bush walk with several creek crossings, requiring a good level of fitness for the 4.2km (5.5hrs) return hike via the same track.
The British Navy once ran on the high-grade coal mined here and relics of a century of extraction include Cornish stonemasonry and the remains of the infamous Denniston incline railway that used gravity to transport coal down the treacherous hillside.
Denniston is 18km northeast of Westport. More information from the Doc website can be found here.
8hrs / 7km return
Lake Brunner is a popular holiday spot, famed for its alpine reflections and big brown trout. There are lakeside camping grounds, motels, hotels, holiday homes and classic bachs to rent around the lake and the TranzAlpine scenic train stops at the tiny settlement of Moana on the northern lakeside.
The lake and alpine views here are lovely from just about any point, and walkers and hikers have a selection of easy tracks and trails to follow. For more experienced trampers, the hike up Mount French (1305m) is a full-day excursion that passes through mixed rimu forest to reward with spectacular views of Lake Brunner and the Southern Alps.
Lake Brunner is inland from Greymouth via Kumara to the southern end of the lake (45km / 45 min). More information from the Doc website can be found here.
The hills around the little mining town of Ross once bristled with gold miners seeking their fortune. New Zealand’s largest gold nugget — known as the Hon. Roddy — was uncovered here in 1909. The miners are mostly gone now but there is one spot where you can still fossick for gold, a little museum (with a replica of the famed nugget) and an historic miner’s cottage.
Relics of the gold rush are apparent throughout the Ross Historic Goldfields area. Discover these on several shorter walks or, for a full day out (medium to good fitness level), the hike up Mount Greenland follows an old miner's pack track. It passes through tall rimu forest and varied vegetation changes before finishing on the tussock covered top of Mount Greenland with sweeping views in every direction.
Ross township is 30km south of Hokitika on SH6. Walks start from Ross Goldfields Information and Heritage Centre (Aylmer Street) where you can check for up-to-date track conditions.
7hrs / 7.6km return
Lovely Lake Kaniere, enclosed on three sides by mountains, stands out among the West Coast’s many beautiful lakes. It’s popular in warmer months for camping and boating, year-round for fishing, mountain biking, walking and hiking.
Starting from Hans Bay on Lake Kaniere, the Mt Tuhua Track is a steep tramp recommended for fit trampers. The track climbs to the open, tussocky peak of Mt. Tuhua (1125 m), and exceptional panoramic views of the Southern Alps, Lake Kaniere, and the coastal plains all the way to Hokitika.
Lake Kaniere Road is 19km east of Hokitika, and the entrance to the Mt Tuhua Track is from Hans Bay via Dorothy Falls Road on the eastern lakeside.
5.5hrs / 12.3km return
Westland Tai Poutini National Park has many walking and hiking tracks from short walks to full-day tramps.
In glacier country, the winter weather is more stable for longer periods of time meaning there are often no clouds hanging around the mountains, resulting in clear blue skies and perfect mountain views.
The Roberts Point Track— 5.5 hours return from the Franz Josef Glacier car park — requires a good level of fitness but rewards with outstanding views of the glacier. It’s an uphill climb through the glacier valley via a rocky track, over mountain streams and multiple swing bridges to a spectacular viewpoint high above the glacier.
Highlights include historic Hende's Hut and Hende’s Gallery, named after the blacksmith who was part of the original track-building team in the early 1900s. The rusted corrugated hut was built in 1906 to shelter the workers on the track. It also included a blacksmith’s forge used to form wrought iron supports for the spectacular cliff-side structure known as Hende’s Galley which is a compelling photo stop.
The track traverses splinter faults (part of the Alpine Fault) and changes in vegetation and geology in rocky walls, evidence of dramatic changes the glacier has seen over time, culminating at Roberts Point for wide views of the lower levels of the glacier, cascading waterfalls and mountain peaks.
Access to Roberts Point Track is from the Franz Josef Glacier carpark, just south of Franz Josef Waiau township.
8hrs / 17.2km return
Classed as one of the best full day walks in the glacier region, the 4-hour uphill hike to Alex Knob (8hrs / 17.2km return) is well worth the panoramic views of Franz Josef Glacier, the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.
The historic track — named for early mountain guide and hotelier Alexander Graham — is currently undergoing upgrades which will make it more accessible but is recommended for experienced trampers.
There are several different viewpoints along the way as the track steadily zigzags and climbs through rain forest to sub-alpine scrub, alpine meadows and tussocks to a bird’s eye view of the glacier, the Main Divide and Tasman Sea.
Access to the Alex Knob Track is from the Franz Josef Glacier Access road, just south of Franz Josef Waiau township.