25 November 2017

Discovering the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island

The west coast of New Zealand's south island is home to landscapes that you find nowhere else on earth. From volcanoes to rain forests, stunning rocky valleys & narrow roads, the west coast offers breath-taking & over-worldly scenery that proves that it definitely about the journey, not the destination.
Kaiteriteri is located just outside the Abel Tasman National Park. It was our first stop after Picton, and it's a tiny stop-off point for those on their way to the park. It's neighbour town Nelson is a lot larger, however in Kaiteriteri there are more outdoor activities to choose from. I would recommend staying a night or two, so you can rather take a water taxi to the Abel Tasman park or even book a short kayaking tour to Split Apple Rock. For fellow backpackers on a budget, please note that you will have to spend money here. You can walk to Split Apple Rock, however everything else is pricey but definitely worth it. We booked a kayaking tour to Split Apple Rock which was one of the highlights of our trip. If you can take a water taxi to Abel Tasman, there are tons of hiking tracks available which are said to be magical. If you're staying in Kaiteriteri, there are lots of small beaches where you can sit back and enjoy the views. Would recommend staying 1-2 nights.

Lake Nelson is an hour or so drive from Nelson. The Nelson Lakes National Park was formed in 1956. It's the perfect place for a picnic, a beautiful view of the lake & surrounding mountains. If you're brave enough, you can jump into the lake & swim amongst the eels that are visible from the shore! It's a very peaceful, serene place that I would recommend stopping off at during your journey down the west coast.

Cape Foulwind is located 10km west of Westport and is home to one of the most beautiful walkways I have ever done. Overlooking the Tasman Sea, the Cape Foulwind Walkway is a scenic coastal escarpment which begins at the Cape Foulwind Road all the way to the Tauranga Bay. If you're lucky, you may see dolphins, orcas & killer whales in this area, and Tauranga Bay is home to a seal colony. It's a beautiful walk & definitely worth visiting, seeing the seals in their natural habitat was an incredible experience and the scenery is truly stunning.

The Pancake Rocks are located in Punakaiki, a small community located between Westport & Greymouth on the edge of the Paparoa National Park. The Pancake Rocks & blowholes are a short 20 minute loop walk and are one of the most spectacular & unforgiving landscapes I have ever seen: the blowholes resonate the power of nature, the sea waves clashing against the rocks, the strength of the water as it flows beneath the rocks is awe-inspiring. I did shoot a lot of video content that I will be sharing soon as it was an incredible sight.

Lake Mahinapua is located 10km south of Hokitika and near the small town of Ruatapu. Our bus tour had a mandatory overnight stop here at the Lake Mahinapua Hotel, a very party orientated accommodation. The hotel was a short walk away from both Lake Mahinapua, a small camping area, and the beach which offered stunning sunsets. We had the entire beach to ourselves, it was quite a magical experience running around with no one else there.

  • Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier is located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The Glacier is a 12km long temperate maritime glacier which descends from the Southern Alps. Along with the nearby Fox Glacier, it is surrounded by Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Park. The Franz Josef Glacier is currendly receeding, so I would recommend seeing it if you plan on visiting New Zealand's South Island. You can choose from several tours such as a Heli-Hike, part helicoper part hiking tour, or you can simply walk there for free from the Franz Josef town which takes one hour to reach the track and a further 2 hours to complete it. That way, you can see the Glacier for free and enjoy the incredible landscape surrounding it. There are also lots of hiking trails to choose from: from beginner to difficult, there is something for everyone! I loved walking through the rainforest & the track itself was an incredible experience, even in the rain. I would recommend staying in Franz Josef for a minimum 2 nights, but it was the one place I wish I had stayed a bit longer due to all the stunning walks nearby.

 Driving down the west coast is such an incredible experience where you can witness the diverse & awe-inspiring natural landscapes only New Zealand can offer. I would recommend doing a lot of research before hand: some roads are incredibly difficult to manoeuvre & it rains most of the time on this side of the island. With that being said, the landscapes are absolutely breathtaking and it's impossible to capture the sheer beauty of it on camera. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!


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