Highway 6 runs along the western side of New Zealand’s south island. The drive seemingly takes forever, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Along the way you will find quaint towns, beautiful coastal views, and winding mountain passes. It takes around six or seven hours to drive from Greymouth to Wanaka, but its best to spend at least three or four days so you have time to take it all in.
On the Road
Part of the fun of the western side of the island is driving through the natural beauty and stopping at the small towns and attractions that dot your path. This is a place where the journey is as much fun as the destination. We did get a bit motion sick after a while on some of the roads, but that just provided an opportunity to pull off at one of many convenient stopping points.
The town of Hokitika self-identifies as the “coolest little town,” but I’m not sure that I agree with the title. The town is a great place to shop for souvenirs, especially if you are in the market for jade, and there are several restaurants and shops to explore while you are there, but I didn’t really get a “cool” or “quirky” vibe from it like other people had mentioned. The town is located on the beach, and the most interesting things we came across were driftwood sculptures built on the sand. There were some really creative ideas displayed by the artists. About 33 km from the town center, you can find Hokitika Gorge where unnaturally blue water and a swing bridge await.
Greymouth, Westport, and Cape Foulwind
Greymouth is the largest town in the western region. During my brief visit, Greymouth seemed extremely livable with lots of neighborhoods and a nice downtown area. Some of the other attractions to see in Greymouth are the historical Shantytown and Montieth’s Brewery. If you head north a little ways off of Highway 6, you can reach Westport. Westport is not a main tourist destination, but it is another town that is worth a stop, especially to see some of the great coastal scenery in Cape Foulwind. The lighthouse and seal colony are two of the biggest draws to the cape.
Note: I wasn’t able to take any photos of Greymouth or Westport that are worthy of posting, so they are not reflected in the gallery above.