Self Drive West Coast | Avis Car Rental

West Coast Self Drive Holiday

The West Coast stretches almost as far as the distance from Auckland to Wellington, and this long skinny region is one of the most beautiful, rugged and elemental places you could hope to visit. Sparsely populated but packed with wondrous sights, it is a hunting, fishing and hiking mecca. Glaciers, raw coastline, sub-tropical forests and alpine attractions are part of the mix that makes the West Coast so special. The pioneer spirit that made this a mining and forestry frontier is still evident today. You'll find that while the West Coast is wild, it is also the home of a warm welcome.





The Denniston Plateau Coal Mine Experience

From 1879 to 1967 the Denniston Plateau was a busy coalmine. Up a seriously steep incline and isolated, the work was dangerous, hard and carried out in cold and unforgiving sub-alpine conditions. This is a place where even the dead were shipped out as the ground was too hard to dig graves. At one stage 1500 people lived here to support the mine, but today only two occupied residencies remain. This is a ghost town and a recent ruin that gives visitors a real insight into hard lives lived not long ago. The Denniston Experience is an immersive trip back. You can ride a train through the Waimangaroa Gorge to recreate a day for the miners. You head deep into the mine where the sounds and activities of a working seam are recreated. You need to be fit enough to walk for half an hour, and keen enough to go underground, and if you can get to this window into the mining heart of the region, you should. The Denniston Plateau landscape is also home to Mountain biking with many tracks well maintained and well-used.
25 Kilometres northeast of Westport

Denniston Mine Website


Underworld Adventures

In 2012 Norwest Adventures celebrate 25 years of providing magical experiences on the Coast. Although they are underworld adventure specialists you don't have to be a caver to have a great day here. They have the Nile River Rainforest Express that is suitable for all-comers. It's a train ride that takes you through the limestone canyon, bush and alongside the river to deliver you to the Nile River Caves. There you can choose from a number of experiences. The intrepid can be fitted out with caving gear and take on Adventure Caving. This starts with a 130ft abseil into the black, and it quickly changes from a long way down to a series of very tight squeezes. The less extreme can take the glow worm tour. You still need to be able to walk on uneven surfaces for two hours straight, but you won't need your togs as you do for the adventure or the blackwater rafting. Located 20 minutes southwest of Westport in Charleston.

Underworld Adventures Website


Around the Globe Gold Mine Tours

And while there are amazing historic attractions mining is by no means a thing of the past, being one of the major industries on the coast. Head along on this tour to see how gold mining was carried out by the first waves seeking gold in the 1860s and 70s, then visit a modern working mine. The contrast between the manual past and the high tech present is fascinating. Don a hard-hat and throw on a hi-vis vest to see the enormous 92 tonne dump trucks at work, all set amongst the beautiful surrounds of the Victoria Conservation Park. Reefton is an hour from Westport and is a beautiful pioneer town to visit and enjoy a meal.

Reefton Tours Website



Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

State Highway 6 is known as the Coast Road and is one of the best drives the country has to offer. The rugged coast has a lot of history and scenery packed in, so take your time driving the 100 kilometres from Westport to Greymouth. About halfway down, stop at Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks and blowhole. These limestone formations have been weathered and gnarled over 30 million years and are emblematic of the unique and tough conditions the coast is known for. They are also the setting off point for Paparoa National Park, home to many wonderful walks. As with all activities on the coast be prepared for the elements and you will have a memorable and enjoyable adventure.

Punakaiki Tourism Website


Lake Brunner

Hunting and fishing is part of the resourceful DNA of the West Coast. Lake Brunner, 37 kilometres southeast inland from Greymouth is famous the world over for exceptional brown trout angling. There is a full range of resorts available, from luxurious to rustic. The best option is to get a guide to help you get the licences and gear you need so you have more time to enjoy the fishing. The Lake also offers lovely walks, safe swimming and plentiful birdlife.

Lake Brunner Website


Monteith's Brewing Co

Monteith's Brewery has long been a drawcard on the coast. Since 1868 there has been a brewery here making characterful batch brewed beers. Monteith's have undertaken a large redevelopment of their site. The new complex boasts a museum telling the history of brewing in the region along with the facilities to be able to make small run specialty craft beers. Come along to see what goes into making a West Coast icon, and then go for the informative tasting session. Be sure to book, and if you get a chance try the beer and food matches in the local restaurants. It isn't just wine that can match a meal perfectly.

Monteith's Website



Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier (Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere) is a rare treat - a glacier easy to get to and easy to climb. By glacial standards Franz Josef moves fast. It is currently in retreat, and can move up to 70cm in a day. The Church of St James was built here in 1931 with a picture window showcasing the ice form. By 1954 it had moved from view, but since 1997 it has been visible again. Visit to get a feel for the movement that represents. You can walk part way up with the aid of crampons and pick-axes, and do take a guided tour for safety and to get the best experience. Perhaps take a helicopter tour to the higher sections that are inaccessible by foot, or just marvel from a distance.

Dept. of Conservation Website


Glacier Hot Pools

The South Island iwi (Maori tribe), Ngai Tahu, is responsible for many of the best tourist attractions in the south. They developed these hot pools with a philosophy of treading lightly on the earth, and the care and love is evident. Water from the glacier is used for the private and public hot pools here, and massages and other pampering are also available. The tribe have always considered the coast a treasure, and this complex is a gem indeed.

Glacier Hot Pools Website


Lake Matheson

The trick here is to turn up early as this gorgeous lake operates as a perfect mirror at dawn. Before the sun has heated up the world and kicked the wind into action, the surface of the lake should be perfectly still. Lake Matheson has dark waters and as the first light of day hits your early start will be rewarded with a postcard perfect reflection of Aoraki-Mt Cook. The mirrored shot will make you look like a professional photographer, and the majesty of the sunrise sets you up for a great day exploring. This beautiful lake is just minutes from Fox Glacier township.

Dept. of Conservation Website


Wildfoods Festival

This region is known as the Wild West Coast for the elements, the individuality and for the unusual things you might just eat at this festival. The Wildfoods festival is a foodies dream and in parts, perhaps a nightmare. Amongst the wonderful Venison, Whitebait fritters and Manuka honeycomb on offer there are also a few unusual options. The Huhu grub has been popular for a while. It's like an enormous caterpillar crossed with a slug and shaped like a yam. Apparently it's quite tasty. If you get offered a mountain oyster you might like to know they are sheep testicles. If that doesn't sound like your thing you can simply enjoy the atmosphere, music and more appetizing treats. The Wildfoods Festival is held annually in March.

Wildfoods Festival Website



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