Nelson to Hokitika
Leaving Nelson City you will pass through the suburb of Richmond. Moving on you will pass through the Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi National Park region. Trees, rivers and valleys accompany you now as you head towards the town of Murchison. Murchison is a quiet place and a great lunch stop. Underneath its sleepy farming facade is an adventurers paradise with white water rafting, jet boating, gold panning, kayaking, 4WD trips and excellent trout fishing.
Heading South towards Westport you will drive along the Buller Gorge, enjoy some wonderful scenery as you follow this magnificent river. Further along the river from the west coast turn off one of the must stop places is Whites Creek and New Zealand's longest swing bridge. Crossing the river you get magnificent views of the gorge and once on the other side there are short bush walks, jet boat rides and some of the historic gold mining remnants.
Continuing on your journey the first major town (by this regions standard) is Inangahua and a small museum tells of the earthquake that hit the region in 1968 leaving 70% of the buildings damaged or inhabitable. Heading south a worthwhile divert is to Cape Foulwind just south of Westport. Home to a seal colony and the short walk provides some spectacular scenery. Continuing south on the road to Punakaiki you will pass through Paparoa National Park. On arrival to Punakaiki you may want to visit Pancake rocks. Pancake rocks are open to the public free of charge all year round. These are awesome natural blow holes and rock formations, the name says it all.
Just a little further south is Greymouth, the administrative centre of the West Coast and a great attraction here is Shantytown, a replica gold mining village.
The township of Hokitika was built on the pioneering spirit of the West Coast settlers. A busy port in its heyday it then became a centre for the West Coast gold rush and more recently has become known for its Jade or Greenstone crafts. Here you will find many shops selling intricately carved pieces as well as other fine arts and souvenirs. The town itself has some great old buildings and you will also find some fine restaurants and cafes.
The windswept beach is often covered with driftwood making for an interesting stroll and the scenery to the mountains is quite spectacular with Mt. Cook very often in view. Around 15 kilometres inland you will find Lake Kaniere, an idyllic spot to take bush walks or simply relax and enjoy the bush clad hill views. Just south of the town on State Highway 6 is Lake Mahinapua Scenic Reserve where you can enjoy some short walks. The Hokitika Gorge, around 45 minutes from the centre of is a magnificent granite gorge lined with beautiful native bush. A swing bridge just 2 minutes from the car park takes you over milky blue green pools and a short walk delivers you to large moss covered boulders to explore.