"Wild West Coast" West Coast by wkcsmt
West Coast Travel Guide: 510 reviews and 1,618 photos
The West Coast is the longest region in New Zealand. It is known for its spectacular mountain, glacial, lake and marine scenery. 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. It is also the main source of greenstone or NZ Jade - pounamu (similar to Chinese jade but darker in colour) and both coal and gold continued to be mined in the area to some degree. Pounamu is a semi-precious stone of cultural importance to the Maori. All pounamu is sourced from river boulders on the West Coast - an in-place resource of the stone has never been found. Once used to make chisels and adzes, today pounamu is carved into jewellery and art works.
The legend of greenstone
According to Maori oral history, there lived in Hawaiki the chief Ngahue, a daring navigator who was driven from his homeland by a woman, Hine-tu-a-hoanga, who invoked the aid of a great green taniwha (water monster), Poutini, to capture him. The monster hotly pursued the chief's sailing canoe until at last Ngahue saw the stupendous mountain of Aoraki (Mt Cook) beckoning to him and commanding him to sail north. Arriving at the mouth of the Arahura River (just north of Hokitika), Ngahue watched as the sun hid her face, to cover the land in shadow save only for the gleaming icefields of Tara-o-Tama at the river's source. With the water monster close behind, the navigator read the omen as a sign to make his way inland. The monster pursued him up the river until he reached a deep rock pool at the foot of fearful rapids. There the monster was injured, and sank to the bottom to be transformed into greenstone.
The West Coast is a paradise for people who love the outdoors. Extreme adventure seekers can try caving, rafting, canoeing, kayaking and surfing. Easier adventures include jet boating, glacier walks, scenic flights, mountain biking, horse treks, fishing and gold panning...
Spring is whitebait season. Whitebait is the name given to 3 species of small fish. If you have a chance, do try this West Coast delicacy - best enjoyed as a fritter or omelette.
If you happen to travel during winter, there are 3 skifields within easy reach - Arthur’s Pass, Porters Pass and Broken River. Glacier walking is wonderful in winter too. Of course you can always do it @ anytime of the year. Glacier walks feature on my Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier pages.
I've been to the West Coast for 2.5 times... Well, twice covering the whole length, and as for the remaining 0.5 - only travel from Greymouth north to Westport. All trips were done in different times of the year. First in winter '96, 2nd in autumn '97 and the last in summer '00. You'll find popular / main attractions of the West Coast on the specific travel pages under this region. Here, I'll have my bits & pieces of this region from my lastest trip. These are mainly short stops or small towns.
Westport... See the seal colony at Cape Foulwind near Westport
Greymouth is a perfect base to visit the Pancake Rocks, the historic Shantytown or Monteith's Brewery. There are a number of bush and coastal walks with views of Mt Cook. Also, visit the local Art & Craft galleries and historic sites. If you're not driving, try the TranzAlpine train journey to/from Christchurch - rated one of the world's greatest train journey. It'll take you through the Southern Alps with outstanding sceneries of mountain passes & dense rainforests.
Shantytown is a faithfully restored replica of an 1860s West Coast gold mining town with historical train rides and you can pan for gold here. Since we'd planned to do ours @ Ross and had seen similar historic replicas & original building of the 19th century in Nelson, we gave this place a miss.
Hokitika is the home of Pounamu (NZ jade) and the world famous annual Wildfoods Festival in March. See Must See Activities for more details.
Hey... trying to steal my gold...
Ross is a one of the gold mining town along the West Coast and once one of the deepest mining operations in the Southern Hemisphere. Another famous historic gold mining village is Shantytown (11km south of Greymouth).
Whataroa and the area surrounding coastal Okarito provide a sanctuary and feeding grounds for New Zealand's only breeding colony of Kotuku, or the White Heron. You can go on an excursion into the nesting area accompanied by a permitted guide. For tour information, see www.whiteherontours.co.nz. From September to late February/March, breeding pairs stay in the colony and raise their chicks on precarious nesting platforms. Nearby coastal Okarito has the largest unmodified tidal wetlands in New Zealand and is a major feeding area for birds - more than 70 species have been recorded.
Lake Matheson is one of NZ's great scenic icons lies just 6km south of Fox Glacier. On a still clear day, it rprovides a perfect reflection of NZ's highest peaks - Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Tasman. An easy 40 minute walk takes you to the first viewing platform, and a complete circuit of the lake can be completed in one and a half hours.
Another of my favourite place is Haast Pass, especailly spectacular during winter...passing through the pine forest covered with snow. This was my 1st experience of Haast Pass. If you're travelling suring spring, you'll find rushing waterfalls. You're sure to go pass this place if you're travelling between the southern part of West Coast and Fiordland / Otago / Southland.
p/s: will have to dig out photos from the previous trips at a later date since they are all at my parents' place - far far away from me.
Global Village (formerly Living Streams) has a beautiful riverside setting. Interior is Global art d'cor theme.... more travel advice
Remember to fill up your gas / petrol tank before leaving Westport, heading to Greymouth. This is the last fuel stop...... more travel advice
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