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New Zealand West Coast Adventure

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 Christchurch to Queenstown, Pancake Rocks to craft gin, kayaking to spa soaking. This is a coastal road trip to rival any other.

7 days, from


per person


12 people max


Trip code: PHSW
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer


Countries Visited:  New Zealand
Accommodation: Hotel (5 nights), Motel (1 night)
Transportation: Private Vehicle
Included Meals:

  • 6 breakfasts

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • 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 the goldrush days during visits to Kumara, Denniston and Arrowtown.

  • Take in the magic of the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier regions during dips in hot pools weaving through rainforests and a walk around the shimmering Lake Matheson.

  • Witness the stunning, millions of years old scenery at the dramatic Pancake Rocks and the Hokitika Gorge, and spot fur seals at Cape Foulwind.


Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Christchurch / Reefton / Westport

Welcome to your Intrepid exploration of the South Island! Your adventure begins in Christchurch, where a welcome meeting will take place at 8am for you to meet up with your local leader and fellow travellers. After your meeting, it’s time to hit the road, first heading to Maruia Springs in the Lewis Pass national reserve. Check out the natural hot pools surrounded by greenery as the snow dusted peaks of the Southern Alps look on. You can even opt to take a dip. Next up, travel to Reefton, a tiny town that punches above its size. Take a town walking tour with a local story-teller, learning about it's gold mining past. Step back in time as tea is prepared for you on the forge. Manuka leaf is introduced into the billy to produce a rich and sweet black tea which will be served with scones with manuka honey. Finally, drive on to the town of Westport and perhaps round off the day with group dinner.

Day 2: Denniston / Westport

Start your day with a stop at the wild Cape Foulwind and admire incredible views of the mountains and rugged coastline. The headland is home to a fur seal breeding colony so keep your eyes peeled, they can easily blend in with the rocks! Then it’s time to stretch your legs with a walk through the historic mining settlement of Denniston – your leader will be able to give you an idea of what life once looked like for the miners and their families. Return to Westport for an evening at leisure.

Day 3: Punakaiki / Kumara

Travel to Charleston this morning to join a train ride in open carriages through primeval rain forest. ‘The Nile River Rainforest Train’ recreates a bygone era where bush trams once prevailed. Experience the spectacular wilderness of the Nile River Canyon in Paparoa National Park. Next up is 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 an entertaining sight! Continue to Kumara, a former goldrush town with an intriguing history (this little place was the home of New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister!). On arrival, settle into your hotel, then head out to meet the town’s brightest residents. Just behind your hotel, you’ll find dazzling glow worms lighting up old mineshafts. Once the sun has gone down, be sure to look up. With very little light pollution, the stargazing in Kumara is absolutely out of this world (literally!).

Day 4: Hokitika / Fox Glacier

Today begins with a visit to 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. Then it’s on to the Okarito Lagoon, alive with the calls of over 70 unique species of birds. Head out on a nature walk culminating in a lookout point from which, on a clear day, you can enjoy an unbeatable view over Westland (Tai Poutini) National Park from the snow-capped Southern Alps (Ka Tiritiri o te Moana) across extensive native forest to the lagoons and beaches of the coast. Continue your journey south to the Fox Glacier township, your gateway to the dramatic and enormous Fox Glacier and your base for the evening.

Day 5: Fox Glacier

Today is yours to make the most of what this amazing slice of the country has to offer. Take a shuttle back to Franz Joseph Glacier or you may want to visit a pounamu (greenstone) workshop and learn how to carve your own original piece. Alternatively you can 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 low-key afternoon – have a chat to your leader about your options for the day.

Day 6: Wanaka

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! Then make tracks for Wanaka, making plenty of interesting stops along the way. First up is Ship Creek, where you’ll take a walk through quintessentially rugged West Coast scenery. You can either walk through shady swamp forest, or explore windswept sand dunes and coastal forest. Then it’s on to Mt Aspiring National Park. Make the short walk to the incredible Thunder Creek Falls, featuring an impressive 96-metre-tall cascade. Your last stop is for a 1-hour walk along the wonderful Blue Pools Track, passing through forests of beech and podocarp which surround sapphire-blue pools of glacial water. Arrive in Wanaka and enjoy an evening at leisure.

Day 7: Queenstown

Depart Wanaka this morning and drive through the magnificent scenery of the Crown Range. Arrive in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, in the late morning (approximately 10am), at which point your West Coast adventure will come to an end.