The breathtaking images of New Zealand that you view in a book, calendar or magazine are likely to be from the South Island's West Coast region.
The West Coast, around 400 miles long, plunges from the majestic Southern Alps through luxuriant rainforest to a breathtaking coast. It contains the largest area of protected land in New Zealand, having a special relationship with more than half of New Zealand's 14 national parks. It contains all of two (Westland and Paparoa), parts of three (Kahurangi, Arthur's Pass and Mt Aspiring) and has three more on its borders (Mt Cook, Nelson Lakes and Fiordland).
Other large tracts include the Victoria Conservation Park and the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, a place declared by UNESCO to stand alongside the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Mt Everest and other natural treasures around the world.
Packed in between the imposing peaks and wild Tasman Sea are awe-inspiring landscapes of limestone, granite and glacial ice, tranquil lakes and rushing rivers, subtropical and temperate rain forests, rare birds and plants and endless recreational opportunities. Only 35,000 people, known by New Zealanders as 'Coasters' - a term synonymous with friendliness and hospitality - live in this region.
The human history of the West Coast is particularly rich. First came the Maori seeking sacred pounamu (nephrite jade or greenstone). Gold fever in the 1860's brought Europeans and Chinese, many of whom stayed on to start farming, forestry, fishing - and tourism. Today you'll find museums and historic buildings, art and craft galleries, fine cuisine, a range of accommodation and knowledgeable local guides who add to a visitor's experience of natural and historic places.
Spring is a wonderful time to visit, with images of such beauty sharpened by the crisp clear air of this season. You'll find museums and historic buildings, fine food and cuisine, a range of accommodation and first-class local guides who add to your enjoyment of the West Coast's hundreds of natural, historic and adventure experiences you can enjoy in spring.
Summer is the perfect time of year to explore, hike and walk through some of the most spectacular parks and scenery in New Zealand. There are short or long guided or unguided hikes available through out the West Coast region for all levels of fitness.
Summertime on the West Coast expands the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities of caving into New Zealand's longest underground cave systems, canoeing and kayaking on pristine rivers, enjoy scenic flights in fixed winged aircraft or helicopter.
There are many rivers and streams for fishing from the early morning through to the summer evenings when twilight lingers longer. Professional guides available to share their local knowledge and fishing experience on many well known and not so well known rivers and streams. The wild coastline offers many beaches to walk, and lakes to explore with plenty of places to swim. Finish your day by dining alfresco at a café while enjoying a view of the sun setting in the west.
Being the busier season booking accommodation is a must. If you do not book you may be disappointed.
Wildlife in its natural state.
Nature lovers will discover that fascinating wildlife is accessible in abundance on the West Coast of the Southern Alps, with opportunities to view fur seal colonies, kiwi, the white heron or Kotuku, penguins (February - April), dolphins and many other fauna in their natural habitats.
The region is home to the great diversity of "mountains to the sea" type eco-systems: unique alpine flora, vast temperate coastal forests, palms, varied wetlands and more. As autumn approaches the wetland areas change from brilliant lush greens to autumn golds and browns. It is at this time you realise the diversity of wetland areas and the essential role they play in the balance of many eco-systems. Many parts of the region serve as time capsules to reveal what New Zealand looked like before humans arrived.
Enjoy the West Coast's long autumn evenings, clear air and extended twilight. Many visitors enjoy evening walks along unspoiled beaches and rivers.
Experience the world famous Wildfoods Festival held in Hokitika during March, the Buller Marathon in Westport, the Speights Coast to Coast Multisport Event from Greymouth to Christchurch and the Go for Gold Surf Competitions in Greymouth to mention a few.
Autumn is a great time to visit the West Coast. The weather is mostly settled and temperatures remain warm and moderate. With the peak tourism season over autumn means visitors can enjoy the region in a more relaxed fashion as tourism operators have more time to spend with you and accommodation is more readily available.
If you think the snow falls on the ground in winter on the West Coast you are wrong. Winters on the West Coast are predominantly settled and fine. Although the temperature is cooler during the winter months, the days are usually warm, clear and sunny. The air is crystal clear and further inland from the coast frosts and morning fog greet warm sunny days.
The temperate climate of the West Coast means that winter is cooler but never extreme. Temperatures in all seasons remain moderate.
Take the Tranz Alpine through the Southern Alps to Greymouth. This is a great trip and an ideal way to get the best of both worlds, from snowy mountain passes through to temperate rainforests on the West Coast. Travelling to the West Coast in winter provides the opportunity for a more leisurely, less crowded visit, with more time to spend with the locals and finding those off the beaten track places and experiences.
One and a half hours to the ski fields of Arthurs Pass, Porters Heights and Broken River, close to rivers and beaches, and a huge variety of experiences and accommodation, renowned for its hospitality and a warm open fire, the West Coast is an ideal location for the visitor to base themselves for a winter holiday.
Book Your Trip Today... Here's How
Learn about the different regions of New Zealand from the options above, then to check for airfares, contact the Air New Zealand Reservations team 1-800-247-KIWI(5494) book online, or call your local travel agent.