The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand – Backpackneymoon

By July 29, 2012New Zealand

The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is a place that doesn’t immediately conjure up images of stunning beauty like much of the rest of New Zealand does. But we found the West Coast to be a fascinating place with a rugged coast, wild seals, gigantic glaciers and a laid-back pace.

Just another drop dead gorgeous stream

Just another drop dead gorgeous stream

The West Coast mountains at sunset not far from Haast

The West Coast mountains at sunset not far from Haast

The main reason people come to the West Coast is to visit one of the two glaciers: Fox or Franz-Josef. These glaciers start their journeys high in the mountains and slowly over the course of about 5 years make their way to the bottom of the valley. In years gone by, they were much larger stretching at times until the ocean. We visited both glaciers on foot to the free viewing areas which do provide a good glimpse of the actual glacier and the amazing glacial valley. We didn’t really know if we wanted to walk on the glaciers or not, so in the end we decided not to. We’re still not sure if we missed out on a lot… But New Zealand is one of those places filled with things to do! It is always such a tough decision to say no to an activity as you inevitably must do.

The glaciers are incredible

The glaciers are incredible

Fantastic waterfalls are everywhere along the valley to the glaciers

Fantastic waterfalls are everywhere along the valley to the glaciers

We did bathe in some hot pools though. At Franz-Josef they have these hot baths you can use for about $23 and it is fantastic to sit in them in the open air when the temperature outside is below freezing. Nice! We also went to the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see a couple of kiwis. To be honest, it is not worth the $25 entrance fee. Yes, you get to see 2 kiwis, but it is very dark inside and you are not allowed to take photos. Skip this unless you absolutely must see kiwis and have no other choice! We got a special pass that allowed us to visit both the hot pools and the wildlife centre for around $40, but it was still too much to pay for seeing kiwis.


Sunset in Haast -- this was our camp site for the night!

Sunset in Haast — this was our camp site for the night!

Next stop was seeing some glow worms for free at the glow worm dell at Hokitika. Just wait until night time and then walk up the path and you will definitely see glow worms. Awesome! The best way to see free glow worms in New Zealand!

Hokitika at sunset

Hokitika at sunset

Further up the coast we went to a seal colony where there are always seals. Again, another free activity that is not advertised much! But there are literally hundreds of seals sitting on rocks right beside the ocean and you are free to take as many photos as you like — and we did. 🙂 Seeing seals for free in New Zealand — priceless! This place was called Cape Foulwind. The wind was indeed foul.

Tauranga Bay where there are heaps of seals

Tauranga Bay where there are heaps of seals

One of the seals at Cape Foulwind

One of the seals at Cape Foulwind

From there, it was basically a quick drive across country to the ferry terminal in Picton where we boarded a ferry to the North Island. It’s a short ferry ride of a few hours and it arrives in Wellington where the ferry empties pretty quickly.

If you want to see how much it costs to rent a campervan like we did, check the prices here on this price comparison website.

If you think New Zealand is drop dead gorgeous, please hit like!

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