Discover the West Coast with Kiwi Direct Car Rentals...
The West Coast is unique and so are the Coasters. Separated from the rest of the South Island by the Southern Alps, the people had to be resilient as they worked the gold and then the coal that became their mainstay.
And you’ll see what makes them love “the Coast” as you explore this narrow, spectacular, often wild stretch of New Zealand in your Kiwi Direct rental car.
There are four ways in - the Buller Gorge from Nelson, the Lewis and even more beautiful Arthur’s Pass from Canterbury, and the mighty Haast Pass to the south. The entire coast road with the extras on the end of SH6 is just 560 kilometres, but the area is jam-packed with scenery, walks, rafting, and places to see.
This place is amazing if you’re prepared to stop and explore.
Driving in through the Buller Gorge, take time to walk over the 110-metre long swing bridge, New Zealand’s longest, near Murchison, and as you cross the one-lane Iron Bridge near Inangahua, you’ll get an idea of what you’re in for on the Coast - things are a bit different.
There are towns with names like Granity (named for the area’s granite), Reefton (named for the gold reef that spawned the town), and Blackball, where coalminers staged a three-month strike in 1908 in support of a half-hour lunch break and an eight-hour working day.
At Westport, once a gold town and then a coal town, you find the fascinating Coaltown Museum with its simulated mine and displays. Down the road at Charleston ride the bush train and explore the limestone caves, then head on to Punakaiki - the incredible pancake rocks and blowholes.
Greymouth is the Coast’s main town and was an unlikely entry point to New Zealand for many migrants. Visit the ShantyTown gold-rush village and the History House Museum for a look into the past before moving on to Hokitika, the pounamu - greenstone - centre of New Zealand, where you can buy jade of all sorts.
Then it’s the glaciers - Franz Josef and Fox. You can leave your Kiwi Direct rental car at the visitor centres and walk to the glaciers, past lakes and pools carved by the ice, but stay on the paths and behind the barriers - falling ice is lethal.
The Fox township is a good base for exploring the area, and be sure to walk around Lake Matheson for that obligatory photo of Aoraki/Mt Cook - the king of the Southern Alps - reflected in the still waters.
And then it’s down to Haast where you should detour to the Okarito Lagoon, the only breeding site for the beautiful white heron.
The Haast Pass climbs 562m over the alps to Otago and you leave the Coast with its walks, its rivers, its scenery, its wild food and its culture.
And that’s just scratching the surface…