Del Bikes the West Coast Wilderness Trail

West Coast Wilderness Trail
Lake Kaniere

I’d been told the West Coast Wilderness Trail was something really special by a few people who had biked it. But being a mountain biker, it had sounded a bit too tame. Recently I rode it as part of a ride along many of the cycle trails around New Zealand. Turned out the West Coast Wilderness Trail was my favourite of all the trails. It had it all: stunning scenery, a relaxing fun ride, and importantly, well-spaced distances between cafes. 

About the West Coast Wilderness Trail

The West Coast Wilderness Trail is a stunning off-road cycle trail that lets you experience the best of the West Coast of New Zealand. The trail will take you through dense native forests, past remote lakes and glacial rivers, and into old gold mining towns.

The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is a lush place, surrounded by ancient forests. West Coasters are deeply proud of their slice of the world, and rightly so. The Coast is a place made for ‘going bush’ and getting out into the mountains. The West Coast Wilderness Trail offers a small taste of what the region is famous for, letting you immerse yourself in the Coast from the seat of your bike. 

It’s a purpose-built trail that starts in Greymouth and travels 135km through to Ross. The trail can be easily broken into sections of around 35km that can be ridden in either direction. 

Some of my favourite stops were the restored Theatre Royal pub in Kumara; Cowboy Paradise (see photo), a replica Wild West ‘town’ and great place to shelter from a sudden burst of rain; Hokitika beach for some salty sea air and to snap a photo of its famous driftwood sign; and hanging out with the locals in the historic Empire Hotel in Ross.  

Cowboy Paradise

Spot a weka, one of New Zealand’s unique native birds

Weka are a native bird that look like a skinny kiwi but without the long beak. Like the kiwi, they live on the ground. Unlike the kiwi, they get around in the day time and are confident wee things. 

You’re bound to see them pottering around on the trail or in the grass looking for food. Stop and hang out with them for a bit if you can. They are curious and cheeky and might pinch something if you leave it lying around. But they’re not as cheeky as the native kea found higher up in the mountains, who have been known to destroy bike seats if given the chance.


You don’t need to be a highly skilled rider to enjoy the trail 

If you are worried about your bike riding skills, don’t be. The Trail is suitable for most riding abilities. It is a grade 2 mountain bike trail, which means there is nothing technical. Hire or use a mountain bike and you should be able to roll over everything on the trail.

There is always a chance of rain on the Coast, but the trail builders have done a fantastic job at creating weatherproof trails. I rode it in a gentle rain, making for a beautifully moody and atmospheric forest. 

Cow on Road

To enjoy it you will want to have a reasonable level of fitness. It also helps to have ridden a bike recently so you are familiar with sitting on a saddle for a few hours at a time. There are some gentle hills, but none of them are big. 

If you don’t cycle regularly, then one 35km section each day will be enough. If you are cycling fit, then double-up and do a section in the morning, stop at a café or pub for lunch, and do the next section in the afternoon.

How do I fit it into my trip?

Rides like this restore your soul. This is ‘slow travel’ how it should be done. Talk to your travel specialist at First light Travel about either riding the whole trail over a few days, or choosing a section with a shuttle drop-off at one end. Either way, take your time, and enjoy being right away from it all.

West Coast Wilderness Trail Map


Del Gorton
: 4 May 2019 (Last updated: 11 Mar 2020)

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