The West Coast is known for spectacular scenery, so expect to be wowed by luxuriant rainforests, shimmering glaciers and ancient rock formations. In addition to wild and untamed landscapes, you’ll find a constellation of friendly towns and villages in this stretch of the South Island.
Things to do in West Coast
Franz Josef Glacier cascades down from the Southern Alps to meet the verdant rainforest of Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The glacier is accessible only by helicopter, which means you can enjoy stunning views as you descend. Guided hiking tours get you up close with the otherworldly ice caves, crevasses and tunnels. You’ll also pass seracs, soaring ice towers that can reach heights of more than 40 metres.
Pancake Rocks is a fantastic example of the ancient landscapes you’ll see along the West Coast. The site was formed more than 30 million years ago and has transformed the rugged limestone coast into a series of stacks that resemble pancakes. A scenic walking trail gets you up close with the evocatively named rock formations. Visit at high tide to see the Tasman Sea surging into the caverns and bursting through the blowholes.
The lively town of Greymouth is a launchpad to the West Coast. Visit a museum dedicated to the gold rush, shop for New Zealand jade at local jewellery stores and enjoy a flight at Monteith's, one of the country’s most famous craft breweries.
Haast puts you in the heart of the spectacular Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area. Surrounded by national parks, it’s a hub for outdoor adventures on the West Coast. Explore the UNESCO-protected landscapes on a river safari and take to the skies on a scenic helicopter flight. Jet boat tours get you face-to-face with colonies of penguins and New Zealand fur seals.
Getting around West Coast
Rental cars offer the freedom to explore the West Coast at your own pace. Long-distance buses connect Christchurch with major West Coast towns, while the TranzAlpine runs between Christchurch and Greymouth. Greymouth is a 3.5-hour drive from Christchurch and seven hours from Queenstown. Airports are located in Westport and Hokitika, where you can board flights to Christchurch and Wellington.