The West Coast is a popular region of New Zealand’s South Island which is comprised of the districts of Buller, Grey and Westland. The last frontier to be developed by New Zealand colonists, the region has retained much of its frontier atmosphere. Nature at its most pure and natural, just metres from the roadside visitors can experience some of the same wilderness that first explorers may have encountered.
Located approximately 4 hours’ drive from Christchurch, getting to the West Coast is easy thanks to its central location and the number of main highway routes that transverse the landscape of New Zealand’s South Island. The international gateway to the South Island, both Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia offer direct flights daily to Christchurch departing Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney taking between 3 to 10 hours.
If you’re wondering how to get to the West Coast from Christchurch, there are actually two options. The first route is recommended for caravans and trailers and takes State Highway 7 before continuing along State Highway 1 in North Canterbury. Travelling past Hanmer Springs, this route travels over Lewis Pass and on to Reefton before reaching Greymouth and joining State Highway 6.
Alternatively, a more direct route is along State Highway 73 travelling through Mid Canterbury and Springfield before climbing Porters Pass and Arthurs Pass. You then make the descent down Taramakau River and joining State Highway 6 midway between Hoktika and Greymouth at Kumara Junction. Due to the sharp corners and steep grades of this route it’s not recommended for heavy vehicles or cars towing trailers or caravans.
If you’re travelling from Blenheim in the north, take Stage Highway 6 heading via Nelson over Hope Saddle to Murchison. You can also choose to take State Highway 63 travelling via St Arnaud and the Nelson Lakes National Park for a more scenic route. Eventually, State Highway 63 meets up with State Highway 6, approximately 40km north of Murchison at Howard Junction. Getting to the West Coast from Wanaka in the south is even easier, just take State Highway 6 all the way over Hasst Pass and through Hasst to Fox Glacier.
If train journeys are your thing then the Trans-Alpine Express will stop you from having to worry about how to get to the West Coast. Just jump on the train from Christchurch and enjoy the trip to Greymouth on one of the world’s best rail journeys. Operating a daily return trip, the Trans-Alpine Express passes through many tunnels including the 8km Otira Tunnel, one of the world’s steepest graded two rail traction tunnel with a grade of 1:33. An attraction in its own right, the tunnel is also the Southern Hemisphere’s third longest railway tunnel.