22 Mar 8 Incredibly Good Looking Reasons Why New Zealand’s West Coast Drive Should be on Your Bucket List
(Or places to swim in glacier water if you’re into that kind of thing)
Wild ocean, untamed glaciers, lush wilderness, icy pools, laid-back beach towns, you can find them all along a single road in the South Island: State Highway 6.
It sounds like one hell of a road trip and we couldn’t wait to drive our Jucy through here.
We did this drive in 2 days, but we could’ve easily made it in 4. There’s just so much to see! One famous quote rang true in every mile of the West Coast: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
Some would argue it’s not about the destination or the journey, but about the company (and I would have to agree), but I digress
Without any further ado let me give you 8 reasons why the New Zealand’s West Coast Drive will blow your mind.
1. Blue Pools of Haast Pass
Azure waters nestled in the heart of a beech forest, the Blue Pools are a traveler’s dream. This was our first stop on the drive and it set the bar pretty damn high. A 10 minute hike on a well-paved road takes you to a swing bridge that floats over the most transparent waters you’ve ever seen. Even so high up, we could see straight to the bottom. The bridge was a bit crowded and we jumped on it only to make a dad freak out, take his kid, and run. Too mean?
Anyways… there was no one down by the pools. Not a single soul. Travesty, I know. We climbed down and Isaac decided to take a swim. He jumped in, and I swear to God I’ve never heard him scream so loud. You see, the water is so clear because it is actually glacier-fed and icy cold. He’s crazy, I know. The best kind of crazy there is.
2. The Waterfalls
With everything going for it, of course the West Coast had to have waterfalls. Show off.
This waterfall cascades right into Fan Tail Creek. The waterfall in itself may not be that impressive, but the valley where it falls is pretty cool. As it’s toppling with smooth riverbed stones, visitors build Cairns of all shapes and sizes. Evidently, we built our own. We like to think that this type of detail is what makes a place come alive. We could’ve forgotten the waterfall, but we’ll never forget our cairn.
Thunder Creek Falls
After a short walk from the car stop, the trees open up to reveal Thunder Creek Falls cascading right into the Haast River. The water is pristine (as if you would expect something different from New Zealand) and, as usual, you can have the place all to yourself.
Yet another waterfall, you might think. But I’ll give you a tip. It’s hidden by rich forest, it’s a natural paradise, and it’s perfect for skinny-dipping. (Don’t ask me why I know that.)
Gates of Haast
Although not technically a waterfall, Haast River falls with such power at this spot that it just may be more impressive than an actual waterfall.
3. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Glaciers near the ocean. Need I say more? Read how we explored Franz Josef Glacier in a heli-hike here.
4. Fairy tale forest
It still amazes me how you can be standing in an ice cave on a glacier one moment, and be on a lush forest the next. Isn’t it impressive how two different types of ecosystems exist so close to each other, each being a grand example of its kind?
The West Coast forest has a special feel to it, too. As soon as the canopies cover you, it’s like being swallowed by a fairy tale. Near the Blue Pools of Haast Pass I desperately needed a restroom, and the sign pointed towards the heart of a forest. Believe it or not, it was one of my favorite walks on the drive. It was great because of the birds I saw, the crisp wind, and the color-splashed trees. It had nothing to do with the fact that I totally felt like Bella going into the forest looking for Edward.
5. Glacier Hot Pools
Picture it: hot pools after exploring a glacier. If this doesn’t sound like heaven to you, I don’t what will. Pools ranging from 36°C to 40°C huddled by rainforest, and covered by giant sails, Glacier Hot Pools in Franz Josef is the perfect spot to relax and revitalize your body after hours on the road (or after going down through ice caves).
6. Its Edge-of the-World Feel
We’d read that this drive gets busy during summer, but with less than 1% of New Zealand’s population living here, I get why they’d label two cars as “busy”. Also, the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps make this place feel like you’re tipping at the edge of the world. Standing here, looking at the horizon, you get why they once thought that the earth was flat.
While having the coastline all to yourself most of the time, there are also places where you can boldly mark that you were there. Writing your name on a stone? Building a driftwood sculpture? Why, of course!
7. Hokitika Gorge
Words failed me when I was there so it’s only fitting that I let the pictures speak for themselves.
8. Because It’s Freaking Awesome
Trust us on this one.
For the sake of honesty I’ll give you a reason why you should stay far far away from the west coast: Sandflies. Nasty, biting, little bloodsuckers who’ll eat you alive in a second. You’ve been warned.
Have you been to the West Coast? Any points you’d like to add? What are some of your favorite drives? Any tips for keeping sandflies away?