New Zealand’s Ice Age Landscape

Tucked along the west coast of New Zealand, stretching from the harbour town of Westport all the way to the southern tip at Doubtful Sound, is some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery. Visitors to New Zealand should not miss out on the epic landscapes that make up the western coast.

milford sound photo
Photo by Greg Benz Photography

what is fiordland and the west coast?

Fiordland is the southernmost district in New Zealand, remote and beautiful. Travelers come for the incredible mountain scenery, the dark blue waters, and the snow-capped peaks. Milford Sound is one of the world’s most scenic areas, a protected wilderness area and home to several national parks. The West Coast is home to Aoraki, or Mt. Cook.

franz josef glacier photo
Photo by Jesper Bülow

what to do on the west coast

Most travelers to the west coast will be keen to hike on one of the two glaciers, Fox or Franz Josef. They are among the most accessible glaciers in the world, and tours run hourly from both towns. History buffs can explore some of the mining history in the area, from the Denniston Plateau to the Shantytown to gold panning at Ross. In Hokitika, travelers can carve their own piece of pounamu (jade) or visit the gorge. The Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki are a must-see, especially at high tide, when the water is forced into the blowholes.

what to do in fiordland

Hikes in Fiordland are considered some of the best in the world. The four-day Kepler Track starts and ends near Te Anau, while the more remote Routeburn Track sees less traffic as a result of its location deep within Mt Aspiring National Park. Visitors can also kayak (day trips or longer) through the glacially carved lakes.

kepler track photo
Photo by AMC Volunteer

how to get there

From Nelson, drive south toward Westport (3 hours). The Great Coast Road begins here, one of the best coastal roads in the world, running from Westport to Greymouth. Winding through the mountains, cars might share the road with a railroad, or a one way road might wind around a cliffside. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are another two hours from Greymouth. Follow the coastal road into the Haast Pass, right into the heart of the Southern Alps. The next biggest town is Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Two hours south is Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland. Travelers should plan to have their own cars, as buses run infrequently enough to wreck havoc on plans. Be warned about weather, particularly during the winter, but also pay attention to flooding concerns in the spring and summer. Train lovers should not miss the Trans Alpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth, considered one of the best train journeys in the world. Alternately, Air New Zealand flies from Auckland and Wellington into Queenstown.

If you are considering a trip to New Zealand, this itinerary is a must do. There is definitely a reason why Peter Jackson returned to his native land in order to film the Lord of the Rings – the scenery is beyond compare!

Photo by clownfish33

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