West Coast Glaciers Moeraki Punakaiki New Zealand

A narrow corridor of land, bounded by the Southern Alps to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. To travel this region is to experience arguably New Zealand’s most scenic drive. Highlights of the region are the Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and the intriguing Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki.

The Westland region has an interesting history – long treasured by the Maori as a source of pounamu (greenstone), Maori guides and traditional trails were sometimes used to assist colonial explorers to survey the land. In the 1860’s treasure of a different kind brought an influx of miners chasing the gold rush. Many small towns and settlements went through the 'boom and bust cycle' as strikes were discovered and subsequently abandoned. The roots of some present day towns, such as Hokitika, were in the shanty towns of the gold mining era but many others disappeared completely as the workforce moved on, taking everything with them, sometimes leaving behind only the graves of those who succumbed to the adversities of life on the goldfields.

The region also boasts picturesque bush clad lakes, glacier fed rivers and streams, wild beaches, and views of snow capped mountains including Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.

National Parks in the region are:

  • Kahurangi National Park located in the far north end extending from the end of the highway to Cape Farewell.
  • The Paparoa National Park with its stunning karst limestone gorges near Punakaiki.
  • Westland National Park encompasses the Glaciers – that can be accessed independently as far as the terminal face, as a guided walk onto the glaciers or as a Heli-hike.

The South West New Zealand World Heritage Area

This vast protected area takes in the Westland National Park, and extends through Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park and covers 2.6 million hectares – almost 10% of New Zealand’s total land area. Features of the South Westland section include the forests of southern beech and podacarp, our native parrot the kea and some of New Zealand’s rarest varieties of kiwi.

The beaches west of Lake Moeraki are a breeding ground for the Fiordland Crested Penguin that begin to arrive around late June and depart early December. The Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki runs a program of guided nature experiences, year round, that introduce the visitor to the flora and fauna of South Westland.