Get out and see a different side to the South Island, making the most of the wide-open spaces of the rugged and largely unexplored West Coast.. Go deeper into the history of the area with stories of gold miners, panning for gold, and hiking in the Denniston mining area.. Help support remote communities with visits (and of course tastings) at local bakeries and distilleries.. Take in the magic of the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier region during dips in hot pools weaving through rainforests and a walk around the shimmering Lake Matheson.
Explore the narrow strip of South Island land sandwiched between the mountains and the Tasman Sea that’s home to some of the country’s most beautiful places. Millions of years of natural history are right in front of you in wild limestone rock formations, powerful glaciers, rushing rivers and surf pounded coast, while the much more recent stories of the gold and coal rush can be found in the heritage settlements and in the resolute spirit of the coasters. Take in highlights from Reefton to Franz Josef, Pancake Rocks to botanical gins, gold panning to spa soaking. This is a coastal road trip to rival any other.
Breakfast Included: 5 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Greymouth to Reefton
Welcome to your Intrepid exploration of the South Island! Your local guide will be waiting at the Greymouth Train Station at 1.30pm – for anyone coming in from Christchurch, the TranzAlpine to Greymouth is considered one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys and is highly recommended. After meeting your leader and fellow travellers, it’s time to hit the road and head to Reefton, a tiny town that punches above its size. Dotted with historic buildings and nods to its gold-mining days, Reefton retains much of its old-school atmosphere. Swing by the Reefton Distillery Co. to learn the story behind their local botanical gins, fruit liqueurs, vodka and whisky, then try some of the locally crafted products yourself at their tasting bar. Round off the day with a group dinner at a local restaurant where your guide will brief you on what lies ahead on the rest of your adventure.
Start your day with breakfast at the local bakery – part of the town’s history since 1874 – then hear more of the area’s story from the locals that know it best. Head to a rebuilt miner’s hut and get the tale of how prospectors made their way here after the discovery of a rich vein of gold in the 1860s. Hear what life was like for the miners with these natural storytellers while a blacksmith works the forge in the background. Maybe try your hand at panning your own gold, then farewell Reefton and continue up the coast, with a stop at the wild Cape Foulwind. The headland is home to a fur seal breeding colony so keep your eyes peeled, they can easily blend in with the rocks! Continue on up the coast to Karamea, the largest northern settlement on this side of the island.
Get your boots on because today’s a walking day. Head down the coast and start with a walk to discover the mining relics along the Charming Creek Walkway. It’s a river walk along an old logging tramway from the 19th century through lower Ngakawau Gorge, taking in a suspension bridge and tumbling Mangatini Falls. Then take in views and history with a walk along the Denniston Plateau, where mining history and viewpoints scatter what was once one of the richest coal seams in Aotearoa. Continue on down to Punakaiki, a town with less than 100 residents, but famed for its so-called Pancake Rocks. These layers of fossilised animals and plants, formed over 30 million years ago, were thrust above the surface by the moving earth and sculpted by wind and water. At high tide the sea is forced through blowholes in the limestone to burst metres into the air – it’s a memorable sight.
Franz Josef Glacier
After breakfast this morning, head out to a place that helped shaped the West Coast – Brunner Mine. Explore the mining relics that tell the story of New Zealand’s most tragic workplace disaster. Then you’ll take a scenic drive down the coast into glacier territory, arriving in the charming Franz Josef township. Fringed by tranquil rainforest, the hot pools here offer an experience like no other, so take a dip this afternoon and let your worries wash away. Enjoy an evening at leisure in this beautiful little town.
Franz Josef Glacier
Kick off the day with a gentle walk around the glittering Lake Matheson, dubbed the ‘mirror lake’ for its dark waters which perfectly reflect the towering Southern Alps – if you take one picture of your West Coast adventure, this should be it! The afternoon is yours to make the most of what this amazing slice of the country has to offer. You may like to book a helicopter ride up to the glaciers, with the potential to add on a hike through the spectacular landscape. There’s also no shortage of interesting walks and cosy pubs if you fancy a more lowkey afternoon – have a chat to your guide about your options for the day.
Travel north to the Okarito Lagoon, alive with the calls of over 70 unique species of birds. Enjoy a wonderful walk around the lagoon with your guide as the snow-capped alps look on, or you may prefer to take an optional guided kayak trip across its still waters. Then you’ll hit the road and carry on to Hokitika – this little town has big personality and is the pounamu (greenstone) centre of New Zealand. On arrival, take a walk through the town as your leader regales you with stories of Hokitika’s notorious goldrush past. This afternoon you’ll visit the Hokitika Gorge, one of the West Coast’s most stunning spots. Shimmering turquoise waters wreathed with lush native bush make a sight to remember, which you’ll soak in during a looped walk of the area. Return to Hokitika town, then as darkness falls, set off for an out of this world experience. Take a short walk to the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell, where you can admire these ethereal creatures lighting up a canopy above you.
Your West Coast adventure comes to an end today in Hokitika. If you’re spending more time here, you may like to check out the workshops of local pounamu artists, visit the National Kiwi Centre or stop by the shipwreck at the Hokitika river mouth. You can also be dropped off at the Greymouth Train Station, where you’ll have the option to catch the magnificent TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch.