West Coast (New Zealand)
There used to be cities on the Coast, they are really small towns now. Indeed, some have recently suggested the whole place is a village with a main street a few hundred miles long. In a place where popping down the road to the shops can easily be a 200km round trip, the concept of metropolitan area is a non-starter.
From North to South
Before tourism became a more economical sustainable business, coasters mined coal, dredged or panned for gold, cut down the native forests. Generally they cleared the land and drained the swamps for farming, exploiting the land. They still exploit the land but it is now done in an environmentally sustainable way. Some believe the Coast is on its last legs, yet others see great potential for a land full of natural beauty, ready to be exploited by, and developed for, tourists, in environmentally sustainable ways.
From the North
- From Blenheim take State Highway 6, via Nelson over the Hope Saddle to Murchison or take State Highway 63 via St Arnaud and the Nelson Lakes National Park. State Highway 63 meets State Highway 6 at Howard Junction about 40km north of Murchison.
From the East
- From Christchurch there are two options:
- State Highway 7 leaves State Highway 1 at Waipara in North Canterbury, travels past Hanmer Springs and over the the Lewis Pass to Reefton and on to Greymouth where it joins State Highway 6. This is a good road at any time of the year and suitable for any type of vehicle and is the recommended route for towing caravans or trailers.
- State Highway 73 is the direct route from Christchurch to the Coast. It travels through Mid Canterbury to Springfield, before climbing over, first, Porters Pass and then Arthurs Pass before descending down the Taramakau River to meet State Highway 6 at Kumara Junction, about half way between Greymouth and Hokitika.
- This road has a number of steep grades and sharp corners - towing caravans or trailers over this route is not advised. Until recently, the descent from the top of Arthurs Pass to Otira included a single lane section that was subject to rockfalls. It has now been replaced with a viaduct.
- Historically, this is the horse drawn coach route and this dictated that the trans-alpine railway line also cross the Southern Alps here, via the Otira Tunnel. Steeped in history, and with spectacular and varied scenery, be sure to stop in at Arthurs Pass National Park headquarters in Arthurs Pass township, even if it is only for a quick break.
From the South
- Trans-Alpine Express.  Departs from Christchurch and provides a daily return journey to Greymouth and has been described as one of the best rail journeys in the world. It includes many tunnels, apart from the 8 km long Otira Tunnel, with a grade of 1:33 making it one of the steepest grades of any two rail traction railway tunnel in the world as well as the third longest railway tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere.
InterCity Coachlines  operates daily services along the West coast departing from Nelson and Picton. InterCity also offer a range of fixed itinerary options which enable you to travel from Nelson to Queenstown via the West Coast. Newmans Coach Lines  provides premium daily sightseeing tours from Queenstown to both Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.
Budget travel is provided by
- Atomic Shuttles, ☎ 03 349 0697(firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 03 349 3868), . Operates Picton - Nelson - Fox Glacier, Christchurch - Greymouth and Greymouth - Queenstown
- Southern Link KBus, ☎ 0508 458 835 or 03 358 8355(fax: 03 358 8585), . Nelson to Greymouth via St Arnaud, Westport and Punakaiki
- Coast to Coast Daily Bus Service Ltd, ☎ 0800 800 847(email@example.com), . Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass
- West Coast Shuttle, ☎ 03 768 0028 or 027 492 7000 or 027 492 7488(firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 03 768 0328), . Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass
Until they completed the Road to Haast in the 1960's, meaning you could drive over Haast Pass to Queenstown, without having to backtrack all the way to Christchurch, you couldn't get around the Coast. You either went to the Coast or came back from it.
- Pancake Rocks and blowholes in Punakaiki.
- Take a guided glacier trip. Contact 'Fox Glacier Guiding' , the most experienced New Zealand glacier guiding company, offering trips onto the longest and least crowded West Coast glacier. For information on their Fox Trot: Half Day Walk, Flying Fox: Helihike, Nimble Fox: All Day Walk, Fox Trail: Terminal Face Walk, Fox It Up: Ice Climbing Adventure, or even Chancellor Dome Day and Overnight Heli-Treks packages, please vist their website www.foxguides.co.nz or phone 751 0825 or 0800 111 600.
- Pan for Gold. There is still plenty in the hills, though it is not economic to extract commercially. You might even find enough to cover the cost of the panning fee.
- Climb the mountains.
- Learn to felt workshops(Learn to felt workshops), Camerons(SH 73 just North of the Taramakau bridge), ☎ 03 762 6526, . anytime. Workshops arranged on request (approx 5 hours duration) in a local community hall between Greymouth and Hokitika. All materials and guidance provided to enable you to make a felt bag from unspun NZ wool. Lunch included.$120 pp.
- Wild food
The Coasters have never been afraid of alcohol or consuming large quantities of it, especially beer. They were never afraid of the licencing laws either and always enjoyed a drink - after hours. The operative word though is were. With the relaxation of liquor licensing laws, Coasters have continued in their anti-regulatory approach to life and voluntarily leave the bars early, if they even go there at all.
It rains here. Carry a raincoat and gumboots (wellingtons), waterproof your shoes or accept being wet - accept it, you will get wet anyway, just more slowly.
Coasters are apparently immune to the endemic sandflies, but tourists need to wear insect repellent or put up with being bitten. Their bites leave nasty little itchy spots but are relatively harmless otherwise.
Have an emergency? Call 111 for the Police, Fire or Ambulance services, but don't expect to get what you thought you were asking for. Someone will turn up to help, but they might not wear a uniform you were expecting, they might not wear a uniform at all, but they'll help, because Coasters are like that. Mind you, if you see someone and the help you asked for hasn't turned up yet, ask them too. And if you're asked, even if your not asked and have to ask if help is needed, - please help - it could be you tomorrow.
You really want to leave? Try moving on to Nelson, Christchurch or Queenstown. You can always come back for another look if you go to Te Anau and take the long road back throught the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound. If you really must go (because your visa's almost expired), you can catch the ferry from Picton to Wellington and rush around the North Island.
This page was last edited at 03:08, on 23 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Quentin Davies, Adrian, Ryan Holliday, Andy Farrell, jan, Ian Kirk and Rob Payne, Wikitravel user(s) Episteme, Hkpatv and Huttite and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.