From the skies above to deep underground with mountain highs, glacier ice, rushing waters and remote wilderness everywhere, the West Coast is an incredible, vast and diverse adventure playground.
Adrenaline junkies will find their fill of adventure on the West Coast. Choose New Zealand’s highest tandem skydive, ice climbing on a glacier, rafting the rapids or descending deep underground — and that’s just the start.
Spectacular from any angle, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers — two of the most accessible glaciers in the world — are a unique natural phenomenon: twin glaciers originating in the high Southern Alps and terminating near coastal rainforest and within sight of the Tasman Sea. This otherworldly landscape is at its most impressive on a close encounter. Guided heli-hiking tours can take you to a remote part of the glacier for an ice hike or on a more demanding ice climbing, overnight or multi-day mountaineering experience.
Jump in a plane to get an absolute bird’s eye on the breathtaking magnificence of the Glacier Country landscape and dive out again at 13,000 feet, 16,500 feet or 18,000 feet for the widest possible views. Taking off from Franz Josef — recognised by the thrill seekers at Red Bull as one of the top skydiving locations in the world — and flying to 18,000 feet, New Zealand’s highest skydive takes in the country’s biggest glaciers, highest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook and the vast blue ocean in one exhilarating experience.
Beautiful blue waters, craggy canyons and rocky alpine waterways … West Coast rivers set the scene for exciting white water thrills. There’s an activity to fit a range of adrenaline levels, too, from gentle rafting and kayaking on easy grade rivers to extreme white water multi-day expeditions or high-speed jet boating. You’ll need to hang on tight as the jet boat 360-spins through the Buller Canyon, while the jet boat tours on the Haast River and Waiatoto River are a slower journey into otherwise hand-to-get-to World Heritage wilderness. River rafting tours— on the Buller, Grey and Waiau rivers — range from shorter family-friendly grade 2 to full scale grade 3 and 4 rafting adventures.
Unseen and little explored, there are vast systems of underground caves in the coastal limestone landscapes in the northern West Coast — around Punakaiki, Charleston, Karamea and Kahurangi National Park. Magnificent Ōpārara Arches, near Karamea, are the largest limestone formations of their kind in New Zealand while Honeycomb Hill caves are the last resting place of prehistoric creatures. The caves in the Nile River Valley, near Charleston, are home to one of the largest glow worm colonies in the world — a magical blackwater experience. Guided tours operate in both locations.
Landscape and climate make great mates on the West Coast when it comes to off-roading adventures. Muddy rainforest trails, glorious puddles, rocky river beds and steep slippery hillsides offer exciting terrain for off-road thrills and exploration. The views are pretty good too. Choose your ride from a range of self-drive quad bikes, off-road buggies or let the expert drive an ex-military Hagglund or a Unimog. Kitted up in gumboots, protective gear and safety helmets, the muddier the better.