Let’s continue our great campervan road trip around Aotearoa’s South Island and conquer the West Coast. What feels like untouched landscapes, is ruled by harsh nature. You will be able to discover a new side of Aotearoa, its wild beauty and in stark contrast to the soft Fiordland region. Home to many amazing adventure opportunities and once in a lifetime experiences, you should definitely take your time on this leg of the trip and take the scenic routes, with many stops along the way for breath-taking snaps.
Haast and Glacier Country
Haast is located in the heart of Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, with beautiful beaches, lakes and wetlands. It is the perfect location for river safaris, visiting fur seal and penguin colonies. It is also famous for its hunting and tramping opportunities and featured Department of Conservation walks.
Driving further up north, you will enter into Glacier Country. Sit back and relax in the Glacier Hot Pools, located in the middle of a rainforest, after a long day on the road. You should also plan a little stop at Lake Matheson. It is renowned for its spectacular reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
A scenic drive further up north leads you to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Now is your opportunity to discover and explore a glacier on a guided tour into the deep ice. The Ice Climbing Tour does not require previous experiences and the knowledgeable guides will support you in your new adventure. For a more relaxed itinerary, the West Coast Wildlife Centre has adorable kiwis to watch!
Hokitika and Greymouth
The West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail is a definite must do when traveling in the area. Cycle your way through ancient rainforests, along glacial rivers, around moody lakes and across some downright cracking wetlands. Experiencing the rugged shorelines first hand. The Hokitika Gorge Walk with its blue-green waters should also be on top of your list. The bravest ones might even jump off the bridge themselves!
Being the oldest town on the West Coast, Westport has a proud heritage, in particular the coal mining. Take a step back in time and explore the Coaltown Museum. For more culture, you should check out the Whakane Gallery which is also an espresso bar arguably pouring the best coffee in town. Alternatively, have a quick browse around the InterSpace Gallery of The Art Hotel to see contemporary art exhibitions.
Famous for its Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki has also a wide variety of tracks to offer. For relaxed strolls, you should visit the local beach and simultaneously go on a little greenstone hunt, the perfect little souvenir from your Aotearoa road trip. To switch up the means of transportation from your campervan, consider exploring the area on a kayak tour or via a horse and wagon ride!
Abel Tasman National Park
Welcome to golden beaches, tropical water colours and a deep rainforest. Abel Tasman National Park. But don’t be mistaken, adventure is also waiting for you here! Step out of your comfort zone and go canyoning through the park’s rivers or explore the Abel Tasman’s rich history on a guided kayak tour. When you park up your camper at night, you will feel like as if you are in a whole new world.
We started at the bottom and are now on the top of Aotearoa’s South Island. And what a change of scenery we have been through. And it is going to change again when we make our way back to Christchurch. Part 3 of the Great South Island Road Trip will focus on the soft side of the island, that are so very inviting to stay just a little longer, featuring a new perspective on Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Instagram famous lupin fields.