The Northern West Coast
Karamea is the gateway to Kahurangi National Park and is the northernmost town within the West Coast region. It is the entrance to Heaphy Track and to spectacular limestone arches and honeycomb cave systems of the Oparara basin.
Westport, with a population of approximately 6000 is the second largest town on the West Coast. This district offers an extensive range of activities for the outdoor enthusiast and a seal colony close by.
Perhaps the best known features of the northern West Coast are the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki. These fascinating limestone formations put on a spectacular spouting display in certain sea conditions.
Reefton, inland from the coastline, is a living working heritage town with extensive historical sites and buildings.
- Adventure activities: tour operators in this area offer white water rafting, underground cave rafting, jet boating, horse trekking, mountain biking, unimog tours, land yachting, kayaking, surfing, caving and a range of other outdoor activities
- Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park: visitors can enjoy one of New Zealand's 'Great Walks' as well as a range of shorter walking options.
- Oparara limestone arches and honeycomb caves, Karamea: with preserved bones of many bird species including the Moa (large flightless extinct bird)
- Seal colony: Cape Foulwind near Westport has a seal colony viewing point accessible by short walk. The track is suitable for wheelchair acces
- Coal Town Museum, Westport: see historical exhibitions and photographic displays covering coal, gold, lumber, aviation, shipping, brewery, transport and minerals
- Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes: the blowholes operate at high tide and are best on a blustery day when there are big seas - tide times can be checked at Information Centres in Greymouth or Punakaiki.
- Punakaiki Canoe hire: a canoe trip up the Pororari River - enjoy the rainforest scenery and limestone cliffs
The Central West Coast
With a population of 13,700, Greymouth district is the largest township and the commercial heart of the West Coast. Greymouth along with its surrounding rural townships, provides a selection of guided tours and walks, adventure, galleries, craft outlets and cafes. This is the home of Shantytown and the daily destination for the TranzAlpine train.
Hokitika is the third largest centre on the West Coast with a population of approximately 4,000. Here visitors can view local fish species at an indoor aquarium, visit the Kiwi House or the local Museum, which is an excellent source of social and natural history.
Many local artisans work in natural mediums producing world class works that visitors can purchase from one of the many art and craft outlets in Hokitika.
- Adventure and activity options: choose from a range of options including rafting, dolphin watching, 4WD bikes, underground cave rafting, and scenic flights
- Shantytown, 15 minutes south of Greymouth: a replica pioneering town with steam train rides, a working gold claim where visitors can successfully pan for gold, as well as 30 historic buildings including the local saloon, jail, church, hospital and school
- Blackball (30 minutes inland from Greymouth): Blackball is where the New Zealand Labour Party movement was founded. Visit the well known hotel 'Formerly the Blackball Hilton'
- Lake Brunner and the small township of Moana (20 minutes inland from Greymouth): take in sweeping views from lakeside tracks and enjoy renowned trout-fishing opportunitie
- Craft galleries: local galleries feature jade, glassblowing, gold nugget jewellery, and fine wood
- Ross (30 minutes south of Hokitika): as well as being of historic interest, this goldmining town still has working goldmines including one of the deepest operations in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors can do a local tour from the Ross Goldfields information centre.
Glacier Country and the Southern West Coast
Westland/Tai Poutini National Park can be accessed from this area - the small villages of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are right on the Park boundary and are located just 5 km/3 miles from their respective glaciers.
Haast, in the Southern West Coast, offers a variety of wildlife experiences and is a constant source of joy to the keen bird watcher. Situated in the World Heritage Area, Haast stands guard over the biggest stands of native rainforest and the most extensive wetlands in New Zealand.
- White heron sanctuary, Whataroa: visit the only nesting colony of the white heron (kotuku) in New Zealand. The bird's breeding season is between October and March. Visitors may visit the area year round on a rainforest nature tour, but are not likely to see birds nesting within the colony outside the breeding season
- Coastal Okarito: observe the largest unmodified tidal inlet in New Zealand and a major feeding area for birds, with over 70 species recorded
- Scenic flights over Westland National Park and the glaciers: these flights can include snow landings
- Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers: take a guided walk or helihike on to the glaciers, or take one of a number of unguided short forest walks within the area
- Lake Matheson (6 km/4 miles from Fox Glacier): on a clear day visitors will see perfect reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks