West Coast New Zealand road trip

By: Shane Solomon


West Coast New Zealand road trip West Coast New Zealand road trip
West Coast New Zealand road trip West Coast New Zealand road trip
West Coast New Zealand road trip West Coast New Zealand road trip
West Coast New Zealand road trip Reefton West Coast New Zealand road trip
West Coast New Zealand road trip Westport West Coast New Zealand road trip

South-Islander Shane Solomon travels back in time when he visits the wild West Coast of the South Island. Check out his road trip.

The West Coast, South Island, is one of the more remote and most sparsely populated areas of the country, and includes the Buller, Grey, and Westland districts. The principal towns are Westport, Greymouth, and Hokitika. With such staggering beauty and rugged wilderness, the area has also been named one of the world’s top 10 places to visit in 2014 by Lonely Planet Guide.

Karamea to Westport

The road between Karamea and Westport crosses the Radiant Range, offering magnificent views over native forests out to sea. Along the road you will find many small towns.

Seddonville marks one end of the Old Ghost Road mountain biking track. The 80km multi-day walk or ride follows a long forgotten gold miners’ road and traverses native forest, alpine tops, and seven ghost towns to historic Lyell in the Buller Gorge.

Things to see and do

Karamea services: these include a general store, supermarket, and service station, along with accommodation options.

Nikau Walk or Scotts Beach Walk: both these walks highlight the natural bush and coastal features of Karamea.

The Heaphy Track: the perfect pick for families or those new to tramping. It starts or finishes at Kohaihai, 16km north of Karamea. From May to September the Heaphy is also open to mountain biking. Other trails are the Wangapeka and Karamea-Leslie Tracks.

Oparara Arch and Honeycomb Hill Caves: these can be viewed by guided walks or kayak tours.

Denniston Incline: dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World. At the top enjoy the fully-restored Brakehead, so-named for the huge water-fed brakes which slowed (sometimes unsuccessfully) the full coal wagons working on the Incline.

Denniston Museum: with so much rich heritage surrounding Denniston, this is a must.

Charming Creek Walkway: wander through a gorge and past numerous historic features. It is also open to mountain biking.

Kahurangi National Park: a natural wonderland with caving, bird watching, mountain biking, fishing and hunting, and kayaking and rafting opportunities.

Hector Pottery studio and Country Music Museum: situated in the lightly-populated settlement of Hector at the mouth of the Ngakawau River.

Cape Foulwind to Reefton

Westport is a coastal township located near the mouth of the Buller River. While keeping its small town feel, there is a large town centre with restaurants and cafés, services and accommodation. As the Coast’s oldest town, Westport has a fair few stories to tell. There are many historical places of interest in Westport, including historic buildings, railway, and quarry sites, and a lighthouse at Tauranga Bay.

Things to see and do

Carters Beach: a great family swimming spot, park, playground, nearby golf course, and shops.

Aquatic and sports facility: features pools and a gym – among other things.

Tauranga Bay and Nine Mile Beach: experienced surfers should check out these beachs. Lessons are available for beginners at Tauranga Bay in summer.

The Bay House: overlooking the Tasman surf is one of New Zealand’s most picturesque dining environments. Follow Tauranga Bay Road, Cape Foulwind.

Springs Junction: offers a rest stop and refuel opportunity before carrying on your way to either Reefton, the Buller Gorge, or Lewis Pass.

Maruia Springs: near the summit of Lewis Pass rest, relax, and rejuvenate at Maruia Springs near to St James Walkway and the steep but rewarding Lewis Tops track.

Prohibition Mine: at the ghost town of Waiuta, this was once the site of New Zealand’s deepest mineshaft and the richest gold deposit in the South Island (730,000 ounces or $1.4 billion NZD today).

Snowy Battery: an easy 30-minute walk from Waiuta explores gold mining debris and a longer walk takes you to the gold extraction plant, following historic pack tracks.

Bearded Miners: visit these guys in their 1870s replica miners’ hut. The boys can show you how to pan for gold or shape steel on the old blacksmith’s forge.

Reefton Skate Park: one of New Zealand’s best skate parks – well worth checking out if you are travelling with children.

Victoria Conservation Park offers great spots for trout fishing.

Go kayaking, rafting and mountain biking into the Big River area and Kirwans Track.

Inangahua Junction: famous for being nearly wiped out by earthquakes in 1928 and 1967. Check out the video and historic display at the local hall to get an idea of the amazing power of nature.

Westport to Greymouth

The Great Coast Road takes you alongside the ancient limestone cliffs of Paparoa National Park and is home to the world’s smallest penguin. Along the way, experience underground rafting at Charleston and caving at Fox River, and you won’t want to miss the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki.

Things to see and do

Charleston: the little town once boasted a gold mining population of 5000, and more pubs than permanent houses.

Underworld Adventures: eco-adventures include guided caving tours, from the tamer glowworm caves to full on adventure caving.

Tiropahi Tram: this mountain bike track is a great mixed-grade ride and the Tiropahi Walk visits an old bush tramway.

Rock climbing: routes are bolted to the cliff faces.

Mitchells Gully Gold Mine: a fully rebuilt stamping battery on the original site. Explore bush walks, old diggings, drop shafts, native orchids and fossils. Allow 30 – 40 minutes.

Truman Track: meander through native bush to the beach, taking in a close-up view of limestone rock formations.

Dolomite Point: enjoy the 20-minute loop track. This gives the best views of the 30-million-year-old limestone formations.

Blowholes: these are at their best at high tide – ask at the Paparoa National Park i-SITE Visitor Centre about tide times.

Pororari River Walk: this follows a spectacular limestone gorge or you can continue along a portion of the Inland Pack Track to do a three-hour loop back to Punakaiki.

Other outdoor activities: choose from family canoeing, surfing, gemstone hunting, and horse trekking.

Coal Creek Falls Walkway: at Runanga, this leads to a gorgeous fan waterfall with a great pool.

Fox River: north of Punakaiki, this is the start of a very interesting track to the Fox River Cave and the impressive Ballroom Overhang.

Greymouth to Arthur’s Pass

Lakes District takes in Lake Brunner and its township of Moana and Jacksons and leads onto Otira and Arthur’s Pass. Lake Brunner is the largest lake on the West Coast and a favourite playground for locals.

Things to see and do

Velenski Track gives great views of the lake and is one of the many interesting walks in the Lake Brunner area.

Tranz Alpine Train: this stops at Moana and passengers can disembark for a three-hour stopover while the train continues to Greymouth.

Bain Bay Track: to experience Lake Brunner’s history, walk to a historic lakeside logging camp or visit Moana Rail Precinct, the site of the old station master’s residence (now a café).

Lake Brunner and the village of Moana boast the West Coast’s largest lake and it is a popular holiday destination for locals in the know – it really is a trout fishing mecca.

West Coast Wilderness Trail: this is an easy, scenic, four-day cycle track traverses tracks carved by pioneering gold miners.

History House, Greymouth, houses some great photography and treasures from the region’s past.

Cobden Gun Emplacement: climb to this relic site for great views of the surrounds.

Town Heritage Walk: wander between significant buildings and other historic sites.

Floodwall: take a walk along the popular sport fishing area for bluefin tuna and whitebaiting during the season. The floodwall also marks the start or end point of the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

Point Elizabeth Walkway offers great coastal views, numerous mountain biking tracks, like Napolean Hill and Kumara Mud Plug, and activities like caving, river tubing, whitewater rafting, and cycle tours are available.

Croesus Track follows a historic miners’ pack track and is open to trampers and mountain bikers. Do the 45-minute walk to Garden Gully past an old miners’ hut; an eight-hour return walk to Croesus Knob; or make this a two-day walk and stay overnight in a DOC hut.

There are several historical places of interest in Blackball to visit, including an old mine site and the Blackball-Roa Railway Line.

See the Brunner Mine remains near Stillwater.

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