West Coast Glaciers Moeraki Punakaiki New
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 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 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
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.