There is nothing quite like the great outdoors to set the scene and inspire memorable family times.
We’ve found five adventure ideas set on the West Coast to help inspire and plan your next family get-away. Something to suit every age, taste for adventure and holiday budget, and it's all closer than you think. Experience some of our most iconic locations; choose from biking, kayaking, tramping, camping, caving or watching the sun go down as you warm your toes around your beach bonfire.
An easy stroll along the Cape Foulwind Walkway leads to great views of NZ fur seals.
Timber is something the West Coast has in abundance. Tons of it ends up as driftwood on the beaches and, with 600 km 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.
Riding the waterways around Lake Mahinapua Scenic Reserve, near Hokitika, on the Wilderness Trail.
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 — an easy 19.5 km ride from Westport to Tauranga Bay, part of a scenic 55 km easy (grade 2) ride that will soon 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 West Coast Wilderness Trail between Greymouth and Ross (grade 2 and 3) offers several longer, slightly more challenging options.
Historic Ōkārito boat shed on Ōkārito Lagoon and view of Mt Adams.
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. Okarito 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.
Explore the incredible underground caverns underneath Charleston with Underworld Adventures.
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 complete 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.
Absolute beach front camp sites and accommodation at Ross Beach.
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.