The West Coast comes with majestic mountain peaks, primeval forests, wild beaches and rivers, languid lakes and wetlands — and that’s just the beginning of your adventures.
Best consumed long and slow, the West Coast is Aotearoa’s greatest region by size and in landscapes; more awesome natural wonders, fascinating wildlife and immersive back to nature experiences per square kilometre than anywhere else in NZ. Here’s how to best immerse yourself in this sensory overload.
Scenic helicopter flight over a remote, hidden valley near Haast in the UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Area.
There’s only one road into this remote corner of New Zealand. Blink and you could miss the little township of Haast at the western end of spectacular Haast Pass but it’s really worth the stop because this is UNESCO World Heritage country.
Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand is one of the most remote and untouched parts of New Zealand; vast and beautiful glaciated landscapes with Jurassic forests extending from ocean to mountain peaks. Stay over at Haast and go on a thrilling jet boat safari into the wilderness, travelling up the Haast or Waiatoto Rivers into a land where few humans have ever set foot.
Glimpse the grandeur from another angle on a scenic helicopter flight. Lift off from Haast, fly over beaches and follow the river high into the mountains, past glaciers and cascading waterfalls. Add on a picnic, wildlife encounter or a landing beside a secret hanging lake. Recommended: Drive out to Jackson Bay for lunch at the Craypot Cafe.
Discover the outstanding beauty and wildlife of tranquil Lake Mapourika on an easy paddle with Glacier Country Kayaks.
Legendary rainfall is the source of the West Coast’s abundance of lush rainforest, countless lakes and wetlands — havens for rare and precious wildlife species. Know where to look and you may spot kotuku (white heron) wading in the shallows, hear forest songbirds, morepork and kiwi calling in the night, see NZ fur seals and penguins on the beach.
Humans also love to zen out on the peaceful waters of picture postcard mirror lakes and waterways. Near the glaciers, at Ōkārito, you can embark on a guided nature tour or some gentle freedom kayaking on New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland, and participate in an evening kiwi spotting tour.
Sublime Lake Mapourika’s photogenic backdrop features New Zealand’s highest mountains, Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mt Tasman. Fish, paddle board or watch the mountains dissolve in a magical pink glow on an effortless sunset kayak tour. #1 on Tripadvisor in Franz Josef.
Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki sits on the shores of the Moeraki River in the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area.
The wonders of nature and a family’s lifelong passion for nature draws visitors to eco destination Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki. Nestled inside the UNESCO World Heritage Area, the 30-year history of the lodge and the McSweeney family is closely linked to the establishment of Te Wāhipounamu.
The resort promotes an intimate, deeply immersive wilderness experience focused on the surrounding lake, river, rainforests and beaches — havens for wildlife including penguins, tiny Hector’s dolphins, NZ fur seals, forest and marine birdlife.
Each day, guests can choose from a full programme of exclusive guided nature tours, walking and kayaking experiences, and fascinating talks led by expert guides including owner/host and noted conservationist Gerry McSweeney. Walking an unmarked trail to a spectacular beach to watch rare tawaki (Fiordland crested) penguins is a highlight.
Adventure below ground into the extensive Te Ananui cave system on the Nile River, near Charleston.
While there’s no missing the breathtaking scenery around every corner, the West Coast has other secret underground wonders — extensive networks of deep limestone caves mostly to the north, including long undiscovered caves with preserved dinosaur-era fossils.
For a super thrilling day out, admire the awesome power of nature at Punakaiki’s famed Pancake Rocks then head north to Charleston to discover the secrets of the fascinating Te Ananui caves. At Underground Adventures HQ, you’re in for a real adventure experience; fully kitted up with caving gear, safety briefed then transported to the mouth of a vast unmodified cave system.
The caving expedition is fully guided and surprisingly accessible so long as you can climb the 132 steps up into the cave and get a little wet on the way out. As you make your way down passageways, streams and waterfalls, you’ll discover beautiful limestone formations and experience true darkness before floating out via a twinkling glowworm cavern.
The Paparoa Track is a multi-day 'Great Walk' through Paparoa National Park.
Choose your adventure level. West Coast adventures are fit for all shapes and fitness levels, including a variety of multi-day adventures for e-bikers, mountain bikers and experienced hikers.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail is New Zealand’s top cycle trail for beginners, families, mountain bikers and riders finding their pedals on e-bikes. Discover the West Coast’s natural beauty — ancient rainforests, glacial rivers, rugged coastline, small towns and heritage sites. The trails are well-formed and serviced with accommodation options and great refueling stops. Tackle the full 4-day journey, pick your day out somewhere between Greymouth and Ross or let the local experts at Kiwi Journeys take you out for a guided scenic cycle taster.
New Zealand’s newest Great Walk — The Paparoa Track — is a one-way shared use trail for walkers and mountain bikers, up and over the Paparoa Range via mountain-top tussocks and down through subtropical rainforest towards the wild Tasman Sea. It’s a Great Walk, which can be booked on the DOC website (Department of Conservation) or leave all the details to the locals: Paparoa Guided Walks or Paparoa Services.