West Coast (te Ika-a-poutini)
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.
The wildest side of New Zealand
Maori 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.
The 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.
Ancient rivers of ice
Of all the glaciers in the Southern Alps, only the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers have crept as far as the rainforests. These giant tongues of ice have squeezed down their valleys to just 250 metres above sea level.
Punakaiki's pancake rocks
The pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki are among the West Coast's most famous sights. The fascinating 'pancakes' are thin, horizontal layers of limestone, about two to four centimetres thick.
The Oparara Arches
The largest of the three limestone arches at Oparara is a natural tunnel 200 metres long, 49 metres wide and 37 metres high. A riverbank walkway will lead you through silver beech forest right into the arch.
The West Coast is the longest region in New Zealand. Allow enough days to experience everything.
Walking is one of the best ways to appreciate the spectacular landscapes. Stop often for a stroll or a hike.
The TranzAlpine over Arthur's Pass is listed as one of the world's greatest train journeys.
Regular bus services connect the West Coast with Wanaka, Queenstown, Christchurch, Nelson and Picton.