From Westport and Karamea in the north to Glacier Country and Haast in the south, the West Coast is 600 kilometres of nature’s finest landscapes and formations. The perfect playground.
With a bit of enterprise and a thirst for adventure, West Coasters have created unique adventure activities unlike anything else you'll find on the planet.
The lakes, rivers and rugged coastline provide a playground for water lovers looking for jet boating, kayaking, or white water rafting. Explore the striking glaciers and snowy alpine peaks with glacier hiking, blackwater rafting and caving. Head inland to the bush and rainforest for hiking, quad biking, mountain biking, horse riding and much more.
The West Coast may be a small place, but it’s big on adventure.
White water rafting… West Coast style. The remote Whataroa River is accessed by 4WD, hiking or helicopter. Just getting to the river is an adventure in itself. Eco Rafting offers a range of rafting options to choose from but if you’re an adventurer you’ll want to head straight for the Grade 5 rafting experience. The team at Eco Rafting think the Whataroa River is one of the most spectacular rivers in the world for rafting. They just might be right. This is a must-do West Coast experience. The company also offers gentler experiences like family float trips, adventure fishing and multi-day raft experiences.
Choose your own adventure! Located in Greymouth, (2.5 hours from Franz Josef) The Wild West Adventure Company offers a huge range of adventure activities to choose from. There aren’t many places on the planet where you can go blackwater tubing through glowworm caves! There is a huge range of adventures on offer here, so it’s worth scheduling in plenty of time in Greymouth to have some West Coast adventures. Check out their 310 metre zipline adventure through the rainforest and downhill mountain biking trips.
Quad Biking is dirty, muddy fun. Drive your own ATV Quad Bike and explore the diversity of the West Coast’s landscapes. A Quad Bike trip will take you through the rainforest, braided river beds and, of course, lots of mud. You can get close to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier on the bikes, which would have to be one of the most exciting ways to access this incredible formation. And if you’re looking to up the adventure factor, then you can combine a quad trip with a helicopter flight. The Heli Quad combo trip includes a scenic helicopter flight and a 2-hour quad bike trip for a full-on adventure day on the West Coast.
Seeing Franz Josef Glacier from above is the best way to get a sense of just how incredibly big it is. A flightseeing helicopter trip allows you to soak in all the amazing-ness of the West Coast. Fly over the Waiho River valley where glacier melt water flows out to sea, the lush, almost prehistoric rainforest of Westland Tai Poutini National Park and then over the giant neve where snow accumulates to form Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Heliservices offer a full range of flightseeing trips throughout the Southern Alps. Travel further afield and explore the Tasman Glacier, Mount Cook or Mount Tasman. This is year round access to snow and let’s be honest, there’s nothing more exciting than a helicopter ride.
Ok, so we might be a tiny bit biased but we think no trip to the West Coast is complete without exploring the glaciers themselves. These days, the only way to access Franz Josef Glacier for hiking is by helicopter. And that’s a win-win for adventure lovers.
Choose either an Ice Explorer or a Heli Hike trip and you will be rewarded with an exciting helicopter trip followed by 2 or 3 hours hiking on the ice. Explore blue ice, caves and crevasses with an expert guide. Adventurers will love strapping on the crampons and using rope lines through ice caves while your guide cuts fresh tracks in the ice. Combining a glacier hike with a helicopter flight is pretty much a once in a lifetime experience, so don’t miss out while you’re on the West Coast.
These are just a few options for West Coast adventures. Whatever you do, make sure you leave time in your South Island itinerary to explore all that the West Coast has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.