We absolutely LOVED the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We’ve both wanted to experience this remote and beautiful area of Aotearoa for a long time. The likelihood is we won’t get back anytime, but who knows?
It wasn’t all wonder-full. Some aspects were questionable for us. However, that just made it more of an interesting experience. Please don’t be put off in the least. This is an outstanding area of the world.
We didn’t do any cycling, nor walks longer than a few hours. We didn’t ‘do’ things like the Operara Arches (can’t take a campervan). On a fairly tight timetable, we had to be a little selective. Plus, of course, our budget is quite constrained. So helicopter or guided hikes up the glaciers wasn’t a possibility for us.
But most ‘tourists’ who venture to New Zealand think they can do the whole of the South Island in a couple of weeks. Blimey. In over three weeks, we believe we merely scratched the surface of the wonders of the West Coast, never mind the rest of the South Island. I guess if your time is that limited, you’ll have to be incredibly selective.
- Driftwood covered beaches
- Wild waves and stormy seas
- Rivers in abundance
- Plentiful short walks
- Native bush
- Sparsely populated
- Straight-talking people
- Coal mining history
- Gold panning history
- Native birds – we especially loved the cheeky wekas!
- Stunning sunsets (we’re more used to sunrises from the East Coast of the North Island)
I think this part should really be called ‘Why on earth?‘! It’s not nearly as long as the wonders. Just our reflections:
- Lookouts with foliage planted, that has grown so high you can’t actually ‘look’ – ‘out’ at anything!
- Sandflies – prolific, voracious and rather annoying.
- A disproportionate percentage of straight-talking people. Frequently appearing (to us) to be rather grumpy; appearing rude and unfriendly. Could it be the remoteness? We know it’s something ‘Southern Man‘ has gained a reputation for (there are numerous ‘Speights’ Ads geared around the subject). Unfortunately, it wasn’t just men!
- A tendency of ‘talking up’ some sights. We saw numerous old, worn-out, almost unreadable signs. That’s when there were any, despite advertising that there were.
- An excess of ‘danger’ signs in some places.
- Poor, outdated information on current accessibility (out of date literature sourced from Information Centres). Probably our biggest bug-bear. Primarily for Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Places we’d always wanted to experience. Reading the 2021 ‘AA Traveller’ booklets, they each stated the glaciers were accessible (quote “A 1.5-hour walk from Franz Josef car park will take you to within 750m of the glacier“; “one of the most accessible glaciers in the world“) when they quite obviously hadn’t been for quite some time. Had we known this beforehand, we may have found funds for a guided walk as a ‘0nce-in-a-lifetime’ experience. We do realise nature and dangers can change. But this wasn’t a sudden change as far as we could ascertain. It needs to be promoted that you can NOT get to either glacier anymore without paying $100s …
A Historic Stunning Paradise
Overall we wished we’d had longer to linger in this remote, historic paradise.
Thank you West Coast. It was an absolute privilege to experience your wonders and whys. I’d love to say “we’ll be back”, but sadly that’s highly unlikely.