Located on the South Island of New Zealand, the West Coast was the last frontier to be colonised and has managed to retain much of its frontier atmosphere. A popular region encompassing Greymouth as well as the famous Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, the West Coast offers nature at its most pure and features the kind of wilderness the first explorers may have encountered just metres from the roadside.
Things to do on the West Coast revolve around Greymouth and the Grey River as well as the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Experiences include glacier walks, kayaking, rafting, caving, jet boating, dolphin-watching, scenic flights and 4WD bikes in Greymouth as well as the beautiful views and trout fishing of Lake Brunner. There’s also the Jade Boulder Gallery, where you can see different types of jade or greenstone (pounamu) in their natural state as well as watching the carvers at work. Shantytown is another popular Greymouth attraction featuring 30 historic buildings and historical train rides in a replica pioneering town complete with functional gold claim where you can actually pan for gold.
On the West Coast, the ice age is still well and truly underway with huge ice valleys that extend far below the snow line and almost into the sea, creating an incredible patchwork of ice. Despite the world’s glaciers retreating, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers continue to flow, almost to sea level. Some of the most conveniently accessible glaciers in the world, these incredible attractions offer guided tours with the option to ride or even heli-hike to the very top.
Passing along ancient river valleys, it’s an easy walk to the foot of the glaciers with steep sides that bear huge scars marking where they have advanced and retreated over millennia. The sheer enormity of the glaciers is incredibly humbling and their beauty indescribable. Nearby, other things to do include St James Church, who’s alter window perfectly frames the beauty of the Franz Josef Valley. Near Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson offers a perfectly reflected view of the mountains, making for a spectacular photo opportunity.