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West Coast and the Glaciers


Glacier Hike

West Coast and the Glaciers

If you want to buy pounamu (New Zealand greenstone), go straight to the source. The West Coast is where most of New Zealand's pounamu comes from and you'll find lots of carvers and artisans along the Coast, particualrly in Hokitika. Don't miss Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers. Surround yourself with blue ice and climb through crevaces on a guided glacier hike. Enjoy the mellow, relaxed groove of 'the coast' lifestyle.



  • White water kayaking in Murchison
  • Pounamu (greenstone) in Hokitika
  • Pancake rocks at Punakaiki
  • Take a slow drive along the West Coast Road (Highway 6)
  • Play on Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers!




  • Riverview Holiday Park
  • The Hampden Hotel (classic old pub with pretty cheap rooms)


  • Global Village Travellers Lodge. This is a great place, warm and cosy with everything you need and more. GOOT Passport holders get $3 off per room - Thanks Global Village!

Franz Joseph

Franz is a fun town with a few good bars, cafes and restaurants.
Fox Glacier

Fox is another cruisey West Coast town and another good place to park up for the night - especially if you've been on a glacier hike. Speaking of which Fox Glacier Guiding is a GOOT Partner so we fully recommend taking one of their trips! Like Franz, Fox has some nice cafes, restaurants and accommodation, also, see below for a free campground at Gillespies Beach.    

There's cheap DoC campsites at:
Lyell, 10km North of Inangahua on Highway 6;
'Goldsborough', 17kms from Hokitika, turn off Highway 6 at Awatuna and follow Stafford Loop Road to the end;
Lake Kaniere, 19kms inland from Hokitika, head out to Lake Kaniere then follow Dorothy Falls Rd to Hans Bay;   
Lake Mahinapua, turn off Highway 6 about 10kms South of Hokitika (there's a pub across the road);   
Lake Ianthe, camp right by the lake, it's 15kms North of Hari Hari, and shortly after Kakapotahi;   
Ottos, off Highway 6, about 15kms before Franz Joseph, it's at the Northern end of Lake Mapourika; 
Lake Paringa, beside Highway 6, around 40kms North of Haast.       
There's a free DoC campsite at Gillespies Beach. On the coast West of Fox township is this basic campground. 
Even if you don't stay here it's worth visiting as it's a beautiful drive out there which takes you to an amazing, rugged beach with walks to old goldmining settlements and a seal colony. To get there, head down Cooks Flat Road in the middle of town and follow it all the way there.   


  • 'Stumpers' in Hokitika has a range of meals. There is also a bar attached and they sometimes have live music.
  • There is a Speights Ale House near the info. centre in Greymouth (130 Mawhera Quay). You may have been to an ale house in other parts of the country - good food, good beer, good steak!
  • Both Greymouth and Hokitika, and espescially Franz and Fox, are small towns meaning it's not a big deal to wander around until you find a menu that suits your flavour and budget.

What to DO


Coastal Drive

Considering that most of New Zealands weather comes from the West, the West Coast of the South Island (fondly known as 'the coast') is an amazing, rugged, raw and alive place! Wherever you can, head down to the beach breathe in the fresh salty air and get amongst the feel of 'the coast'!
* “Murch” is the local name for Murchison, a popular destination for white water kayakers and rafters - so much so that at the end of Feb/start of March there is a whitewater festival called the 'Buller fest'. Check out www.bullerfestival.co.nz for more info.

There are also opportunities for mountain biking, horse trekking and trout fishing in the Murch region. Murchison itself is a very small town so you are not missing too much if you camp at either Owen River or Lyell.

* Continuing South-West on Highway 6 through the scenic Buller Gorge.
There's a nice DoC campground at Lyell.

At the Inangahua Junction you can either continue on Highway 6 towards Westport or on Highway 69 towards Reefton. Reeftons claim to fame is that it has one of the best skate parks in the South Island - definately a place to stop in if you like to skate or if you just like watching others play on 4 wheels.  

At Westport - a sleepy port town with a very 'inventive' name - you can check out Cape Foulwind (just West of Westport) which has a good walk out to a large seal colony. There's also a good (licensed!) cafe here and good surf. If you leave Westport via Tauranga Bay, head right onto Wilsons Lead Road and this will take you back to Highway 6.  

North of Westport, towards Karamea and beyond, is beautiful. Full stop.
It is a wild and rugged part of the country with few people to clutter the place. Head up here to get away from the crowds and to start the stunning Heaphy Track (this track is the one at the top of the 'suggested hikes to do' list of Southern GOOT Girl and ex-Milford Track guide, Kate. It is an amazing track which gives you examples of almost every type of New Zealand landscape. The track will take you through sub-alpine, coastal, alpine, lowland scenery and will keep you smiling till the cows come home :)   
There is a DoC campground at the start of the Heaphy. It's a beautiful spot to camp and gives you the opportunity to head a little way down the track if you're wanting a day walk. The short Nikau walk, just across the bridge, is definately worth it if you have a spare 20mins.

The Oprara Basin is definately worth a look. Sat amongst Kahurangi National Park and just North of Karamea this valley has amazing scenery including beautiful walks to amazing, naturally formed caves and arches. These caves and arches have been formed by a million years worth of water erosion leaving a dramatic landscape surrounded by lush west coast bush. The walks to the caves/arches are short and well maintained making for easy meandering...
Two suggested arches to visit include: The Oparara Arch - about 30mins return, this track takes you to a 219meter long arch which sits 43meters above the river;
The Moria Gate arch is smaller than the Oparara but is very beautiful and definately worth the 45min return walk. 
If you want just a quick taste of the caves in the area check out the Crazy Paving Cave. This 10minute walk takes you into the darkness of a small cave system where you can spot cave weta, spiders and soil patterns from eons ago. Take your torch and be careful not to step on any creatures on the ground...

* Kahurangi National Park, North of Karamea, has heaps of tracks to kick about in. Take your pick as it's bound to be beautiful no matter which one you do! 

* Continuing South on highway 6:

Charleston is a great place to explore and take in the lush forest of the west coast. This is a good spot for caving and blackwater rafting (rafting through underground caves). Hook up with a guiding company if you're keen on that mission.

The pancake rocks at Punakaiki are cool, particularly at high tide when the blow holes are working. It's also a great spot to go at sunset so you can watch the sun go down over the ocean.
Punakaiki village has some nice cafes and lots of weka (native birds, kind of like a kiwi but with a short beak and they come out during the day).

* Paparoa National Park:
Just North of Punakiaki is the Truman Track which is excellent. Follow the track down to the beach and then walk Northwards along the coast. The rough track heads inland and explores some interesting caves, reportedly once used by the local Maori as they traveled up the coast. It is a fun place to explore at low tide. The start of the track is about 3kms north of the Visitors Centre.

Those with more time might consider doing part of the Inland Pack Track up to the Ballroom overhang – an impressive natural rock overhang that you can camp under (there's no huts opn the track, but there is a toilet at the Ballroom). This trip involves some serious river crossings so isn't a good idea in wet weather and is better done from the Punakaiki end as it makes river crossing at the end easier. The track will take 2 or 3 days. To get there, head up Waikori Road which is off the main road about 8oomtrs from the Visitors Centre. Talk to Doc staff for more info.  


Though it is a small town by comparrison, 'Grey' as it is fondly known has a few good things to get amongst.

  • Pounamu. Greenstone is in abundance on the Coast and Greytown and Hokitika are the best places in New Zealand to purchase it. There are many stores around the town that display local artists work. Wander around to find a piece you like and you may also be able to see some artists carving while you're there.
  • Visit the famous Monteiths Brewery. If you've been to a good pub/bar in other parts of the country you'll know this beer already. As some of NZ's finest beer, some suggest it is the pure West Coast water that makes it so good. You can visit the brewery for tours and tastings. A tour takes around and hour & 1/2 and goes four times per day, only costs $15 for tour and tasting and for and extra $10 you can have a BBQ meal too. Ph: 03-768 4149 or visit www.monteiths.co.nz
  • If you're into surfing, the best spot near Greymouth is just North of the Grey river at Cobden. If bodyboarding's your thing, you're better just South of the Grey river at Blaketown. Ask locals for the best tides.
  • 'On yer Bike'. Jump on a 4-wheel bike and get amongst the wet, muddy, rugged-ness of the west coast. While it's a little pricey it's sure to be lots of fun and its recommended as a great wet day activity - the wetter the better! Visit www.onyerbike.co.nz for info and bookings. 
  • The folk at the Grey info centre are really nice and really helpful. They can suggest other things to do and make bookings for you also. Find them in the railway station at 164 MacKay st.Hokitika


'Hoki' (Hokitika) is another great place to buy Pounamu. It is again a small town so wander the shops and see what takes your eye.  Some of these stores (as well as in Greymouth) also sell jade which is sourced outside of New Zealand. If you want an authentic piece of pounamu ask where it's come from.
Some of these carving studios also hold carving workshops where you can carve your own pendant. Ask around if you're interested.  

Head into Lake Kaniere. To escape the coast for a bit, head inland to this beautiful lake and DoC Scenic Reserve. It's a great place to wander, camp, mountain bike, fish, boat, kayak, swim and tramp. To get there, head about 19kms down Lake Kaniere Road from Hokitika township. This will take you to the lake at which point you can either go to the left or right (North or South) of it.
There are short walks here as well as longer ones, mountain biking tracks and a tramp up Mount Tuhua for fit folk (7hours return).
There is a DoC camp site to the left of the lake at Hans Bay. It'll cost you $6/person/night.  


  • This next section of the coastal road is particularly scenic, so take your time and stop often to experience the Wild West coast.  
  • 8 kilometres South of Greymouth is Shantytown, a recreation of an 1880s West Coast town. 
  • Lake Mahinapua is a good place for a break and also has a DOC campground with a pub across the road.
  • Okarito is a pretty sweet spot. There is a nice little DOC campground here, a wild beach and Okarito lagoon which is famous for its bird life including kotuku (white heron). You can go kayaking on the lagoon or wander along the beach.


* The main reason for visiting the glacier region is obvious... 


Franz Josef glacier is pretty damn impressive. You can walk up to the glacier yourself but the best way to see it is to do a guided glacier walk. There are a few options – a half day or full day walk, heli hikes and ice-climbing for the more adventurous – we recommend that you do a full da

Fox Glacier is equally impressive. You can walk up to the glacier and check out the glacier river here also. Guided trips can also be taken on Fox glacier - half and full day trips, heli hikes, ice-climbing and heli trekking trips. To book trips on Fox Glacier, contact Fox Glacier Guiding who are one of our GOOT Partners. y hike as you will get to explore much higher on the glacier, where the ice is cleaner and more spectacular.

Fox township is a mellow Coast town with a few other missions in and around for you to get amongst:

- Climb Mount Fox. This is a good mission up the hill, following a marked route, which will give you brilliant views of the glacier and over the island and ocean. It is well worth the (steep!) climb. To get to the start, head just South of the township (on Highway 6) to the carpark.   

- Lake Matheson. This is a beautiful lake, just West of Fox township. There's a walk that goes right round the lake. It takes 1-1 & 1/2 hours to complete and if the weather is right will give you brilliant views back towards the summit of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning (dusk is best!) as the lake is usually perfectly still and you can get great photos of Aoraki/Mount Cook reflected on the lake.
- Gillespies Beach. Head out Gillespies for a good taste of a rugged West Coast beach. Follow the beautiful twisting road which starts in the middle of Fox township (it's signposted). Follow the road for around 11kms through rimu forest to the beach. There's a campsite here that you can stay in. There's heaps of mining history at the beach and also a seal colony a bit of a walk up the beach. 

* Copeland Track.
Just South of Fox township is the start of the Copeland Track. This track will take you over Copeland Pass and into the Aoraki/Mount Cook region. This is a solid alpine mission but the tramp up to Welcome Flat hut is a good stomp into to some natural hot pools. The hike to Welcome Flat is a highly recommended overnight mission which will take 5-7hours to get there and about the same to get back. The hot pools (thermal pools) at the hut are WONDERFUL to sit in and gaze at the surrounding mountains. There's a few stream/river crossings on the way up so take care if it has been, or is, raining.
To, get there follow Highway 6 South out of town and travel for around 26 kms (just North of Karangarua bridge) till you see the track sign off to the left of the road (right if you're travelling North). There's a carpark from which the track starts. Don't forget to leave your intentions with DoC staff - if you do this in Fox and are not going back through you can just call them to report you're out safe. Enjoy the soak in the hot pools - it's a great way to spend the evening after a stomp!     

* Blow Fly (Blue River) Hut.
Just North of Haast junction is the start/end of the Haast/Paringa Cattle Track. One of the stops along this 3-day track is Blow Fly Hut. This quirky hut is a good one to wander in to if you'd like to break up your West Coast journey with an overnight hut stay. It's an easy, flat 1-2 hour walk through beautiful forest to get to the hut which sits near a beautiful west coast river and surrounded by beautiful west coast bush.
You can continue along the track from Blow Fly if you want to do the full 3-day tramp. The track leaves from the car park 40kms North of Haast, look out for the DoC Sign on the left of the road (heading South).     

GO (further)

Moving on 

Keep heading South on Highway 6 for more beautiful stretches of West Coast wilderness....

  • Bruce Bay is a nice stretch of open coast.

  • The view from Knights Point is a goodin'
  • At Ship Creek there is access to the beach which is a popular place to see Hector’s dolphins.

Also, if the tides allow, head North on the beach, across the stream outlet, and just around the corner there's a rockwall that's good for climbing - heaps of big jugs to hang off and play on for a while so you can have a break from being in the car.   

  • Haast provides the last opportunity to access the beach before the road heads inland.

  • If you've got a bit of time on your hands, keep heading South to Jackson Bay/Okahu. This is a remote fishing hamlet with an end of the world feel so head here for a kiwi-country-life experience. There's good fish 'n' chips from the stand in the bay and some short walks to do also.
  • Heading inland from Haast take some time to check out all the excellent short walks. The Fantail and Thunder Falls are good and the walk to Blue Pools while longer is worth it.

    - If you're wanting an overnight hike at this point in your trip, head up to Brewster Hut. Following a steep ridge up to the hut will reward you with stunning views of the surrounding Mount Aspiring Park. The new (built in 2008) hut is in a perfect position just below the summer snow-line with easy access to the surrounding summits if you'd like to continue going up. This track could also be done as a day-walk with the hut as a lunch stop. You'll want to give your legs a rest at the top though as it's a relentless 2-3 hour climb from the Haast River before reaching the hut. Access this track by crossing the Haast River at the Fantail Falls short-walk on Highway 6, South of Haast. Look out for the carpark on the Left side of the road heading towards Wanaka.    
  • Along this section of road through Haast pass there are numerous, and excellent, DOC camping sites.
    Two options closest to the coast are: Pleasant Flat. 45km East of Haast, along Highway 6. $6/person/night; OR: Cameron Flat. Further on along Highway 6, not long before Makarora. $6/person/night.   
  • The drive through Makarora and past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea is beautiful.

There's three ways to get back East from the West coast.
- The fastest way from Westport and North is to head over the Lewis Pass via highway 7. If you do head back East via Lewis Pass don't forget to stop in at either Maruia Springs or Hanmer to have a soak in the hot pools!
- From Greymouth and it's surrounds, head over Arthurs Pass (don't forget to stop in at 'Arthurs' and check out this amazing spot!). If you're in Greymouth or not far North you can take the 'backroad' via Lake Brunner. This is another scenic route which takes you past the shores of the lake.
- Hasst Pass is your last option and this will take you straight to Wanaka and towards Queenstown. 

All passes are spectacular and will give you great views and scenic drives. Don't forget to stop a take a photo or two and take in all the sights and sounds!   

Head North towards Nelson and Marlborough or keep going up to Coast towards Westport and the start of the beautiful Heaphy Track. Check out the 'Moving On' section in the Nelson/Abel Tasman guide for what to see and do North of The Coast.  

GOOT Deals

The following appear in this GOOT Route offering great deals to GOOT Passport holders. Open links to view details.

We are adding new GOOT Partners all the time so check back for more.



Readers have left 4 comments.
 4. Punakiki is where it's at
Alli Hansen (BU), Unregistered
Nothing there but jade in Hokitika. Punakiki is great and I love the blowholes and pancake rocks!
 Posted 2010-04-28 11:52:23
 3. West Coast Love
Jackie Chang (BU), Unregistered
There were lots of interesting people to meet all along the west coast. I was especially surprised at how many cool stores there were along the way
 Posted 2010-04-28 11:44:41
 2. Impressive glaciers
Geetali Chitre (BU), Unregistered
Fox glacier was really impressive. It looks bigger than Franz Joseph and there is more area that you can walk around without a tour. We got really close and the people told us to move because we could have gotten hit by the glacier.
 Posted 2009-05-28 09:37:52
 1. Hokitika good for gifts
Ilsa McIntyre (BU), Unregistered
The little town with all the jade, Hokitika, is good for crafts and gifts for people. There are a lot of jade stores and glass blowing stores that are fun to poke around.
 Posted 2009-05-28 09:34:43
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