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15 Incredible things to do in the West Coast: New Zealand’s hidden oasis!

a stunning photo of punakaiki one of the best things to do in the west coast!

The South Island is full of stunning destinations to explore and the West Coast is like no other place you will find! With incredible natural landscapes and heaps of beautiful places to visit there are almost endless things to do in the West Coast NZ. You simply won’t have time to do everything! 

Let me help you discover some awesome things to do so you can plan the best trip possible!

Tip: If you are new to searching the West Coast region check out my article with everything you need to know about the West Coast South Island. (It’s like your one-stop shop for all the West Coast info including the best way to get there!)


Incredible things to do in the West Coast! (In no particular order…)

Photo credit Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

The Old Ghost Road 

The Old Ghost Road is an incredible biking and tramping track in the heart of the West Coast region. The track starts in Lyell which is 4 hours from Christchurch through the Lewis Pass and finishes in Seddonvile – 40 minutes from Westport. 

It’s a big shuttle to drive yourself, so it can be a good idea to look into companies that can do this for you. Check out HikenBike Shuttle and Relocation services for more information. 

a photo biking the old ghost road one of the best things to do in the west coast!

The trip can be done in varying lengths depending on your fitness level and love of enjoying the diverse scenery.

Biking three days is a doable task but requires good bike fitness and a head-down bum up kind of attitude. Whereas four days allows you to take it all in and have time to enjoy the mornings or evenings at the huts and is more forgiving on the fitness front. You could expect to ride around six hours each day if you’re allowing four days. 

As a mountain bike trail its graded a level 4 track which is advance, so previous biking experience is necessary. Even the best riders will need to walk their bikes in parts. As a tramper, you can take as long or as short as you would like on this track with a total of six huts. 

The Old Ghost Road huts must be booked in advance but come with some luxuries. Including everything, you need for cooking such as gas burners, pots, plates, cups and spoons. The huts also have sleep outs which can also be booked allowing you to use the hut facilities but enjoying your own space. 

The toilets are also something to note, as they are composting. They feel like a luxury that you wouldn’t normally expect on a multi-day adventure. 

The Old Ghost Road is the best multi-day trip I have done. The stunning terrain, amazing riding and majority of other kiwis and their families on the track add to the good vibes. 

Photo credit: William Hook on Unsplash

Top tips if you’re a biker:

Research bike packing idea’s and avoid using panniers to make the most of your dropper post. Break the biggest hill up on day one by staying at Lyell saddle hut, book huts well in advance even six months prior. At the end of the trail satisfy your cravings with the most amazing pizza’s at the well placed Rough and Tumble pub, but first, freshen up by going for a dip in the Mokihinui River.

To learn more about exploring Old Ghost Road check out the Department of Conservation website here.

Biked by Zoe Findlay.

Lake Matheson 

Lake Matheson is one of the best things to do in the West Coast tucked away six minutes behind the township of Fox Glacier. There is clear sign postage from the main street in the township, but if you’re unsure turn right at the white pub onto cook flat road and keep going straight until you see the carpark. 

The lake is remnants from when Fox Glacier last advanced which extended all the way out to the coast. Now there sits the lake which provides stunning reflections of Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. As you’re driving into the carpark be sure to look back towards the mountains as on a clear day you can see fox glacier. 

The Lake Matheson walk is a 2.5km loop track taking most people 1hour 30minutes at a leisurely pace. It’s a really well maintained and formed track that is suitable for sneakers but be sure to take a rain jacket even on a clear day! Grab my hiking checklist below for everything you need! 

At the end of your walk you might be hungry! The café at the carpark has amazing wedges and nachos and if you’re looking for something to fill the rest of the day in, keep heading down cook flat road and follow the signs to Gillespie beach for a classic West Coast beach experience. 

Travelled by Zoe Findlay.

A stunning photo of Lake Matheson which is probably one of the most popular destinations and things to do in the west coast
Photo credit: SeeTheSouthIsland.com

Cape Foulwind – Tauranga bay walk

The Cape Foulwind walk is a 13-minute drive out of the stunning town, Westport. It’s best to do this walk there and back. From the carpark the track follows the beautiful coast line all the way to Tauranga bay which is 3.4km one way. Along the walk, there are multiple seal colonies that you can see from the tracks viewing points. 

Once at the beach on the far side there’s some big boulders that make for good exploring with rock pools at low tide. The beach has a couple of strong rips so its important to be cautious if swimming. 

Hiking to Cape Foulwind is an incredible experience however like the name suggests it can be horribly windy so a windbreaker or rain jacket is a really good idea to make the walk comfortable. 

Hiked by Zoe Findlay.

Cape foulwind is one of the best things to do in the west coast and this is a stunning photo taken along the journey
Photo credit: SeeTheSouthIsland.com

Heaphy Track 

The Heaphy track is one of the most stunning hikes in the South Island and is one of New Zealand’s great walks, located in the Kahurangi National Park. The hike starts in Kohaihai or Takaka (in the Tasman region) and can be walked in either direction. 

If you are keen to explore the stunning wild West Coast beaches and native bush from a hiking perspective then the walk through to Heaphy Hut is an awesome choice. Many people hike as far as Scotts Beach for a short day walk which is a beautiful sandy cove enveloped by steep cliffs and surrounded by dense rainforest and majestic nikau palms. 

The entire Heaphy track is 78.4 km and takes between 3-5 days to complete. However, you do not have to go this far to enjoy the Heaphy track and awesome West Coast bush.


Learn more about hiking the Heaphy Track NZ here!


The West Coast Wilderness trail

The Wilderness trail is the ultimate New Zealand cycle trail. The track is 139 km in length and starts in Greymouth and finishes in the small town of Ross. it moves through some of the best West Coast scenery, historical sites and flora and fauna as well as through West Coast towns. Perhaps one of the best things to do in Greymouth New Zealand.

Most of the trail is grade 2 which is an easy ride. 

The entire trail can be completed in 4 days however it is possible to cycle a section as far as you would like. 

If you would like to hire a bike to do some or all the West Coast Wilderness trail check out Cycle Journeys here for more details!

For a day bike hire or for a short hire (as well as longer) check out Coast Sports and Cycles here for more details. 

Photo credit: Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Treetop walk Hokitika

The tree top walk is a popular Hokitika attraction and definitely worth checking out. It is a unique West Coast walk along tree tops in the wild West Coast forest. Enjoy stunning views of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea as well as native birdlife.

The walk is on a steel passageway and is completely safe and child friendly. Walk up to the tower for even better views.

The walk takes 45 minutes and it is best to wear sturdy footwear.

The cost: $28 for a single adult

Check out the website here for more details.

Photo credit: Jai Hill on Unsplash

Hokitika Gorge 

One of the best things to do in Hokitika is visiting The Hokitika Gorge. It is one of my favourite places on the West Coast and is possibly the best spot for a photo. 

You may have seen the iconic photos before and they are really a true representation of the colour of the water! It is an absolutely stunning turquoise milky blue. 

If you fancy a dip you will be shocked by the cold temperature however people do give it ago! 

As well as the stunning photos of the water you can enjoy one of the most stunning Hokitika walks through a swing bridge and enjoy a visit from some native birds such as robin, tomtits and fantails to name a few. A real photogenic spot and one of the best things to do in the West Coast. 

Photo credit: Katie McBroom on Unsplash

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

Pancake rocks are another well known spot to visit along the West Coast and one of the best things to do in Punakaiki. Located in the Paparoa National Park about 40 minutes drive north of Greymouth. 

This is one of the most popular West Coast walks through limestone rock structures which takes around 30 minutes. It is an enjoyable walk as you get to view the rocks from different angles and read about the history of the area.

The most important thing to note about the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks walk is to go at high tide to see the blow holes in action! 

To get to the rocks keep your eyes peeled for Dolomite point in Punakaiki- that is where the walk starts. It is really close to the small Punakaiki settlement.

As for parking, you will see a car park right next to the Pancake Rocks Cafe. Alternatively, you can park just off the highway down from the toilets.

Just tap this one into google maps and you should arrive easily as it is literally on the main highway!

And perhaps the best thing is the walk is free. And you can get pancakes at the café across the road!

Pancake rocks, Punakaiki New Zealand 

Tranz Alpine 

The most scenic way to get to the West Coast! The Tranz Alpine is a scenic railway journey that travels the length of Greymouth – Christchurch in both directions. 

The train trip covers 223 kilometres (139 miles) one-way and takes just under 5 hours. It is possible to do a return trip in 1 day!

The train journey travels through some of the most stunning parts of the South Island and gives you a great close up of the Southern Alps. The train journey is more photogenic in winter with snow on the alps. 

Okay so if you are looking for what to do in Greymouth this isn’t really an activity in Greymouth but it starts and finishes there. 

Photo credit: Megan H on Unsplash

Shantytown Heritage Park 

Fancy gold panning? 

One of the most popular Greymouth attractions. Shantytown is a recreated gold rush town and is only 10km south of Greymouth.

Your entry fee includes Steam train rides, entrance to the town, sluice gun demonstrations (how they used to get gold out of rocks) and a holographic theatre show.

There are other things to do such as visit China town (a way to see how the large amounts of Chinese gold panners who came to NZ lived), several short rainforest walks, a sawmill, plus you can explore the village and eat at the café if you like.

Cost

One of the most popular things to do greymouth comes with a price. The Entry is $33.50 for adults, and $26.50 for students. Prices differ for seniors and children as well.

Gold panning is an extra $7 per pan

Probably the most touristy thing to do in the West Coast. 

Photo credit: Matt Seymour on Unsplash. (This gold panning is in central Otago please let me know if you have a photo of Shantytown)

Buller Gorge Swing Bridge 

The Buller Gorge is a ridiculously picturesque river valley formed by the Buller river and place you don’t want to miss while travelling to or from Greymouth.

Just past Murchison on State Highway 6 is the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. This is NZ’s highest swing bridge. It is suspended 19 meters above the Buller river and is 110 Meters long. A perfect place to stretch your comfort zone if you’re afraid of heights!

Once you cross the bridge there is a loop walk that takes about ten minutes or feel free to explore other paths and see where the water rose to in past floods.

Cost

$10 for an adult and $5 for a child for the bridge. The drive through the gorge is free!

a photo of buller gorge swing bridge one of the more underated things to do in the west coast new zealand

Franz Josef Glacier

The Franz Josef glacier is a stunning place to visit in the West Coast and is a popular attraction. 

The Franz Josef Glacier is an incredible experience and not too far from Hokitika. You don’t have to pay to see the glacier but unfortunately, due to a dramatic retreat that has occurred in the past few years, you can’t access the actual glacier by foot.

If you want to have the best experience and splash some cash, this area of the South Island is a great place to do it! You can book in a scenic helicopter or plane flight tour that takes you over the glacier, a heli-hike or heli-ice ice climb, or just book yourself in a tour that takes you up to the viewing point.

Cost:

Free if you just do a self-guided walk. If you want to experience the Heli-hike which includes a Helicopter transfer and a hike on the glacier you are looking at around $479 per adult.

Scenic flights are from $280 per adult. If you need more info on pricing just check out the Franz Josef Glacier website by clicking here. 

west-coast-road-trip 5
Photo credit: Vincent Burkhead on Unsplash

Drive Haast Pass 

The Haast pass is classed as one of the most beautiful alpine drives in New Zealand. 

There is a heap of walks to do off the Haast pass possibly the most popular is Blue Pools. I highly recommend doing the drive from Greymouth, through Hokitika, visiting the Glaciers and driving all the way through to Queenstown via the Haast pass.

In my opinion, the Haast pass is the most scenic drives in the country and one of the best things to do in the West Coast. A non-stop drive takes around 4 hours. 

a stunning photo of Haast Pass
Photo credit: SeeTheSouthIsland.com

Dorothy Falls 

A pretty beautiful spot for a photo during your West Coast road trip. The multi-step waterfall might just take your breath away. Especially if you fancy a dip!

An awesome place to enjoy the natural beauty of the West Coast bush and enjoy a picnic at Lake Kaniere just opposite the falls. 

dorothy falls is one of my favourite things to do in the west coast and is such a beautiful waterfall this photo captures me sitting in front of the fall

Hokitika Beach 

A trip to the iconic beach is definitely on the list even if it’s only for a photo of the Hokitika sign made of driftwood! It is an awesome spot to enjoy a nice stroll and take in the rough ocean. 

Some of the best sunsets can be seen here!

The Hokitika Beach is definitely a great place to go for an evening stroll, some exercise or a gentle walk after a wine or two from the bars nearby.

Hokitika beach is one of the best things to do in the west coast and this is a photo of the iconic drift wood sign

Accommodation in the West Coast 

There are many stunning accommodation options throughout the West Coast. I enjoy Airbnb or camping grounds.

Greymouth Accommodation

One of my favourites is the  Kiwi Holiday Park. They have powered and unpowered sites for campervans/vans but if you are not the camping type then that is also fine as they have fully self- contained cabins!

Another great place to stay if you want a homier vibe is Janine’s Karoro apartment on Airbnb. Karoro is about 4km out of Greymouth’s town centre but a perfect location for a home away from home.

Everything you could possibly need is in Janine’s Airbnb including milk and toast! She has thought of everything for a traveller missing home comfort. Sign up to Airbnb here to grab $69NZD off your first trip!

Janine’s Airbnb in Greymouth

Below are a few different options for you.

The best Luxury accommodation option in Greymouth.

One of the best Hotels in Greymouth.

One of the best Motels in Greymouth.

One of the best Hostels in Greymouth.

Westport Accommodation

If you are basing yourself in Westport, then Westport Kiwi holiday park and Motel is another great option! However, that is the only place I have stayed in whenever I have been to Westport so if you have Westport accommodation suggestions leave a comment with it below!  

Below are a few different options for you.

The best Luxury accommodation option in Westport.

One of the best Hotels in Westport.

One of the best Motels in Westport.

One of the best Hostels in Westport.

Hokitika Accommodation

The best Luxury accommodation option in Hokitika.

One of the best Hotels in Hokitika.

One of the best Motels in Hokitika.

The most popular Holiday Park in Hokitika.

One of the best Hostels in Hokitika.

For more information on places to stay in the West Coast check out booking.com or Airbnb.

Photo credit: Zac Harris on Unsplash

There are so many incredible things to do and see in the West Coast of NZ isn’t it time you planned a visit? 

I know you are going to love exploring the wild West Coast region of New Zealand’s South Island and the question isn’t whether you will visit but when! 

Save this article on the best things to do in the West Coast for later on Pinterest to help plan your trip!

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