West Coast New Zealand,
Te Tai Poutini, South Island

The West Coast region of New Zealand, sometimes called Westland New Zealand, is a long narrow strip on the South Island’s west coast between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, from the north at Kahurangi Point and the south at Awarua Point.

Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, South Island, NZ
Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Much of the landscape is rugged and scenic, lots of native bush, with a backdrop of mountains or sea.

The West Coast receives a high rate of rainfall in comparison to the other side of the Southern Alps in the east. The location of the Alps and prevailing north westerly winds means a lot of rain is dropped on the west coast. However, this amount of rain maintains the lush bushland and native rain forest that the region is well known for; it is what makes the West Coast what it is!

Attractions to this wild scenic West Coast include the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park in the north, Pancake Rocks, Buller River and Gorge, New Zealand jade and New Zealand gold, Glacier country where you can see the ends of Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier without having to pay for a helicopter, and Haast Pass in the south of the region, a route through to the regions of Otago and Southland.

Westland New Zealand, South Island, NZ
West Coast, South Island, Westland New Zealand

The West Coast has a lot of gold mining history from the New Zealand gold rush, with numerous places where you are permitted to pan for gold in allocated stretches of several rivers and streams. Gold panning is one of my favourite things to do in New Zealand and in the South Island there is no shortage of places to have a go at panning for gold. The Department of Conservation have a list along with maps of where looking for alluvial gold is permitted and some places even have a DOC campsite near to the river.

Hector's Dolphins
West Coast, South Island, NZ

Hector's Dolphins, Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

There are many opportunities to see wildlife down the coast and inland. Dolphins and Whales can often be seen off the coast, with Hector's Dolphins visiting the same areas near to the coast.

A photo of Hector's Dolphins on this page was taken from Pancake Rocks where the Dolphins were playing in the sea for more than an hour. The only place in New Zealand where White Heron breed at Okarito can be visited by taking a tour from Whataroa. And you can find glow worm dells to visit in the dark such as the one at Hokitika.


  • Buller District
  • Grey District
  • Westland District

Places in West Coast New Zealand - Alphabetical

  • Arthur's Pass
  • Buller Gorge
  • Charleston
  • Fox Glacier
  • Franz Josef Glacier
  • Greymouth
  • Haast
  • Harihari
  • Hokitika
  • Karamea
  • Maruia
  • Moana - Lake Brunner
  • Mokihinui
  • Okarito
  • Punakaiki
  • Reefton
  • Ross
  • Seddonville
  • Waimarie
  • Westport
  • Whataroa

West Coast NZ Attractions and Activities

Pancake Rocks Blowhole, Punakaiki, West Coast, South Island, NZ
Pancake Rocks Blowhole, Punakaiki, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the four national parks, Westland Tai Poutini, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland. This is a world heritage site with eighty million years’ development of mountains, valleys, lakes, glaciers, fiords, along with plants and unique wildlife.

List of some of the attractions roughly from north to south of the West Coast region.

  • Kahurangi National Park
  • Karamea
    • Karamea Centennial Museum
  • Granity - Whale and Dolphin watching
  • Westport
    • Coaltown Museum
    • Cape Foulwind
    • Buller River Jet Boat Rides
    • Buller River Jet Ski Tours
    • Buller River Mouth Wildlife Refuge
    • Lower Buller Gorge Scenic Reserve
  • Reefton
  • Charleston Cave Rafting
  • Paparoa National Park
  • Punakaiki
  • Greymouth
    • Jade Boulder Gallery
    • Grey River
  • Shantytown Historic Gold Town
  • Gold Panning
  • Lake Brunner
  • Goldsborough
  • Arthur’s Pass National Park
  • Lake Kaniere, West Coast, NZ
    Lake Kaniere, Hokitika, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
  • Hokitika
    • Jade / Greenstone
    • Hokitika - Whitebaiting and fishing
    • Hokitika Glow Worm Dell
    • Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve
    • Lake Kaniere
    • Dorothy Falls
    • Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve
  • Ross Historic Gold Mining Town
    • Gold Panning
  • Whataroa Tours to White Heron Nesting Site
  • Franz Josef Glacier
  • Fox Glacier
  • Westland National Park
  • Gillespies Beach Old Gold Mining Settlement
  • Monro Beach Penguins
  • Knights Point Lookout
  • Haast
    • Haast River Scenic Boat Cruises
  • Jackson Bay
    • Jackson Head
    • Penguins and Seals
  • Haast Pass
    • Gates of Haast
  • Mount Aspiring National Park

West Coast South Island Region Location