West Coast - South Island

West Coast - South Island

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  • The 'rugged' West Coast has a population of 31,000 people, and is known for rivers and rainforests; glaciers and geological treasures. Legends and stories from the past cling to every feature of the regions landscape.

    Maori were first to discover the West Coast, seeking sacred pounamu (nephrite jade or greenstone). Gold fever in the 1860s brought Europeans to the area, many of whom stayed on to start farming, forestry and businesses.

    The locals are known as 'coasters' and are renowned for their hospitailty and friendliness. The famous West Coast whitebait season brings visitors to the area, and whitebait dishes appear on many a menu in local restaurants, pubs and cafes.

    The West Coast area is full of natural wonders which include the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and the ancient glaciers of the southern alps at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. The Tranz Alpine train runs a daily return service from Christchurch through the Arthurs Pass to Greymouth. This scenic train journey takes in a wide range of amazing scenery. The train trip offers the option to return by train, daily shuttle or by rental car which enables travellers to stop and take in the beautiful surroundings.

    With just 32 permanent residents, Okarito is located 27 km NW of Franz Josef in a unique and diverse environment.  Okarito is on a sandspit - bordered to the east by the Tasman Sea, north by the Okarito Lagoon (over 3200 hectares of unmodified wetlands - feeding grounds for the great white heron, spoonbills and many more birds, and native forest - home to the Rowi - Okarito Kiwi), to the west and south by the Okarito National Forest - predominantly rimu and 3 incredible DoC walkways - the Okarito Wetland Walkway, Okarito Trig, and 3 Mile Lagoon Track. 

    Visitors activities in this region include bird watching tours, Haast River jet boat safaris, white water rafting, guided glacier walks, helicopter and scenic flights to view Mt Cook and the glaciers, 4 wheel quad bike adventures, and visiting many of the historic goldmining sites. The sweeping roads and scenery make this region a popular touring route for fly/drive travellers, campervans and motorcyclists.

    Accommodation on the West Coast varies, including authentic Kiwi baches (holiday homes), historic hotels, self contained motels, camping, cabins and bed & breakfast lodges.

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