When it comes to water, nature paints a unique picture on the West Coast. This watery blue wonderland never fails to captivate and inspire adventurers, wanderers and photographers.
Stunning lakes, languid wetlands, gushing waterfalls, rushing waterways and great rivers of ice. Mysterious aquamarine rivers, pure turquoise pools, moody emerald lakes, majestic icy blue towers and crevasses — photos can never quite tell the full story.
Autumn is a beautiful time to discover the true blue beauty of the West Coast while it’s still warm, the weather is settled and the wide open spaces are waiting for you.
The Hokitika Gorge is 33kms from Hokitika. The vivid turquoise water surrounded by lush native bush is well worth a visit.
Among more than a few compulsory photo stops on the West Coast, the Hokitika Gorge is high on the list. Free, easy to access and impossibly photogenic.
It’s only a short 30-minute walk to the best views of the vibrant turquoise blue waters and rocky white gorge. But, if you’re a happy snapper or a selfie-taker, allow enough time to make the most of the scenery. On the way, you’ll cross a thrilling pedestrian suspension bridge and may spot the rare and surreal blue werewere-kōkako mushroom on the forest floor (4 km, 1 hr return).
Near Franz Josef, you can experience the same dazzling blue waters in the rugged Callery Gorge. Leave on foot from town and follow a family-friendly track uphill then across an historic footbridge to discover this less visited but equally impressive gorge (5.2 km, 1 hr 20 min return).
Spectacular views on the calm, wildlife-rich waters of Ōkārito Lagoon near Franz Josef village.
There’s water-water all around at the little waterside settlement of Ōkārito, just north of Franz Josef, where the wild coast meets a sheltered coastal lagoon and lush rainforest haven.
Climb up to the Ōkārito Trig (4.2 km, 1.5 hr return) on a blue sky day, when the air is crystal clear, for spectacular 360-degree panoramas of the Southern Alps and the wild Tasman Sea. Spot a stately kōtuku/white heron foraging on the edge of Ōkārito Lagoon — New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland — or launch out on a gentle kayak or cruise into the wildlife sanctuary where rare rowi thrive.
Nearby Lake Mapourika rivals the more famous Lake Matheson for its stunning alpine reflections. Get the best views on a scenic boat cruise or easy paddle in a stable Canadian kayak.
The Waiatoto River is a natural highway into the remote World Heritage wilderness of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand.
A little town on the main highway (SH6) between Queenstown and the West Coast, Haast is the laid-back gateway to a timeless jewel — the great wilderness of World Heritage-listed Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand.
Barely disturbed by man, Te Wahipounamu (‘the place of greenstone’) is a remnant of ancient Gondwanaland — vast glaciated landscapes, Jurassic forests, rare wildlife and wild torrents flowing from majestic mountain ranges. Stay over at Haast and take a breathtaking scenic jet boat safari cruising up the aquamarine Waiatoto or Haast rivers into pure wilderness.
Travelling over the Haast Pass, stop off at the Thunder Creek Falls for a short bush walk to view the thundering cascade dropping 28 m into the glacial Haast River (400m / 10 min return).
Experience rare beauty and grandeur on a heli hike on one of New Zealand’s twin glaciers.
Remarkable twin glaciers that drop from high mountain ridges into a temperate rainforest zone, Fox and Franz Josef are the most famous of more than 60 glaciers in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
No longer accessible on foot, the best way to experience these great creeping rivers of ice is on a heli hike — a scenic helicopter flight up onto the glacier and a guided hike across the ethereal blue icescape. Equipped with all the gear, it’s surprisingly easy tracking across the ice, between ice towers, deep crevasses, and into sublime blue ice caves.
Get a different angle with a breathtaking scenic flight to see how the mighty glaciers tumble down from the heights, frozen mountain lakes, the snowy peak of Aoraki Mt Cook and the rugged coastline. Or take the adventure route with a tandem skydive.
A remote valley in the Haast region in the UNESCO-recognised Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area.
Tucked away high in the mountains, well out of sight but not too far from Haast, there are two sublime hanging lakes — shimmering emerald gems in a hidden glacial valley far from any trails or tracks.
Lake Eggeling — named for an intrepid 19th century explorer — sits at 1045 metres above sea level, surrounded by mountain peaks and atop a breathtaking waterfall tumbling down a sheer rock face. On the western edge of Mt Aspiring National Park — and part of the UNESCO-recognised Haast World Heritage Area — this is New Zealand’s last frontier.
Take a spectacular helicopter flight from Haast for a visual feast climbing above glacial river braids, dense virgin forest, canyons and cascading waterfalls to glaciers and mountain peaks. Follow the waterfall up into the hidden valley, and land on an alpine meadow beside the hanging lake.