New Zealand’s Wild West Coast
Sandwiched between the dominant Southern Alps and the untamed Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s West Coast region is perfect for those looking for an adventure, but don’t need it handed to them on a silver platter. Averaging 20-25 feet of rainfall per year, the unpredictable weather of the region has made the West Coast the road less traveled. That makes it all the more rewarding to those who choose to include it in their itinerary and earn the bragging rights of hiking a glacier in a t-shirt!
For an epic road trip, you can drive all the way from Westport to Haast and include a handful of interesting and beautiful stops. But for the highlights, stopping around Greymouth and Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are essential.
The TranzAlpine Railway is a 5-hour scenic train that shuttles between Christchurch and Greymouth daily, traversing over the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass. It’s a stunning way to travel between coasts on the South Island. From Greymouth, the real points of interest are just north and south.
North of Greymouth are the iconic Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, one of the geological wonders of the West Coast. The ocean-side cliffs have taken shape over thousands of years and, with blowholes shooting water scores of vertical feet at high tide, it is a sight to behold.
South of Greymouth is the funky little town of Hokitika, the birthplace of pounamu (New Zealand jade) which is showcased in a handful of shops and galleries in town. Guests can even carve their own! We also recommend cycling on the West Coast Wilderness Track and visiting the jaw-droppingly beautiful Hokitika Gorge.
Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
A highlight for our wild West Coast adventurers is a heli-hike on the Franz Josef or Fox glaciers. The two glaciers, which both share their names with the respective towns in which they reside, are only 25-minutes apart and are the most accessible glaciers in New Zealand. You can walk the the base of both glaciers, but if you want to actually walk on the glaciers or ice-climb, you can only do so by helicopter. For those seeking the beautiful views without the exertion, scenic flights are available over either glacier.
Post heli-hike, nothing beats soaking in a hot pool in Franz Josef town. Photographers will delight in shooting the reflection of Mt. Cook in Lake Matheson, just outside Fox Glacier, on the road toward Queenstown and Fiordland.