The wild west coast of New Zealand is a land of contrasts, comprising lush green rainforest, beautiful seas and pristine white glaciers. As well as abundant wildlife, this range of dramatic landscapes is home to several national parks showcasing the highest mountains, the longest caves and the lowest glaciers in the country. With its scenic trails and beautiful bays, Abel Tasman National Park, in the north of the South Island, is one of our favourite spots. This is the ultimate place to get outdoors and be adventurous.
Westport to Hokitika
You’ll discover a variety of iconic landscapes along this stretch of coastline. The Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki demonstrate the mighty power of the sea at high tide, whilst the lush rainforest from the sea to the hills offers a range of challenging hikes. Lake Brunner is a top swimming spot, and further down the coast, the small town of Hokitika has a long Maori history. It was originally the source of pounamu (jade), and these days has a thriving arts community. If you’re visiting in March, enjoy a unique ‘gourmet’ experience at the Wildfoods Festival: huhu (beetle larvae) grubs, anyone?
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Getting up close to the world’s most accessible temperate-zone glaciers is a incredible experience and a must on your holiday to New Zealand. How you encounter them is the toughest choice; view them from the walkway, hike up from the base with an expert guide, or go on a thrilling heli-hike to reach pristine ice to explore and beautiful views - or fly over both glaciers for even more panoramic views, to appreciate their size and beauty. Whichever you choose, keep your camera at-the-ready to capture the magnificent icy blue-white landscapes.
The villages of Fox and Franz Josef Glacier are a short distance apart and are perfect bases for exploring the region further – don’t miss Lake Matheson for a postcard perfect image of the snow-capped Mount Cook reflected in the lake.
Haast to Jackson Bay
The drive from Haast to Jackson Bay has been voted one of the top 10 drives in the world by Lonely Planet, thanks to its spectacular scenery. Haast itself is at the centre of an area bursting at the seams with outdoor adventures, from hiking to high-octane jetboating and flying over its spectacular landscapes.
Abel Tasman National Park
The stunning Abel Tasman National Park is a gem: renowned for its kayaking and hiking trails, you’re likely to encounter seals and dolphins along the coastline, and plenty of secluded bays for a picnic and a swim. Keen walkers can hike the length of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, or hop on a water taxi partway for a gentler stroll.
Further along the coast, you’ll reach Golden Bay, where you can take a 4WD trip to Farewell Spit, the world’s longest sandbar, which is home to several species of migratory birds, including gannets and penguins. You’ll also discover New Zealand’s largest freshwater springs south of Golden Bay - the source of some of the world’s purest water.