West Coast, South Island

including Greymouth, Westport and Hokitika

West Coast glacier, South Island

West Coast beach, South Island

Punakaiki Rocks, West Coast, South Island

West Coast, South Island

View Accommodation

Welcome to the West Coast

While the length of NZ’s South Island is over 1000 km, the South West corner and coastline are home to NZ’s fiords and is inaccessible by road.  The West Coast road, taking you from Haast in the south west to Westport in the north, is approximately 430km (265miles).  It’s home to lush rainforest and wild coastline but the jewels in the West Coast crown have to be the world-famous phenomena of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.  They’re not just a distant glimpse either, and many visitors are amazed by how close you can get to these wonders of nature.  Glaciers and views aside, there’s plenty to keep the kids occupied on the trip up or down the coast, and lots of family-friendly accommodation to break your journey.


Karamea

Karamea is well off the beaten track - 100km north of Westport and on the fringes of the rugged Kahurangi National Park.  The 1½ hour drive from Westport includes coastal scenery, rainforest-clad hills, friendly villages, and the impressive Karamea Bluff, which offers spectacular coastal views. The road is easy to drive and sealed all the way.  Karamea is either your first or last port of call if you're hiking the Heaphy Track.

Westport

Situated in the Buller Region, this is the West Coast’s northernmost town from where you can leave the coast and head inland.  Well worth a visit is the short detour out to Cape Foulwind.   From the carpark there’s a short, easy cliff walk that takes you to fantastic bird and sea viewpoints as well as the seal breeding colony.  It’s well populated and you can usually see hundreds of seals lounging on the rocks or taking the odd dip.  Westport offers small town amenities, including hospital, cafes, restaurants and pubs, basic shops and accommodation.

Greymouth

The largest town on the West Coast and the commercial centre, Greymouth offers good amenities and is a central base for exploring.  While feeling incredibly remote, it’s only 4 hours by road (Arthur’s Pass) or 41/2 hours via the stunning Tranz Alpine train route, from Christchurch.  Greymouth is also just half an hour south of the incredible Pancake Rock formations at Punakaiki.

Hokitika

Only 40km south of Greymouth, and famous for its adventure sports lifestyle, fantastic beaches, laid back atmosphere, and perhaps most of all, Greenstone.
About Greenstone – known as ‘Pounamu’ greenstone was used by the Maori settlers to make weapons for hunting - it was a hardy stone that was easy to shape and carve.  The Maori also used greenstone for ornament, as we do today. 

The Legend – Originally, according to Maori legend, there were two stones, Poutini (the greenstone) and Whaiapu, which belonged to Ngahue and the chieftainess Hina-tua-hoanga respectively. The latter became jealous of Ngahue's stone and drove him from Hawaiki.
Eventually his canoe, Tahirirangi, reached New Zealand and Ngahue hid his greenstone near Arahura on the west coast of the South Island. It was very well hidden and lies there to this day; however, small portions are occasionally broken off and carried down the river. These pieces provided the Maori with their source of greenstone.
Hokitika is home to dozens of shops selling greenstone carvings and jewellery, as well as several factories, so you can see the carvers at work.

The West Coast Glaciers

One of the most incredible sights in New Zealand are the glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef.  While we have hundreds of glaciers, mostly hidden in the depths of the Southern Alps, these two magnificent examples are impressively visible to passers-by – no multi-day hikes to get up close! 
Fox Glacier – the walks and viewpoints are situated just south of the Fox township.  If you’re driving from the south, you’ll pass a sign to a Fox viewpoint, followed by a bridge.  For best access, ignore the first viewpoint sign and cross the bridge, then turn right into a carpark.  From here you can follow the river bed along a stony path for about an hour.  It brings you to within metres of the glacier’s base, and your view of the magnificent terminal face is uninterrupted all the way.  The walk is uneven, but not difficult for children of any age.  Baby backpacks recommended rather than buggies, although if you’re stuck, you can get great views without completing the walk.  Note: at the end of the walk there is a cordon, restricting access to the ice.  This is to be taken seriously as chunks of ice the size of cars can and do drop from the face with no warning.
Franz Josef – a short drive from the main road takes you to the carpark from where there are several walk options.  The easiest and quickest for a good view is a 10 minute walk.  The path is easy and it’s a steady but straightforward uphill zig zag to a viewing platform.  Suitable for children and buggies.  The view is from a distance but nevertheless impressive and well worth the hike.

View Accommodation

Map of New Zealand
  • Queenstown
  • Northland
  • Wanaka
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Fiordland
  • Taupo
  • Coromandel
  • North Canterbury
  • Gisborne
  • South Canterbury
  • Waikato
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Hawkes Bay
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Manawatu
  • Southland
  • Rotorua
  • Central Otago
  • Taranaki
  • Dunedin
  • West Coast
  • Bay of Islands
  • Whangarei
  • Tauranga
  • Central Plateau
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Kapati
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Invercargill
  • Stewart Island
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • hokitika
  • Westport

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.