West Coast

Explore New Zealand's wild West Coast, our final frontier

West Coast New Zealand - Aerial View

Quick Facts/Highlights

  • Most of the West Coast consists of untouched forest that dates back thousands of years
  • Haast offers a range of local sights to break the journey when travelling from Queenstown or Wanaka
  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are the perfect base camp for trips onto the glaciers
  • Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast and the terminus for the TranzAlpine rail journey from Christchurch
  • Hokitika, the other main centre in this area, was the hub of the early gold rush
  • Westport, 'The Coast's' northernmost centre is home to nearby fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind

In New Zealand, the 'West Coast' generally refers to the narrow strip of land between the South Island's Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. It is the longest region in New Zealand; stretching from cold and snowy Haast to the sunny forests of Kahurangi. It's most well-known destinations are the Fox and the Franz Josef glaciers.

With a population of only 31,000 people, the West Coast retains the feeling of a pioneer frontier. It's a wild place known for rivers and rainforests; glaciers and geological treasures. Legends and stories from the past cling to every feature of the landscape.

Māori were first to discover the West Coast, seeking sacred pounamu (nephrite jade or greenstone). Gold fever in the 1860s brought Europeans, many of whom stayed on to start farming, forestry and businesses.

Nowadays, locals are known as 'coasters'; a term synonymous with friendliness and hospitality. Isolated from the rest of New Zealand by the Southern Alps, coasters have developed a distinctive culture of their own. Their pioneering values of self-reliance and loyalty are as strong today as they were 100 years ago.

The West Coast is a great place to go for a truly remote wilderness experience. Be sure to include it in your itinerary for a diverse mix of landscapes and activities.

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