1. West Coast Treetop Walk
Drive 15min south of Hokitika to reach this unique experience. Like the title suggests, this is a metal-platform, wheelchair and pram-friendly walk – 20m above the ground and over 450m long – through the tops of an ancient podocarp forest.
See abundant birdlife and the surrounding canopy of rim and kahikatea from an unusual and quite revealing angle – well worth the entry fee.
I am unashamedly biased, but there is so much to do here: kayak or take a boat tour of the lagoon to view New Zealand’s only nesting sites of the kōtuku, or white heron; take the bush track over the hill past the Ōkārito Trig and south down to the next remote beach, returning back along the coast if it is low tide; try to catch a view of the rare Ōkārito Brown Kiwi near the road verge at night; and, perhaps best of all, take in the world famous (at least in New Zealand) Ōkārito sunset.
3. Franz Josef and Fox glaciers
See them before they disappear. While receding at an alarming rate, they are still spectacular and a must see. Go to Fox if you want to walk onto the terminal face (guided), or Franz for heli hikes higher up.
If you’ve got no money but are still keen for a higher view, an advanced-level track leads up to Alex Knob on the south side of the glacier. This is a full day hike, and it is advised to check with DOC for current conditions first.
4. Gillespie Beach
A rugged, remote, driftwood-strewn, black-sand beach east of Fox Glacier, this is a stunning coastal area, offering great views of the nearby mountains, glaciers, ocean and rainforest.
There is a seal colony several kilometres north up the coast. To reach it is a three-hour round trip walking from the car park. Like Ōkārito, this was another site of one of the many gold rushes on the coast and is steeped in history. Stopping off at the incredibly photogenic Lake Matheson on the way is recommended.
5. Jackson Bay
The Cray Pot is a flash café-caravan at Jackson Bay. The drive out from Haast is worth it just for an order of crayfish and chips, but there is plenty of other stuff to see on the way and once you get to the sheltered bay. Also, near here is a selection of DOC tracks and land leading to some of New Zealand’s most remote wilderness areas.