A Quick Trip Down The West Coast (Westport to Lake Paringa)

A few years ago, the drive down the west coast of the south island was voted one of the top 10 drives in the world by Lonely Planet. Alongside the trip around the East Cape this would have to be one of my two favourite drives in New Zealand. There is something beautiful about such an amazing stretch of New Zealand, populated by so few people. I like to do this trip at least once a year, you can read about the previous trips here (fishing trip in Jacksons Bay) and also discovering the hot springs in Hari Hari a few months ago. I started out driving over Arthurs Pass (State Highway 73) from Christchurch and stopping in at the Department of Conservation Avalanche Creek campsite which is right next to the train station on the right hand side of you are driving west (Christchurch-Hokitika). It's a pretty handy campsite and popular, so you'll often meet like minded people staying here.

Arthurs Pass

Pushing on through the Otira Gorge, the traffic was slow as a truck up ahead was going at a super slow speed, I'm guessing staying in a low gear so there breaks don't overheat going down this steep hill. Instead of taking the normal route, I turned off at Lake Brunner toward Greymouth, as I had bought a surfboard off Trademe and needed to go pick it up just south of Westport. While in the area I stopped off at the beautiful Iveagh Bay on Lake Brunner, a beautiful freedom campsite operated by the Grey District Council where you can stay a maximum of three nights if you are in a self contained vehicle. It's very strict here, so don't even try with a non self-contained vehicle as you'll be told to leave either by the locals or by the other vehicles staying here.

Iveagh Bay Lake Brunner

The weather was great. The surf was wild too, which made for (in my opinion) the ultimate west coast driving experience! After picking up the surfboard just south of Westport, I found out that there were two Christchurch lads that could've bought the board back to Christchurch for me. With 5 hours of driving ahead of me in order to reach Lake Paringa-just above Haast, that 2 and a half hours could've been really handy! Oh well, the scenery was great.

West Coast New Zealand

There are loads of places to stop and catch a photo of this amazing scenery as you drive along. This spot below (located approximately at the coordinates -42.112104,171.331247) was just one. What an awesome spot for a picnic table!

Picnic Table West Coast

It was a fairly manic drive down the coast and it felt sacrilege to be driving straight past the glaciers without even taking a look, however I've seen them before (and promised myself I would be back with more time), so on I went. I arrived just on dusk at Lake Paringa, 30 kms north of Haast for a spot of fishing and hunting in an area that isn't too often frequented by others as the specific site can be only accessed by boat.  As it turns out, it is extremely thick with flax at the head of the lake, which required some serious bush bashing. Something that any deer within 1 km could've heard, so the chances of a successful hunt were pretty slim so at dusk tried our luck at trawling for trout as they were jumping all over the place, feeding on little insects that fly around and get caught in the water. No luck here either! Westland is famous for rain, and sure enough after both an unsuccessful hunt and and unsuccessful fish, the rain came bucketing down right when we were just dozing off...Waking up in a wet tent is not on my list of favourite pastimes, and to top it off, the mosquitos were savages-having managed to get into the tiny crevices of the tent, even after spraying every possible gap with insect repellent. Well, despite the rain, mosquitos and lack of success, it was still a great feeling having driven down the west coast and accessing some awesome country like the image below (-43.711068,169.373468). There is a DOC campsite at Lake Paringa too, so if you are heading down the west coast, I would definitely recommend dropping into Lake Paringa. If you have had better success at Lake Paringa, email me adam{at}

Lake Paringa