The West Coast

Nestled between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea the West Coast is an area in a spectacular and beautiful environment. The West Coast is a short, scenic drive from Wānaka through mystical mountains and emerald forests.

As part of your onward journey or as a day trip from Wānaka, the wild West Coast  is a land of breathtaking extremes. Your journey to the west takes you deep into the epic mountains of the Southern Alps, and as you cross the Main Divide, you’re in for some seriously stunning scenery! Make your way over the Haast Pass, the gateway to the west, and you’re greeted by thundering waterfalls, soaring alpine skylines, and an abundance of snow-capped peaks before heading north. Ancient glaciers hang in sparkling splendour above dense green rainforests.

Hardy locals sell delicacies like whitebait, crayfish and fresh blue cod from tiny caravans on wind-swept beaches.  Utterly unique, the rugged coastline stretches as far as the eye can see while rugged seaside villages are reminiscent of an age gone by.

With only a few lazy seals to keep you company, the West Coast is rampantly wild with lush forests and native bush. Sparsely populated, it’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped back in time before the arrival of people to Aotearoa. Tradition holds fast here in the wilds of the west so don’t be surprised to see coal carts and gold pans, steam trains and tin cups. History and heritage are prized in this region and the West Coast is a veritable goldmine for lovers of the good old days.

Enchanting and remote, Jacksons Bay at the isolated southern roads-end of the West Coast, is a fisherman’s heaven. This is real whitebait country, and in season fresh blue cod, groper and tuna abound in this outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.  And in the north – Karamea with its endless empty beaches, granite and limestone formations and a warm north-western climate perfect for fruit trees and Nikau Palms. The Old Ghost Road mountain biking track is here, and takes its name from the seven gold-mining ghost towns along the trail, as is The Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

And between? Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, mirror-clear Lake Matheson, the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, authentic pounamu/greenstone carving and more hiking, caving, biking and surfing than you could fit into one trip!

A perfect storm of scenery, adventure, culture, history and fun, the West Coast is extreme, beautiful and diverse, and the perfect way to begin or end an experience in Wānaka.

Visit the official West Coast website

Click links below to check out availability and make online bookings for West Coast accommodation and activities:

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Driving to Wanaka Explore the Region

Driving to Wānaka

Driving on the South Island roads of New Zealand is a great way to experience the region, with relatively quiet roads and some of the most amazing scenery right outside the window.

Major car and campervan hire companies are all located at Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown airports. There are also a number of rental car companies based in Wānaka.

How to get to Wānaka

Explore the Region

Wānaka is unique and captivating; it inspires you to discover, and gives you the freedom to explore.

Located in the stunning alps of the South Island, New Zealand, visitors from around the world are drawn to the Wānaka region by its outstanding beauty.

Explore Wānaka

  1. Mount Aspiring
    National Park
    54 min
  2. Christchurch 5 h 14 min
  3. Ashburton 3 h 56 min
  4. Geraldine 3 h 19 min
  5. Tekapo 2 h 17 min
  6. Mt Cook 2 h 6 min
  7. Twizel 1 h 39 min
  8. Omarama 1 h 21 min
  9. Franz Josef 3 h 32 min
  10. Fox Glacier 3 h 6 min
  11. Haast 1 h 43 min
  12. Cromwell 39 min
  13. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  14. Milford Sound 4 h 34 min
  15. Te Anau 2 h 52 min
  16. Dunedin 2 h 52 min
  1. Mount Aspiring
    National Park
    54 min
  2. Coronet Peak
  3. The Remarkables
  4. Cardrona
  5. Treble Cone
  6. Snow Farm
  7. Heli Skiing
  8. Heli Skiing
  9. Makarora 50 min
  10. Lake Hawea 1 h 7 min
  11. Wanaka Airport 11 min
  12. Luggate 13 min
  13. Tarras 27 min
  14. Cromwell 39 min
  15. Arrowtown 53 min
  16. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  17. Queenstown Airport 59 min
  18. Matukituki Valley 51 min
  19. Raspberry Creek 1 h 6 min

Flights to Wānaka

Getting to Wānaka is easy - click on your city to see how close you are to Wānaka. It’s a short, scenic 60-minute drive to Wānaka from the closest international airport, where you will find all major rental car companies and scheduled bus services that provide transport to Wānaka throughout the day.

How to get to Wanaka