Go West!

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The South Island’s west coast has long been popular with international visitors and the area has really suffered over the past two years. Fortunately those that remained living in the area were employed on many conservation renewal projects which has made the region more than ready to welcome tourists back this summer. Here’s some picks of the best things to do.

 

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The West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail
Stretching from Greymouth in the north to Ross in the south, some 120kms in total. You can do as little or as much of the trail as you wish, with sections easily managed over a period of time or all at once.

 

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The Glaciers
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are tucked into the forested foothills of the Southern Alps and both small townships are geared up for glacier hikes, flights and scenic walks in the area. The most accessible rivers of ice in the world, plunging down through rainforest almost to sea level.

 

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The West Coast Tree Tops Walk and Café
The walk is a steel structure approximately 20 metres high and over 450 metres long with a tower at 47 metres up. After the dizzy heights of the tower the next challenge is conquering the Mahinapua Springboard. A huge cantilevered bridge is suspended in mid-air – it stretches over the canopy of tree tops and leaves you gently swaying out towards Lake Mahinapua. There is a rather impressive looking cafe and gift shop on site.

 

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Tatare Tunnels Walk
Easily reached from Franz township the Tatare Tunnels Walk follows an old 4WD road before diverting off to the old water tunnels. If you want to walk the tunnel, best take sandals or gumboots as there is a constant flow of water running through (no more than ankle-deep) AND a flashlight is essential. It was a 6.5km return from basecamp but the tunnel itself is 450m.

 

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Lake Matheson & more
When travelling to or through Fox Glacier township, one of the most popular stops is the incredibly reflective Lake Matheson which is a one hour loop track walk. In addition to this is now a detour off the loop track to Lake Gault. You may have not heard of it before? It could be because the track was only re-opened in 2019 after a 20-year closure. This is thanks to the efforts of local volunteers. It was then upgraded in 2020 as part of a package to sustain tourism in the area. Adding an extra 6km return to the Lake Matheson loop trail will take you to the lesser-known Lake Gault. The most amazing, reflective, deep blue lake, all to ourselves.

 

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West Coast Wildlife Centre
This is a great wet weather activity as it is all indoors. They do some amazing work with the endangered Rowi Kiwi and Tuatara. We wandered through the darkened enclosure and watched fascinated as two Rowi foraged for food, a little more than an arm’s length from us. There’s also a cafe with great coffee to round off the visit nicely.

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