Search Results For south westland

By Isobel Campbell and Hazel Ross

The West Coast wilderness is a must-visit location for more than just glaciers. In this blog we cover some of the awesome spots in this untamed West Coast wilderness surrounding Franz Josef Glacier and north of the Waiho river toward Hokitika.

Where the mountains meet the sea, the unique intersection of ancient vegetation, glaciated valleys, and coastal ecosystems has created a land of hidden gems. Containing part of the Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage area, the almost untouched landscape is the world’s best representation of the ancient lands of Gondwana. That’s pretty special. So, as you plan your South Island road-trip, it is well worth adding a few of our favourite West Coast walks and stops to the list.

The best glow-worms on the coast, visible day and night!
Photographer: Petrus Hedman

Tartare tunnels – 1 hr 20 min return

Got a glow-worm craving? Then it’s time to go caving! In the Tartare tunnels located behind Franz Josef township you can see these little critters anytime of the day or night. Constructed in 1897 for gold mining operations, the historic tunnel stretches several hundred metres, creating a pitch-black environment perfect for spotting glow-worms. This is a great walk for the kids and a bit more adventurous with ankle-deep water through the tunnel, so an extra pair of shoes and a flashlight is handy.

Suspended above Turquoise water.
Photographer: Petrus Hedman


Can you see the gold washing down the river?
Photographer: Isobel Campbell

Callery Gorge – 1 hr 30 min return

Wandering up through temperate rainforest, the track then drops down a rocky slope to the rushing Callery Gorge. Walk out onto the historic bridge to nowhere and watch the mesmerising power of the water carving through the rock walls. If you listen closely you might even hear boulders rumbling down the riverbed. As you walk through the forest, keep an eye out for some of the incredible birdlife including fantails, tomtits, and kererū if you are lucky!

Sunset on the jetty.
Photographer: Petrus Hedman
Snow-capped peaks and time for a swim.
Morning adventure to find some trout.
Photographer: Glacier Country Kayaks Ltd. 
Mirror reflection and a chance to explore
Photographer: Glacier Country Kayaks Ltd. 

Lake Mapourika

With excellent mountain views Lake Mapourika is the perfect place to park up for a swim, some fishing (don’t forget a license) or a tasty picnic. The best spot for a dip is the lakeside beach behind DOC’s Otto campsite and is regularly frequented by locals. Just make sure you watch out for eels! If you are looking for somewhere to pitch your tent the campsite offers great facilities, excellent star gazing and picturesque sunsets with snow-capped mountains often mirrored in the lake.

Explore the unique home to the white heron here at NZ’s largest coastal wetland.
Photographer: Petrus Hedman
The historic Ōkarito Wharf and boat shed will be here long after you continue with your journey
Photographer: Petrus Hedman


Tucked a 30-minute drive north of Franz Josef, this historic coastal settlement is one of the West Coast’s hidden gems. Not only is it home to New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the rowi, it also contains New Zealand’s largest coastal wetland. The Ōkārito Lagoon is packed full of birdlife from kōtuku/white heron to royal spoonbill and can be explored by kayak or on a guided nature tour. The surrounding bush and coastline can be discovered independently on foot with walks for different abilities and fitness levels.

Warm enough for a swim and in view of snow-capped peaks … welcome to the West Coast.
Photographer: Cisco Fahnestock
Sunset on picturesque beaches what more you ask for.
Photographer: Petrus Hedman
Coastal views look out to where Hectors dolphin frequently play.
Photographer: Hazel Ross

3 Mile Pack Track – 3 hr 30 min loop

Previously used to link Ōkārito to the historic gold mining towns of Three Mile and Five Mile in the 1860s, this historic pack track sets off through coastal forest before descending to  Three Mile Lagoon. Particularly spectacular at sunset, this spot has incredible views along pristine coastline. Penguin tracks are a common along the beach so keep an eye out, and if you’re lucky you may even see the real thing! The track returns along the coast. This section can only be done at low tide so check the times before you head off (they’re printed in the carpark) or return along the inland track if it is not low tide.

The best view of the Southern alps. Glaciers once covered all that the eye can see.
Photographer: Cisco Fahnestock
Mountains to the sea, this really is a world heritage location.
Photographer: Cisco Fahnestock

Ōkārito Trig Walk – 1 hr 30 min return

A shorter, but equally spectacular alternative is the Ōkārito Trig Walk. It even has glacier views on a clear day! Branching off from the Three Mile Pack Track this walk climbs steeply to the trig point at 158 m. The viewpoint provides incredible panoramic views of native forest, the Southern Alps’ snow-capped peaks, and the Ōkārito lagoon and coast. This trig was used in 1865 when the West Coast was first mapped. From here you can clearly see the valleys carved out by glaciers 14000 years ago.

A short walk with an incredible view.
Photographer: Petrus Hedman

Pakihi Walk – 30 min return

If you’re accompanied by little legs or are short on time the Pakihi Walk is a good alternative to the Trig Track. It starts by crossing swamp lands before steadily climbing through kamahi and rimu to a viewpoint overlooking the Ōkārito lagoon and Southern Alps. Stay alert for wildlife as visitors often spot curious kea and at night you may be lucky enough to hear kiwi calling in the forest.

Lake Mahinapua.
Photographer: Robert Schadewinkel

Mahinapua Walkway – 2 hr – 2 hr 30 min one way

A stone’s throw from SH6 and Hokitika, Lake Mahinapua is surrounded by a range of great walks, swimming spots and opportunities for boating. In particular, the Mahinapua Walkway is fantastic for both walkers and cyclists alike. Part of the longer West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail, the route follows a historic logging tramline and passes through wetland areas by boardwalk. The Picnic Bay side track is a worthwhile detour offering excellent mirror lake views.

Hokitika Gorge – 15 min return

One of the most popular spots near Hokitika, is the Hokitika Gorge which is famous for its stunning bright turquoise-blue waters. Surrounded by lush native bush and topped off with an excellent swing bridge this easy walk is a great photo stop. The first viewpoint is even wheelchair accessible so great for the whole family!

In our next blog we’ll explore the sights south of the Waiho River between Fox Glacier, Haast and beyond.

If you are also looking to visit the glaciers before heading up check the daily status on the Glacier Country Website or at the DOC visitor centre. Sometimes vehicle and foot access can be lost due to storm events and changing conditions in the valley. Both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are currently inaccessible as of April 2019.However, you can still fly up to the glaciers for the spectacular aerial views or guided walks on the ice. Read about the possibilities for flights and other activities in this article on the Tourism West Coast website.

By Teresa Wyndham-Smith

Ask Franz Josef couple Jan and Mike Goodall what Jobs for Nature means to them, and they’ll tell you it’s been their lifesaver.

“We’ve really had to tighten our belts because of COVID, but we’ve been okay because of Jobs for Nature. It sounds corny but it saved us,” says Jan.

Jan and Mike (Tainui/Ngāti Maniapoto) and family have run Te Koha, a carve-your-own-pounamu studio, since 2010. Before the pandemic things had been full-on for them. Contiki, a major player in bus tours, had even started bringing groups to them.

Jan and Mike Goodall.
📷: Mike Hay.

Jan and Mike have since refocussed on the domestic market, but estimate business is down 95 percent on pre-COVID levels.

Jobs for Nature came to their rescue through the South Westland Tourism & Conservation Support programme. Jan was at the local service station when she bumped into another tourism operator who asked how they were doing.  He said he’d joined up with Jobs for Nature and suggested they do too.

Jan got straight on to it, but Mike hesitated.  “He wouldn’t go for the first month, now he’s going to be team leader!”, she laughs.

Mike laughs too. “DOC is the last place I ever thought I’d work but Jobs for Nature has given us a hell of an appreciation for DOC and what they do.” 

Tourists at Franz Josef Glacier Valley, pre-COVID.
📷: DOC.

The couple have mostly been working on weed eradication, ridding riverbeds of honeysuckle and budliea around Franz Josef and Whataroa.

“We tend to have more people turn up to us for carving on rainy days. Weeding work needs to be done on sunny days, so it works well,” says Jan.

“It’s given us the flexibility to enable our business to keep going. It’s really important to keep businesses going to attract people here. If people are kind enough to travel to support us, they need to find things to do when they arrive in South Westland.

Mike removing weeds in the sunshine.
📷: Jan and Mike Goodall.

“Without Jobs for Nature I don’t know what we’d do.”

Mike adds, “We work every fine day, on average three days a week. It’s really good camaraderie. We’re working with all sorts of people, so it can be very funny.”

“Our appreciation and respect for DOC has gone right up,” says Jan,

“We’re working with a lot of people we wouldn’t normally meet – it’s good for the community. Before this we didn’t know any DOC workers. There was almost a separation because we never crossed over, now we’ve crossed over and it’s really lovely.

Honestly, the guys here are pretty cool,” she says name checking South Westland rangers Mike Hay and Chris Monson.

Mike removing gorse – one of Aotearoa’s worst scrub weed.
📷: Jan and Mike Goodall.

There’s been benefits outside of work too, they agree.

“We’ve always loved nature but now we’re doing more walking. On a day off we walked up McDonalds to the waterfall – that’s not us!”

The Jobs for Nature programme helps revitalise communities through nature-based employment post COVID-19.

Learn more about the programme and it’s impacts on people and biodiversity.

Accessibel is in the news, with one of its key players – Bridget Meyers of the Halberg Foundation – winning an Innovation in Sport Award. Find out more about this exciting project…

The technology you use impresses no one. The experience you create with it is everything.” – Sean Gerety, User Experience Expert

What do a black-tie event in Dunedin and a bushwalk in Franz Josef have in common?

Imagine that you have movement restrictions: perhaps a disability or an injury. You may not need to imagine – 24% of all New Zealanders identify as disabled! For these people even a short track can be a challenge – what if there are steps, or a slippery slope, even a tight carpark? Unexpectedly encountering ‘crunch points’ like these is scary and dangerous for many people.

A “crunch point” on the Leith Saddle walkway in Dunedin.

Enter Accessibel.

We all know the saying ‘Knowledge is Power’. Accessibel empowers people with restricted movement to explore nature on their own terms. It represents a shift from conservatively grading tracks to keep everyone safe, to trusting that people understand their own capabilities and may be able to go further and do more than others imagine with appropriate information.

On Friday 21st May Bridget Meyer was recognised for her contribution to Accessibel at the Otago Sports Awards, winning the Innovation in Sport Award. Bridget was an advisor at the Halberg Foundation for many years and throughout her life has been a committed advocate for accessibility in the outdoors.

Bridget explained: “Our vision is for ALL New Zealanders, be it families with buggies, people with temporary impairments such as dodgy knees and hips, through to those who have permanent impairments – to have access to relevant information that is going to encourage active recreation alongside their family and friends.”

Bridget Meyer and her friend Kieran explore the Dunedin Coast.
📷: Andy Thompson

Accessibel is a partnership between the Halberg Foundation, mapping software company Sensibel and the Department of Conservation. It takes a practical approach to accessing public walkways, cycleways and waterways by integrating rich data and photographs into maps. 

The data captured by “profilers” is uploaded into data-rich, interactive maps which empower people to plan for outdoor adventures. Image from

Jobs for Nature supports Accessibel mapping in Franz Josef

Jobs for Nature funding has allowed several locals that used to be in tourism to begin capturing data for South Westland tracks and waterways. This work is underway as we speak (and read 😊).

It is important that the information in Accessibel is trustworthy, consistent and comprehensive, so the ‘profilers,’ as they are known, undergo training and support. The data they collect is uploaded to the website and into a fantastic map.  There’s lots more to come before we can say we’ve mapped Aotearoa New Zealand, but it’s starting. Check out the progress so far at (open in Chrome).

As Bridget said in her acceptance speech:

“The recognition of the Accessibel project demonstrates not only to us, but also to those who have additional support needs, that we’d like to do better as a society; so we can ALL be enjoying the many outdoor opportunities that New Zealand has to offer.”

What a wonderful use of technology that is!

Brenden Howard, Jobs for Nature ranger, out measuring “crunch points” on a South Westland track.
📷: Brenden Howard
Accessibel empowers people of all abilities to plan and enjoy time in nature confidently and safely.
📷: Andy Thompson

Interested in using Accessibel? Add the website to your favourites on your mobile, and get outside with a friend or colleague who needs some support in the outdoors. You could also recommend the site to friends and whānau who mmight need some additional information about potential walks or excursions to encourage them into te taiao.

The tracks covered on Accessibel are expanding and the team are reaching out further afield to six new regions across Aotearoa, to make our beautiful whenua more accesible for all.