Just three km's north of the hustle and bustle of Punakaiki starts the Truman Track at a small car park along SH 6 between Greymouth and Westport.
The track did lead us through dense native bush with lots of typical New Zealand trees like rata's, silver ferns and nikau palms. Closer to the coast there are bushes and flax plants. There is a viewing point with amazing views over the coastline of the West Coast and the green hills of the mainland.
We reached the pebble stoned beach through a short stairway. The beach has some stunning limestone rocks and caves. We were lucky to see just one other person, so she could make a piture of us.
Allow 15 minutes walk one way. Be aware of a 'west coast' shower and keep an eye on the tide, because the stairway is the only way out of the beach.
Paparoa National Park on the 'wild' West Coach offers a lot of fantastic walks through typical New Zealand forest. If visiting the west coast you should make at least ONE of these walks. It is a magnificent way to feel, to smell this green landscape. Green means all varieties of green from light to dark, from moss to trees.
Perhaps the best time to visit this forest is after (or even during) a rainy day or shower. Everything smells so 'pure New Zealand', it is almost unbelievable.
We did a part of the Pororari River Track, which starts just north of the DOC Visitor Centre at the bridge over the river (SH 6). We just followed the track along the river with beautiful views on the river and the limestone rocks. It is more or less a kind of a gorge. We passed some small wooden bridges and were surrounded by all kinds of green trees and bushes. Everywhere we heard the sound of birds, but just saw one, while we had our 'bush'lunch.
We took the same track back, but there is also a possibility to make a loop via the Inland Pack Track. Best thing to do is to make some enquiries at the DOC Information Centre. Be sure you wear proper walking boots, because the track can be very muddy !!!!
The car journey from Queenstown toward Wanaka takes in the Lindis Pass. This is the most exquisite scenery i've seen in a long time. We saw it in summer and it was fabo then - I imagine in Spring it would be even more breathtaking. A MUST SEE drive.
Close to Greymouth there's a hamlet called Barrytown, possibly constantly shrouded in fog. The people there though share the usual devil may care attitude of most of the west coast; except there's a bit of the devil in them too. Lets just say they live on the edge. If you find yourself appraching Barrytown and want to take a break from all those one-way bridges then stop off at Steve Martin's . . . he's funnier then the real thing. He'll also teach you how to make a knife and give you ample 'refreshments' afterwards. Great craic.
This place is approx 15km South of Westport and used to be a major Goldmining town. Back in its heyday it had 99 Pubs. Now there is a Cafe on the main road and a couple of very nice beaches plus a great fishing spot accessed through the back of the Cemetary - go to the cemetary and walk to the far end of it, you will see a break in the bush and once through you can see the trail leading down to the rocks - be very careful!! The tide coming in can sweep you off at high tide.
Fiordland, on the Southwest coast of New Zealand has the world’s highest sea cliffs rising sheer out of the waters of Milford Sound. The gateway to Fiordland is the town of Te Anau. A visit to the visitor centre is a must. Here you can organise bus and boat cruises or aerial sightseeing throughout Fiordland, including Milford, Doubtful Sound and Lake Manapouri. You can also arrange hut and campsite bookings for the 500 km of walking tracks that criss-cross the park.
If you want to do some tramping there are heaps of options including Milford, Routeburn, Greenstone-Caples, Hollyford, Kepler and Dusky. The Milford Track is a 54 km, 4 day tramp, which has been dubbed ‘The Finest Walk in the World’. It pays to book these tramps well in advance. Please note that Fiordland has New Zealand’s highest rainfall so make sure you take sufficient clothing to manage this. On the up side, the 7 metres of annual rainfall brings the cliffs come alive with hundreds of waterfalls cascading down into the fiords.
This park is the most extensive wilderness area in New Zealand and one of the largest national parks in the world. It is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. It has New Zealands highest waterfall, highest cliffs, deepest lakes, and most shallow black corals (in Milford Sound).
Fiordland is also home to 700 plants found only in Fiordland and the famous, flightless moorhen called the takahe. The fiords are also home to penguins, dolphins and New Zealand fur seals.
Fiordland’s landscape of fiords, lakes, mountains, glaciers and forests is a living remnant of the ancient super-continent Gondwana. Don't be surprised if you have a Jurassic Park moment!!
A 'must' when on the South Island (Island of the long white cloud) is to visit at least one of the two glaciers on the island. I visited the Franz Jospeh Glacier, it is amazing, beautiful and dangerous. Even in the hight of summer, it is chilly (well lit is a glacier!), take a warmish top, walking shoes and of course the camera. Be prepared for a 20 minute to 30 minute hike from the car park, boy will it be worth it. Enjoy.
A really 'off the beaten path' destination. Sometimes you find these kind of remote villages, even in New Zealand. Blackball is situated a 15 minutes drive up the Grey River Valley from Greymouth.
Blackball first was a base for gold diggers and later became a settlement for miners in the coal mine. Today there are living less than 400 people, more or less holiday makers, some hippies and people who work in Greymouth and do have their homes.
The most famous building in Blackball is The Hilton Hotel (or better Formerly the Blackball Hilton). Outside or inside it doesn't matter, it gives the feeling of the roaring twenties. Besides there are a couple of shops, but don't expect too much when visiting Blackball, it is just 'nothing'.
Driving the Haast Pass from east to west by a car is not difficult at all. You hardly notice you are driving on a 'mountain' road. But it is remarkable how the scenery will change from rather dry and barren till the lush rain forest.
Along the Haast Pass Road (World Heritage Highway) are several sites to be visited, most of them are waterfalls with funny names like Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls and Roaring Billy.
We also stopped at the car park for the Blue Pools. We had to walk through the rain forest and this was our first introduction to New Zealand's native bush. It couldn't have been better because it rained during our walk. That is (perhaps) the best way to smell the forest and to see the different green colours !!
We crossed a real swinging suspension bridge and reached the Blue Pools. The only thing which didn't fit was the colour of this pool: at least we didn't see any blue colours around.
The walk takes about 30 minutes
Being at the West Coast, we had to visit at least one of the glaciers. We did choose the Fox Glacier.
Most remarkable is the fact that we found such a mass of ice a couple of km's away from lush and green native New Zealand forest. The mouth of the glacier is just 300 metres above sea level (and rather close to the Tasman Sea).
During our walk from the car park over a rocky and slippery track, we already had a view to the glacier. 'Off course' we had a rainy day at the West Coast. It took about 20 minutes to reach the glacier. It is always impressive to watch the crevasses, the glacier river, the colour of the ice, ice blocks falling down.
On the other hand it is more or less frightening if you see the signs along the walk, which mark the places where the glacier used to end in older days.
Fox Glacier is situated a couple of km's from the Fox Glacier Village along SH 6 between Haast and Greymouth.
A drive along the West Coast, more specific between Greymouth and Westport, is one of the most scenic drives we made in New Zealand.
On one side of the road there is the Tasman Sea with a lot of rocky beaches and small islands offshore. And always the waves which are rolling on the coastline with white crests. There are some look outs along the road, which provide great views over this magnificent coastline. Sometimes we were driving close to the sea and could almost feel the water.
On the other side of the road we were surprised by a dense native bush set in a karst landscape with limestone rocks. Everywhere along this Punakaiki Coast Highway we found scenic reserves and off course Paparoa National Park. They offer a lot of walkways, so you can really smell the native bush.
All together a perfect day trip, including the visit of the must see Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki.
From the car park at Tauranga Bay starts a short walkway (10 minutes) to Cape Foulwind. There are some amazing views over the wild coastline, but the most important thing to see is the New Zealand fur seal colony at the Cape.
Along the walkway are a couple of viewing platforms which allowed us to take a look at the seals from a rather short distance and that means it can be rather smelly. It is very difficult to make pictures, because the (brown) seals are almost 'invisible' on the (brown) rocks. We were lucky to visit in February, because there were still a lot of young seals in the colony.
It is also possible to make a longer walk on the Cape Foulwind Walkway or to swim in the Bay.
Tauranga Bay is accessible either from Westport (along Carter's Beach) or from SH 6 through Wilson Lead Road.