With its rugged and beautiful landscapes, New Zealand’s West Coast stretches from Karamea to Haast and is known as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. And there is no better way to enjoy this New Zealand road trip than with a maui campervan hire.
The West Coast boasts five national parks including Kahurangi, Mount Aspiring, Arthur’s Pass, Paparoa, and Westland Tai Poutini. This magical region is a treasure trove of unique and rare natural wonders including New Zealand greenstone, or pounamu, which is sourced from riverbeds and boulders. The West Coast is also home to treasured endangered wildlife including white heron/Kotuku, the Fiordland crested penguin/Tawaki, and Hector’s dolphins – the world’s smallest dolphin.
From deep blue lakes and magnificent glaciers to snowcapped mountains and lush walking tracks, this unique region of Aotearoa spans more than 500km – the longest in New Zealand – and truly offers something for everyone. Despite its large land area, the West Coast has a small population, so you can enjoy plenty of space to yourself when travelling by motorhome or campervan.
With so much to see and do on this incredible South Island road trip, we’ve put together a terrific 7-day itinerary that will take you from Queenstown to Karamea and back, with all the best West Coast attractions along the way.
Queenstown to Queenstown
Best Time of the Year
- Fox Glacier
- Pancake rocks
- Mount Aspiring National Park
- Hokitika Gorge
- Oparara arches
Queenstown to Haast
Distance 209km - Driving Time 2hrs 45 min
Once you've picked up your maui Motorhome hire from the conveniently located maui depot in Queenstown, it's time to start your exciting West Coast road trip! From the Queenstown depot, drive north along SH6 towards Haast. Plan your first stop at Mount Aspiring National Park where you can walk the 3km Blue Pools track through beech and podocarp forest, across swing bridges, and to a viewing platform overlooking the magical Blue Pools.
For a half-day hike, put your hiking boots on and head along the 10km (return) Rob Roy track. This easy track takes around 3-4 hours and leads into an alpine landscape of snowfields, glaciers, rock cliffs, and waterfalls.
Once you've stretched your legs, continue driving to discover the stunning scenery of Haast Pass. Carry on for around 22km to Roaring Billy Falls Walk which takes you past Haast River. This easy walk meanders along a tree-lined track to the falls cascades.
Haast to Fox Glacier
Distance 119km - Driving Time 1hr 26min
There’s plenty to do on the second day of your South Island road trip, so plan an early start! Park up the motorhome and kick the day off with one of the many scenic walks in the area. There are plenty to choose from, including Hapuka Estuary which offers amazing photo opportunities especially during spring when native tui and kereru feed on the blooming kowhai flowers. And if you’re keen to spot a Fiordland crested penguin/tawaki, head to Munro Beach and walk the 4.7km coastal forest walk.
Next, it’s time to hit the road again and follow SH6 up the coast to Fox Glacier where you cool off with an ice hike or guided Fox Glacier walk. While you’re here, be sure to visit beautiful Lake Matheson. The lake is tucked away in an ancient forest and is famous for its amazing mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. We recommend planning your visit for dusk when the lake reflections are truly magical. And once the sun goes down, head 5km down Cook Flat Road to the Minnehaha walk where you can see glow worms putting on their dazzling displays.
West Coast Tourism
Fox Glacier to Hokitika
Distance 158km - Driving Time 2hrs 7mins
Fancy walking in the treetops, seeing kiwi up close, or taking in the sunset on a wild West Coast beach? It’s time to head 2 hours north to Hokitika! Made extra famous as the backdrop to the recent New Zealand mini-series, The Luminaries, Hokitika has its roots in the gold mining industry, but there is more than just gold in them thar hills.
There are plenty of things to do in Hokitika, and first on the list is the Hokitika Gorge Walk, a short 2km loop that takes you along the gorge and through the lush forest of the scenic reserve. Another worthy walk is Lake Kaniere where you can enjoy a picnic next to Dorothy Falls.
Next, head to Hokitika beach where you can scour the sand for New Zealand greenstone, take in the views of Aoraki Mount Cook or enjoy wine and cheese as the sun sets on the West Coast horizon.
From Hokitika, it’s an hour’s drive to Arthurs Pass National Park, a sanctuary for plant and birdlife and a place of unrivalled beauty – perfect for a spot of meditation or just appreciating the beauty of New Zealand. But if you fancy something a little more adventurous, try the Hokitika Treetop Walk where you can stroll 20 metres above ground through the canopy of the West Coast rainforest treetops. Don’t forget to plan a visit to the National Kiwi Centre where you can get up close and interact with kiwi and tuatara as well as giant eels, crayfish, and whitebait. Plan your visit for 10am, 12pm, or 3pm to feed the eels.
For a great campervan park, we suggest the Hokitika Holiday Park. And for somewhere to enjoy a good meal with fantastic ocean views, pop into Ocean View Restaurant on Revell Street, Hokitika.
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Hokitika to Westport
Distance 139km - Driving Time 2hrs
From Hokitika, it’s just a 30-minute drive to the township of Greymouth where you can pan for gold at the Shantytown Heritage Park, marvel at the scenery of Paparoa National Park, or enjoy a spot of fishing at Lake Brunner.
Continue on SH6 for 1 hour and 25 minutes to Westport, and plan a stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks on your way. These fascinating rocks structures are formed from limestone and look like stacks of pancakes. There is an all-weather walk around the rocks which will also take you to the blowholes where huge walls of spray come bursting out – they’re at their best during high tides.
From Punakaiki, it’s just 50 minutes to Westport. This quaint township was originally a gold mining town, before discovering its current mainstay, coal. You can find out more about the town’s mining history at the Coaltown museum.
The Cape Foulwind Walk – a 15-minute drive (along SH67A) from the town – is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals/kekeno, and the Cape Foulwind lighthouse.
For a relaxing night’s stay, book into the Westport Kiwi Holiday Park. There’s plenty of powered sites for campervans and motorhomes, free WiFi and BBQ facilities, and even a mini golf course.
For dinner, head over to the Portside Bistro for a great selection of dining options, including a full vegan menu.
Westport to Karamea
Distance 94.8km - Driving Time 1hr 27mins
From Westport, drive 1 hour and 25 minutes to Karamea for your final destination in the North. Karamea is the gateway to Kahurangi National Park which is home to the Heaphy Track Great Walk as well as ancient rocks, unusual plants, and some of the rarest birds in the country. A great place to see these is on a Honeycomb Caves tour as you wander the Oparara arches. Here, you can see some of the many fossils – including from gigantic moa – that attract fossil hunters from far and wide. You can learn more about the region’s fascinating history at the Karamea Museum.
West Coast Tourism
Karamea to Franz Josef
Distance 368km - Driving Time 5hrs
Today is a big day as you head back south, so plan to wake up bright and early. Your drive toward Franz Josef will take around 5 hours and provides a good opportunity to see anything you might have missed on your travels north.
Just before you reach Franz Josef, plan a stop in Whataroa to complete a White Heron Sanctuary tour. This 2.5-hour tour includes an informative minibus ride through lush West Coast farmland to the remote Waitangiroto Nature Reserve where you can see the rare and special Kotuku in its natural nesting environment.
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Franz Josef to Queenstown
Distance 351km - Driving Time 4hrs 38mins
It’s day 7 already, and time to head back to Queenstown. But there’s no rush! The drive takes almost 5 hours so take your time and enjoy the stunning scenery as you wind your way back through this special part of New Zealand.
Plan a lunch stop in Wānaka at the Bistro Gentil where you can enjoy French cuisine and perhaps a nice glass of Gallic wine before taking a stroll around the lake, and capturing a photo of the iconic Wānaka Tree.
It’s been an action-packed 7 days ticking off a long list of South Island must-do adventures, and your final stop is to drop your campervan back at the Maui Queenstown branch. While you’re there, have a chat with the friendly team about planning your next New Zealand itinerary – there’s plenty more to be had!
Ready for your wild West Coast adventure?
From wild waterfalls to serene lakes, fossilized moa to herons in full flight, the West Coast is truly one of New Zealand’s most magical regions. A maui campervan holiday gives you the opportunity to do it in total comfort at your own pace, and to take those interesting little diversions and enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. maui’s range of premium, modern motorhomes have all the amenities for a fully self-contained, comfortable holiday at any time of year.