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10 West Coast Must-Dos

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things you can’t miss along the Wild West Coast!

The long stretching region of the West Coast on the South Island is as rugged as it gets! In fact, Kiwis are more accustomed to calling it the “Wild West Coast”. It is an almost deserted area, as the biggest town is Greymouth with a population of only 31,000. Clearly, this is a place where nature takes control, which is evident is some amazing natural features, such as the Pancake Rocks, the Blue Pools of Haast, and the glaciers. With an abundance of New Zealand jade, you are never too far from the jade souvenirs and even do-it-yourself workshops. All in all, any adventurous and curious backpacker will not get bored in the West Coast of New Zealand! With all that in mind, here are some absolute West Coast must-dos!

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1. WITNESS HISTORY BEING MADE

Explore one of the two most accessible glaciers in the world, the Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier. Retreating at the moment, the two glaciers are a living proof of our impact on our fragile climate. Learn more about experiencing the glaciers at 7 Ways to Take on New Zealand’s Glaciers.

Location: Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
BackpackerGuide.NZ

2. BE PART OF A CLOSE ENCOUNTER

The West Coast of New Zealand harbours three wildlife centres. Some of which are home to brown kiwi, where you can get to know New Zealand’s flightless mascot. Alternatively, see a rare species called the white heron while on a kayaking tour of the Okarito Lagoon.

Location: Franz Josef, Hokitika and Okarito
BackpackerGuide.NZ

3. PACE YOURSELF AND ENJOY THE JOURNEY

The Great Coast Road that links Westport and Greymouth has been described as one of the “Top 10 Coastal Drives in the World”, that’s got to be worth something, right?

Location: State Highway 6
BackpackerGuide.NZ

4. SEE IT FOR YOURSELF!

The Oparara Valley in Karamea hides a pretty well-kept secret: one of the largest limestone arches in the Southern Hemisphere! Go check it out in the Oparara Basin in the Kahurangi National Park.

Location: Karamea
BackpackerGuide.nZ

5. EMBARK on A WORLD-CLASS TRAIN JOURNEY

The TranzAlpine train leaving from Greymouth to Christchurch is up there amongst the most scenic train journeys in the world. Find out more in Train Network in New Zealand.

Location: Greymouth, Arthur’s Pass, Christchurch
Kiwi Rail

6. Immerse in the mining history

The west coast of New Zealand has a rich mining history. Around the Denniston Plateau you will find breathtaking scenic views of mining areas along with dark but accessible coal mines. The Denniston Plateau is also a top spot for mountain biking on the West Coast.

Location: Denniston
The-Organist on Wikipedia

7. MAKE YOUR OWN SOUVENIR

New Zealand’s jade is called “pounamu”. It is plentiful near Hokitika where you can be taught how to carve it into your own jade souvenir. Learn more in our 5 Hokitika Must-Dos.

Location: Hokitika
BackpackerGuide.NZ

8. Take snaps of THE PANCAKE ROCKS

You cannot drive along the West Coast of New Zealand without stopping by Punakaiki nestled in the Paparoa National Park. It’s most famous attraction are the pancake stack-like limestone formation and powerful blowholes.

Location: Punakaiki
BackpackerGuide.nZ

9. DELVE INTO THE BLUEST POOL

One of the most popular stops on the Haast Highway is the Blue Pools walking track. The 15-minute walk will lead you straight to a turquoise river bluer that any postcard picture could ever show – so blue that you will want to jump in!

Location: Haast Pass
backpackerGuide.NZ

10. Check out New Zealand’s most reflective lake

Lake Matheson reflects a picture perfect view of the Southern Alps on a clear day. Check it out for yourself on the Lake Matheson Loop Walk (1h40min loop). It’s one of the many great things to do in Fox Glacier.

Location: Fox Glacier township.
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