When one thinks of New Zealand, one thinks of the wild, and once you see the West Coast of the South Island, you will understand why “wild” is the first word that comes to mind when “New Zealand” is uttered. “The Coast”, as locals call it, has raging rivers and dense rainforests, massive glaciers and lakes brimming with fish. There is much to see and do on a swing down The Coast, and the people that you meet along the way are invariably hospitable.
Because of its rugged topography, The Coast is not densely populated. Only 30,000 or so live along it, and the area defined as The Coast never exceeds 50 kilometres in width. Among the must-see sights along this unmatched strip of land are:
- The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. These flow from the Southern Alps into the rainforests along The Coast, squeezing down the valleys to just 250 metres above sea level. They are hugely popular, so you might need to book well in advance for one of the guided tours. You can also take a flight over them or even do a heli-hike.
- Kahurangi National Park. This is the country’s second-largest park and it has spectacular scenery. It features the longest of the Great Walks of New Zealand: the Heaphy Track, 78.4 km of adventure.
- Wild Foods Festival. Held annually in Hokitika, this chow-down of natural fare is primarily for the very adventurous of spirit. If you’re not up for huhu huhu grubs or wasp larvae ice cream, you might want to pass on this crazy time. However, risk-taking is almost obligatory in New Zealand, so this is another opportunity to practice the national sport.
- Punakaiki. This is in the Paparoa National Park, and the effect of the water hitting the limestone surfaces is unique and cool. Look at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes for the best effect.
- Lake Brunner. If you have time to stop and fish awhile, this lake is full of brown trout. The birds around the lake are also extremely diverse and enjoyable to spot and watch.
Because The Coast is so long, diverse and sometimes rugged, there are really no tours of the entire area over a short period of time, so your best bet is to obtain your own transport. One of the many great aspects of New Zealand is that cars are easily bought and sold at a wide variety of prices and credit ratings. Many visitors who end up staying longer than planned purchase their own vehicle to see the riches of this unspoiled land.
Here is information about one prominent dealer that can hook you up with wheels at a fair price and help you to get car finance. Buying a vehicle at a decent price and getting it insured has been extremely streamlined in New Zealand, and authorities have figured out that tourists who can buy cars with no hassle tend to stay longer and spend more money in the country. You will want your own truck or car to explore The Coast at your leisure over several weeks time.