The best of the west coast of New Zealand
New Zealand is one of those destinations where you can never have enough time. With two islands boasting everything from glaciers and mountain ranges to fjords, beaches and crystal clear lakes, there’s a lot to fit in! If you’re designing a personalised New Zealand holiday itinerary, a voyage along the west coast is a great place to start. Here are some must-sees to include in your plans.
Your sample west coast itinerary
The best way to get around New Zealand is by car. Once you’ve picked up the keys, you’re good to go and you won’t believe what the next few days have in store for you!
Day 1: Westport to Punakaiki: start your journey in the mining town in Westport, heading south through the beautiful wilderness of the Paparoa National Park. At Punakaiki, you’ll find the iconic Pancake Rocks, which were formed 30 million years ago, and a series of gorges and blowholes. Get an early night ready to test your mettle in the morning.
Day 2: Franz Josef Glacier: no amount of pictures can prepare you for your first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier, a domineering ice structure, which overpowers the landscape for miles around. If you’re an intrepid adventurer keen to tick off some once in a lifetime experiences on your travels, book a glacier walk. You can choose from a half day or full day tour and you’ll be provided with warm clothing, boots and crampons. Just south of Franz Josef Glacier, you’ll find Fox Glacier, which offers similar tours.
Day 3: Wanaka: on your journey south, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of mountain ranges as you navigate the Haast Pass in Mount Aspiring National Park to reach your destination, Wanaka. Wanaka is a charming town, which is an incredibly popular stop-off on the tourist track thanks to its beautiful, tranquil lake. Lake Wanaka resembles something from a film set, and it’s an idyllic spot to watch the sunrise or enjoy the peace and quiet at dusk.
Day 4: Queenstown: heading inland slightly, it’s time to embrace your inner thrill-seeker and try your hand at adventure sports in Queenstown, a spot powered by adrenaline. You can do everything from skydiving to white water rafting here and there’s a really lively backpacker scene if you fancy a drink or you’re keen to compare notes after a day on the slopes, the rapids or the rock face.
Day 5: Milford Sound: if you have time to prolong your trip and venture further south, it’s well worth visiting one of New Zealand’s most treasured gems, Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Try and aim for a clear day to enjoy the best views of this truly awe-inspiring natural wonder.