As the name of this region indicates, The West Coast Region is located on the west coast of the South Island. The West Coast region stretches over 600km from Kahurangi Point in the north to the Awarua Point in the far south. This very scenic, lush, wild and untamed region hosts many attractions: Franz Josef Glacier, Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and the Heaphy Track to mention but a few. With 23,000 km² of land and 30,000 inhabitants, the West Coast is one of the more remote and most sparsely populated areas of the country. The main towns of the West Coast are Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika.
To the east of the West Coast are the Southern Alps and to the west the Tasman Sea. The West Coast is very scenic, with wild, untamed coastlines, spectacular mountains, and a lot of native bush. The region has a very high rainfall due to the prevailing north-westerly wind pattern, attracted by the Southern Alps.
Popular tourist scenic areas include the Haast Pass, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and the Heaphy Track in The Kahurangi National Park. The West Coast is home to five of New Zealand's fourteen National Parks, Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur’s Pass, Westland, Mt Aspiring National Park along with the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. State Highway 6, is the only north south through road. It follows the coastline and passes through three national parks, offering abundant scenic opportunities.
The Maori have been visiting the West Coast for nearly 700 years to gather greenstone (pounamu) for carving. In this region a major goldrush took place between 1864 and 1868. Many of the settlements date back to this era. Another mineral to make the West Coast valuable was coal, which was discovered near the Buller River in the 1840s. Coal mining is still going strong today with most of the coal being exported directly to China. Timber is a major industry in the region, although the region has some of the best remaining stands of native forest in the country along with a wealth of rare wildlife. Ecotourism is now one of the major industries in the region.
There are beach and forest walks to suit all ages and abilities, caving, rafting, canoeing & kayaking, surfing, jet boating, jet skiing, glacier walks, scenic flights, mountain biking, horse treks, fishing, gold panning, to name but a few activities.
The West Coast has a wide range of accommodation to suit everyone. Hotels, apartments, bed and breakfast, cottages, lodges, you name it. The people of the West Coast, or "Coasters" as they are known, are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. They are more then willing to see that everybody who visits this amazing region to experience an unforgettable West Coast journey.
We think it only fair to warn you of the West Coast sand flies. As far as sand flies go they are quite large and aggressive. Most insect repellents keep them away so don’t forget to take plenty with you when travelling the West Coast.
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