West Coast, New ZealandWest Coast Regional Information

West Coast | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

The West Coast has the power to touch your soul with its landscape of brooding mountains, icy glaciers, primal forest and surreal coastal formations.

West Coast Overview

West Coast, New Zealand
West Coast, New Zealand

In New Zealand, the 'West Coast' generally refers to the narrow strip of land between the South Island's Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. It is the longest region in New Zealand.

With a population of only 31,000 people, the West Coast retains the feeling of a pioneer frontier. It's a wild place known for rivers and rainforests; glaciers and geological treasures. Legends and stories from the past cling to every feature of the landscape.

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

The locals are known as 'coasters', a term synonymous with friendliness and hospitality. Isolated from the rest of New Zealand by the Southern Alps, coasters have developed a distinctive culture of their own. Their pioneering values of self-reliance and loyalty are as strong today as they were 100 years ago.

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West Coast Highlights

The West Coast is memorable for its mountain peaks, massive glaciers, bizarre limestone landscapes, mysterious lakes and raging rivers, lush rainforest and a magnificent, wild coastline. It's also memorable for its people—interesting, humorous, outdoorsy types who can tell you an interesting story or two if you have time to listen.

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Ice walking on the Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand
Ice Walking Fox Glacier
West Coast
Photographer: Legend Photography

It is highly likely that glorious image of New Zealand you see in a book, calendar, magazine or poster is from the South Island's West Coast. It contains the largest area of protected land of any region in New Zealand and provides access to five of New Zealand's 13 national parks. The southern West Coast area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its uniqueness and recognition as a 'special place' in the world.

To this amazing natural landscape you can add good accommodation, fine foods, festivals and first class local guides. You can raft an underground cave, hike over a glacier, kayak a stunning lake, pan for gold and taste the traditional West Coast delicacy, whitebait. The local brew's fine too.

In the townships of Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika, you can learn about the West Coast's colourful past and shop for pounamu (greenstone or jade)—the local treasure that's only significant source within New Zealand is from the West Coast's raging mountain rivers. The Coast is one area of New Zealand you must never miss.

Main Centres in the West Coast

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Aerial view of Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand
Aerial View Fox Glacier
West Coast
Photographer: Gareth Eyres
  • Westport - the main town in Northern West Coast with nearby fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind
  • Greymouth - the major town on the West Coast and the terminus for the TranzAlpine rail journey from Christchurch
  • Hokitika - the other main centre in this area, the hub of the early gold rush
  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier - base camp for trips onto the glaciers
  • Haast - offers a range of local sights to break the journey when travelling from Queenstown or Wanaka

Useful West Coast Links

To help plan your West Coast holiday choose from the main categories below:

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West Coast Region Information

West Coast Tourism Operators


Mainstay New Zealand Hotels Rent a Dent Motel Association of New Zealand Choice Hotels Ski New Zealand
Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry


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