Go There & Back Dave & LeeAnne Travel the World in 2007

The Wild West Coast

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

After touring the Lakes District and Fiordland, we headed over Haast Pass to the west coast, described as wild and quite wet by most brochures and guidebooks. The drive over Haast was on one of our first clear, sunny days. For the first time, you could see the snowy peaks and brilliant blue sky. As you descend towards the west coast of the South Island, at some point the landscape changes drastically from green mountain forest to lush rainforest.

As you head north along the coast, there are virtually no services for miles.  Our trek thus far had been back to back camper-van and rental car peppered with some inexperienced cycling groups wobbling all over the lane (I’m sure we didn’t do that).  As we headed towards the glaciers, we saw barely a car.  Just green, green forest hovering around the roadway.  The blue skies faded and the weather turned damp and overcast meeting all our expectations.

The coast north of the glaciers doesn’t disappoint either.  There are a few slightly larger towns (by larger I mean a population of more than 3,000) which offer a feel of what daily Kiwi life is like and some beautiful coastline.  We chose to stop at the rather small town of Punakaiki, home to the Pancake Rocks – columns of limestone resembling stacks of pancakes –  and a quiet little beachfront hostel where you can pitch a tent for cheap.  We enjoyed the quiet beach and our first sunset over the Tasman Sea.