Touring routes

Must Do Outdoor Adventures

If you’re longing for the freedom to get out and explore, then there’s nothing better than a summer road trip! From the very top of the West Coast down to its southern extent check out this touring route with unique and new experiences that will get you exploring off the beaten track.

Category
Self-drive
Duration
4 Days +
Distance
119km +
Best time
Summer

Westport to Oparara Arches

2h15min, 119km

The northernmost reaches of the West Coast are a mecca for overnight hiking and biking wilderness adventures.

One of NZ’s best Great Walks is the Heaphy Track and a popular starting point is from Kohaihai. The track takes most people 4-5 days to complete, but there are options for shorter overnight trips or day walks. Mountain bikes are allowed in winter (May – September).

For experienced mountain bikers, The Old Ghost Road is a purpose built 85km track which traverses through spectacular forest, river and high alpine landscapes. Huts are well equipped for bikers to stay overnight.

Another interesting location for mountain biking is the Denniston Plateau which offers magnificent coastal views and an insight into the heritage of coal mining in the region. The historic 1,670m Denniston Incline is an impressive sight and feet of engineering.

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Westport to Reefton & Springs Junction

1h03mins, 79.5km

Historic gold mining and timber milling tracks around Reefton have today been repurposed for mountain biking with terrain suitable for all abilities.

After a bike ride on Reefton’s tracks, what better way to refresh than with a gin & tonic from the famous Reefton Distilling Co where tours and tastings are available.

On a hot summer’s day, nothing is more refreshing than getting out on the water, and Inland Adventures offer a range of day and multi-day white-water rafting adventures.

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Westport to Punakaiki

1h20min, 89km

Westport or Punakaiki (home of the famous Pancake Rocks) make a great base for exploring Paparoa National Park.

The Paparoa Track is New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk. It travels through the spectacular limestone landscapes and lush coastal forests and is custom-built for both mountain biking and hiking.

In summer, kayaking or paddle boarding on the Pororari river is a great way to keep cool, or to really escape the heat of the midday sun, try a cave rafting with Underworld Adventures

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Greymouth to Lake Brunner

35min, 40km

Lake Brunner is the West Coast’s largest lake and is the perfect summer roadie location for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing or fishing. There’s a great selection of walks in the Lake Brunner area, from short walks to half day hikes.

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Punakaiki to Hokitika

1h10min, 84km

If you need a break from biking and hiking, but still want to explore the pristine rainforests, then check out a quad bike tour with On Yer Bike near Greymouth.

Stopping for a beer or a tour at the famous Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth is almost a compulsory part of any West Coast roadie!

If the weather forecast is for rain, then a great indoor activity for the day is Barrytown Knifemaking where you can forge your own steel blade and attach a native timber handle.

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Hokitika to Franz Josef & Fox Glacier

1h40min to Franz Josef, 134km to Franz/158km to Fox

The cool little beachside town of Hokitika is one of the West Coast’s highlights, and is the perfect summer destination for hiking and biking and has some of the best sunsets in New Zealand.

For walkers, don’t miss the spectacular Hokitika Gorge, and the West Coast Wildness Trail is a must do for cyclists who can chose from multi-day rides or shorter half day sections of the trail.

Between Hokitika and Franz Josef, Okarito is one of the West Coast’s hidden gems. Okarito Lagoon is New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland and a great place to explore by kayak with spectacular mountains to sea views and a chance to encounter rare wildlife. Don’t miss the walk up to Okarito Trig for panoramic views of the Southern Alps.

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier (Glacier Country) has some of the most spectacular natural landscapes in New Zealand and Westland Tai Poutini National Park is part of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand, a UNESCO World Heritage Area. Its diverse landscape extends from the Southern Alps, through some of the most pristine temperate rainforests in the world, to untouched wetlands and the wild beaches of the West Coast. It’s home to some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife including the rowi kiwi, kea, and kotuku (white heron).

The National Park has exceptional walking and hiking tracks from short walks to half day and full-day hikes. For fit and experienced trampers, the Roberts Point Track (6hours) or Alex Knob Track (8hours) offer incredible views of Franz Josef Glacier. Or, for shorter options in Fox Glacier, check out the new Lake Gault Track (3hours) or the famous Lake Matheson walk (1h30min) with its amazing mirror like reflections of the Southern Alps.

With an uncertain future due to climate change, there has never been a better time to visit the glaciers and guided heli-hikes are a unique and genuinely world class experiences - an absolute must do for any West Coast road trip. Franz Josef has a dramatic new landing zone for its glacier hike, and Fox Glacier Guiding was rated by TripAdvisor as the World’s Best Out of the Ordinary Experience for 2021.

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Fox Glacier / Franz Josef Glacier to Haast

1h50min, 142km

The drive south from Glacier Country to Haast has to be one of the world’s most epic road trips, passing through two National Parks – Westland Tai Poutini and Mount Aspiring – which together form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

There are dozens of great viewpoints and short walks along this section of State Highway 6. Don’t miss the coastal walks at Ship Creek near Haast and the chance to see the resident pod of rare Hector’s dolphins, and the Haast Highway offers a variety of short walks and roadside campsites in epic wilderness locations.

Haast itself is a great place to stop and refuel or to stay for the night and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Area on foot, by jetboat or scenic flight.

For more intrepid explorers, the Copland Track (just south of Fox Glacier) is a stunning multiday walk with gorgeous natural hot pools at Welcome Flat Hut. The steep hike up to Brewster Hut on the Haast Pass Highway rewards tampers with stunning views of Mount Aspiring National Park. (Bookings required for both huts).

Beyond Haast, and at the Southernmost end of the West Coast region, Jackson Bay is a great place for fish and chips at the famous Craypot. A good walk to work off a big lunch is the Smoothwater Bay Track.

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