Hiking the West Coast
The West Coast extends more than 500 kilometres (310 Miles) along the western side of the South Island, it is the longest region in New Zealand, almost the same as the distance between Auckland and Wellington. Jammed between the Alps and the sea on a narrow strip of mainly inhabitable land, what it does not have in the way of people it makes up for in a remarkable array of natural features including rainforests, glaciers, wetlands and cave systems not to mention the wild ocean and vast beaches and don’t forget the Alps.
With 14 national parks in the region that include the big 5 of Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur’s Pass, Westland and Mount Aspiring - its no wonder the coast raises the odd eyebrow of the keen hiker.
To add icing to the cake, out of the 140 glaciers flowing from the Southern Alps, only two creep down to the lower rainforest zone and yes they are on the West Coast and easily accessible to explore ranging from a walk to a Glacial Terminal Face , a half or full day hike on the Glacier or if you really want to get on top of it all there is a fantastic hike up to the top of the Fox Glacier and weather permitting having unpresidented views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mount Tasman and staying the night in the Chancellor Dome Hut.
The Coast boasts over 200 bush walks ranging from short half hour strolls through to five-day hikes through the lower regions of the Southern Alps.
One of most scenically diverse hikes just north of Karamea has been titled as one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ and is a 4 or 5 day hike that follows an ancient Maori trail now called the Heaphy Track, this hike traverses down through tussock, lush native forests, through beautiful Nikau palms to the roaring seas of the West Coast.
For those that really want to get up close and personal with a glacier then the Chancellor Dome Overnight Hike on Fox Glacier is an experience highly recommended.