West Coast Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in West Coast
The West Coast or Westland region extends for more than 500km along the west coast of the South Island, from Jackson Bay and the Haast River in the south to Karamea in the north. It is a narrow coastal belt of dense rain forest backed inland by high mountains that is nowhere more than 50km wide. The region has a population of only 35,000, which has been steadily declining for many years.The principal towns in the region are Graymouth, Westport and Hokitika. It has many relics of the pioneer days of loggers and gold miners - although the infrastructure has been much improved since then by the building of roads.DiscoveryAbel Tasman and Captain Cook sailed along this inhospitable coast, and the hinterland was later explored by Thomas Brunner and Julius von Haast, who discovered the region's extensive coalfields.
Lowland Rain Forest
The high rainfall on the west coast has produced a type of rain forest that is unique in the world. This lowland rain forest has a variety of species rarely found anywhere else. Recent proposals to exploit its economic potential by extensive felling have met fierce resistance from conservationists all over the world.
Although Mount Aspiring is the center piece of the park, the landscape includes numerous mountains, along with glaciers, moraines, hanging valleys, and other glacier created features.
Westland National Park features a diverse range of landscapes. The Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, which reach 3000m, are the main attractions. Lower levels are covered in lush rain forest and tree ferns.
One of the main tourist attractions in Paparoa National Park are the Pancake Rocks, with blowholes and lush surroundings.
Reefton, New Zealand
Reefton lies in the valley of the Inangahua River, 80km northeast of Graymouth and about the same distance southeast of Westport. Once a flourishing gold-mining town, it is now merely a supply center for farmers, forestry workers and workers in the local coal industry. Its former importance as a gold-mining center is reflected in its name (reef town); it was also known as Quartzopolis.Notable buildings that bear witness to the town's gold-mining heyday are the Church of the Sacred Heart (1878), St Stephen's Church (1878), the courthouse (1872) and the School of Mines (1886), which has a rich collection of minerals.
Victoria Forest Park
North and east of Reefton extends Victoria Forest Park (2090 sq.km), in which are a number of old gold and coal mines (warning: the old and often overgrown shafts can be dangerous). Also within the park, 40km south of Reefton, is the ghost town of Waiuta, where gold was worked until 1951. Information about walks in the gold- and coal-mining area can be obtained from the Department of Conservation office in Reefton.
Black's Point Museum
2km east of Reefton is Black's Point Museum, which vividly illustrates the history of gold mining in the area.
Wealth of Nations (Globe Battery)
At Crushington, 2km east of Reefton, are two monster machines, the Wealth of Nations and the Globe Battery, in which the gold-bearing quartz was crushed.
Westport, New Zealand
The little port of Westport, the second-largest place in the West Coast region, lies on the north side of the estuary of the Buller River. In spite of its isolated location it is an important commercial center for the northern part of the west coast, serving a large area.Its economic resources are the abundant supplies of timber in the surrounding area, the huge coalfields in the hinterland of the Paparoa Range and the limestone quarries on Cape Foulwind, which have promoted the development of a large cement industry.
Two popular beaches are Carter's Beach (5km from the town in the direction of Cape Foulwind; surfing) and North Beach (suitable for families).
There are several attractions in the Westport surrounding areas.
Tauranga Bay, with its friendly seal colony, attracts many day visitors.
Karamea, New Zealand
Karamea, near the northwestern tip of the South Island, is the end point of the Heaphy Track (Abel Tasman National Park). It has a dry, sunny climate. In 1874 incomers from Nelson settled in the fertile surrounding area. Until the building of a road from Westport in 1915 Karamea could be reached only by sea or via the Heaphy Track. A severe earthquake in 1929 destroyed the harbor at the mouth of the river.
Wanga Peka Track
Southeast of Karamea is the start of the Wanga Peka Track, which runs through the Northwest Nelson Forest Park.
North of Karamea is the Fenian Range, in which is a system of karstic caves. In the Opara Valley are a number of natural bridges formed by the collapse of caves. The Honeycomb Caves, in which the remains of extinct bird species were found, can be entered only with permission from the Department of Conservation.