8 must have experiences in the West Coast, New Zealand. Our top things to do!

The Wild West Coast. With its rugged coastline, abundance of waterfalls and some of the very best sunset's we have seen in New Zealand. Maybe it's true what they say? West is Best?

Now before I get into it I will add the disclaimer that the weather on the West Coast can be a bit of a rollercoaster. You can be promised a forecast of bright blue skies and minimal wind, and next minute find yourself handing over $10 for an overpriced (but much needed!) poncho. Bear this in mind, and try and find a patch of 2-3 clear(ish) days for your visit (if you can). And also BYO jacket, I'm of the belief that ponchos should never be more than $4.

Ok, onto some of our FAVOURITE spots in the West Coast. Each included for different reasons, and each with that little somethin' somethin'.

1. Lake Matheson Reflection

Lake Matheson Mirror Reflection Aoraki Mount Cook

This is a spot that will leave you speechless.And also maybe a little frustrated. I say frustrated because it took us four visit before we got what we were looking for; that perfect mirror reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Fox Glacier is home to the beautiful Lake Matheson Mirror Lake Walk which has three different view points on it, all perfectly positioned to give you an incredible view of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The walk to Reflection Island takes 30-40 minutes and is part of a loop, however at January 2020, part of the track was closed meaning you could walk all the way to Reflection Island but then had to return to the carpark the same way. The walk is very flat and well defined so you would be a-ok doing it at night time and/or before sunrise.

While this spot is absolutely beautiful at any time of day, try and time it for a sunrise or sunset if you can! And this (like 99% of the West Coast, is also a spot you will also want insect repellent for!).

To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to Lake Matheson - including which view point we took our photo at and our camera settings for the above shot, please click here.

Lake Matheson Summary

  • best at sunrise or sunset

  • best on clear/ low cloud day so you can see Mount Cook/Aoraki

  • 30-40 minute walk to Reflection Island from Carpark (one way)

  • insect repellent required

2. Haast Blue Pools

The most incredible water colour you ever did see. The Haast Blue Pools are very much worth a visit on your West Coast road-trip. However to have the best time here you really want to make sure you are LATHERED in insect repellent. (This, along with Hokitika Gorge [below] and Milford Sound Foreshore are in our top three sandfly hot-spots!). Side note, would this be a good blog? Sandfly Spots in NZ? Probably not haha. I digress.

A quick 15-20 minute walk from the car park (on State Highway 6) will find you walking through beautiful NZ forest and over two old swing bridges. If you're game (like James), you can jump from the second swing bridge (where the water is deeper). Otherwise if you're more like me (Charlotte), you can dip your toes in, squeal at how cold the water is and put your effort into cheering James on.

We think early morning is the best time to visit the Blue Pools as it can get very busy around lunch. Note, if there has been recent rain, the Blue Pools can also be a bit murky in colour. It usually takes a second rain to return them to their original blue colour. We recommend checking the weather forecast (including previous days) before you go.

To read our travel guide - the CJ Way to the Haast Blue Pools including our photography tips and camera settings, click here!

Haast Blue Pools Summary

  • best early morning

  • best on clear and sunny day