Lake Matheson sunset
Touring Routes

The ultimate West Coast roadie

From ancient forests to gigantic glaciers, explore the wild West Coast in all its awe-inspiring grandeur — stopping at the region’s most famous natural wonders as you go.

6 days
624 mi/1005 km
Best time
All year round

Day 1: TranzAlpine to Greymouth, then drive to Punakaiki

3 hrs, 59 min, 288 km

Arrive in style on the world-famous TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth. Pick up your hire car, and take a look around Greymouth, a small former gold mining town that’s easy to explore on foot. Stop in at one of the galleries, admire the historic buildings along the river’s edge.

Make your way to Lake Brunner, where the trout are so plentiful they’re said to die of old age. Book yourself into a campsite, hotel or holiday home and stay a few days in the lake’s peaceful settlement of Moana.

Explore the 30-million-year-old natural spectacle of the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki, before walking the nearby Truman Track — a short walk through entangled rainforest which emerges onto a secluded beach. Stay the night at one of Punakaiki’s many boutique accommodations.

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Local Attractions

Day 2: Punakaiki to Karamea

2 hrs, 18 min, 152 km

Continue north to Charleston, a small settlement founded post-gold rush in 1867. Go underground with Underworld Adventures to explore a vast network of caves, before floating out to the river under a galaxy of glow-worms.

Head to Cape Foulwind to spot New Zealand’s largest fur seal colony on a bracing cliff-top walk. Stay the night at Carters Beach for safe swimming and bonfire building, or follow the coastal road to Karamea.

Near Karamea, you’ll find a primaeval world of dense subtropical forests concealing ancient underground cave systems. Explore the iconic Ōpārara Arch, or take a guided tour of Honeycomb Hill Caves to discover fossilised remains of extinct moa and the giant pouākai/Haast’s eagle. Walk to Scott’s Beach, a deserted golden sand beach just 45 minutes into the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

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Local Attractions

Day 3: Karamea to Reefton

2 hrs, 30 min, 175 km

From Westport, veer inland towards Reefton via the scenic Buller Gorge. There’s a touch of the other Wild West in Reefton, with heritage gold-rush buildings lining the main street, some home to funky antique shops and art galleries.

Stop by the replica mining hut for gold panning and tales of bygone years, told by two Bearded Miners. Don’t miss the Reefton Distilling Co. for a gin tasting or a souvenir to sip when you get home.

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Local Attractions

Day 4: Reefton to Hokitika

1 hr, 29 min, 116 km

Continue south to the West Coast’s “coolest little town” of Hokitika.

Browse the pounamu / jade carving workshops and galleries or fossick for your own piece on the beach. Finish the day with a meal at one of the town’s tasty eateries and a night at one of the town’s many boutique stays.

After dark, you’ll find a magical display of thousands of twinkling lights in the Glow-Worm Dell, a leafy canyon just off State Highway 6 near the town’s entrance. The next morning, take in the stunning turquoise waters of the nearby Hokitika Gorge, framed by stark white limestone cliffs and deep green forest.

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Local Attractions

Day 5: Hokitika to Fox Glacier

2 hours 10 mins, 157 km

Next up, Glacier Country — home to New Zealand’s highest mountains, wildest rivers, longest glaciers and tallest forests.

Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are the most accessible of the 60 plus in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, with their terminal faces visible from viewpoints on the ground. Up high, compacted snow creates walls of clear blue ice, carved out by huge crevasses and caves. See this otherworldly landscape up close on a breathtaking guided heli-hiking tour or scenic flight.

Glacier Country is also home to many forest, coastal and alpine walks, around lakes and on deserted beaches. Spot rare and elusive wildlife in Ōkārito, where New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland area is framed by lush native rainforest and the snow-capped Southern Alps. Stay the night in style in Franz Josef, at one of the luxurious yet laid back hotels.

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Local Attractions

Day 6: Fox Glacier to Haast

1 hr, 32 min, 121 km

Jump start your day with a morning skydive. Carbon-zero and awarded for their community commitment, Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier offer jumps with stunning views of the glaciers, Aoraki Mount Cook and the Tasman Sea.

On the way to Haast, stop for a pond-to-plate lunch at the Salmon Farm — where you can feed the fish, then enjoy a smoked or fresh salmon dish.

Haast is the gateway into Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Area due to its outstanding natural beauty and unique biodiversity. The best way to experience this epic wilderness is by scenic heli flight or a jet boat river journey.

Stay the night and continue to Wānaka in the morning, with stops at the many pretty waterfalls and iconic Blue Pools along the way.

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Local Attractions