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Wild and untamed New Zealand’s Westland encompasses some of the most rugged vistas I’ve seen since arriving here in December 2012.

The palette of colours, diversity of terrain and the sheer scale of the countryside reminds me just how fortunate I am to have spent the last 18 months travelling through this volcanic land. Largely uninhabited yet bursting with unquestionable beauty the region is often overlooked by those visiting the tourist favourites of Queenstown and Fiordland.

There are many remnants of the rich cultural heritage that has seen the region inhabited by both Maori and European settlers at the forefront of colonization. However for me, the real appeal lies in the unfettered natural beauty visible at every turn.

While I could yarn on about its landscapes for far too long, I feel it’s best to show you some of my favourite snapshots from our month long road trip north through the Gates of Haast, and along Westland’s rugged coast.



Nestled between the ancient rainforests of Te Wahipounamu, the frigid glaciers which blanket the Southern Alps, and the Tasman Sea; Haast offers an insight into real Middle Earth.

Valued by the Ngati-Mamoe tribe for its deposits of Pounamu – Greenstone – and then the Europeans for its gold rich ground, Haast has seen settlers come and go over the past 1000 years.

Today the region is deemed to encompass such a wealth of natural beauty that UNESCO have designated it a ‘World Heritage‘ area.

Miles of tramping tracks wend their way from the show capped peaks of the Southern Alps down to the lakes and wetlands that line the coast. From the alpine highs of Haast Pass to the remote shingle beaches of Jackson Bay, Haast is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.



A small rural township Fox Glacier often plays host to more visitors that it has permanent residents. While just 300 or so people call this remote piece of paradise home, it is a favourite among road trippers and backpackers travelling the rugged coastline of the south island’s west coast.

Most notable of its natural features is Te Moeka o Tuawe or Fox Glacier as it is commonly known. A 13km blanket of glacial ice which is advancing towards the coast from the frigid heights of the Southern Alpine Range.


For those with adventure in their blood a heli hike with the team at Fox Glacier Guides is the best way to witness the sheer scale of the ice first hand. The surface of the glacier is an ever changing architectural playground sculpted by the perpetual motion of the ice sheet moving down towards the rainforest clad coast.

Just one of many areas of natural beauty within Westland’s Tai Poutini National Park, your stay in Fox Glacier should combine tramping, ice hiking and glow worm spotting as well as a trip to neighbouring Lake Matheson.



Set in the heart of glacier country Lake Matheson is known for its ability to produce the most beautiful picture perfect reflections of any body of water on earth.

Following the 90 minute trail which encircles the lake provides the opportunity to stop at Reflection Point – a purpose built board walk which takes you out onto the water and to the optimum location for extraordinary reflection. When Mother Nature plays ball and the lake is still, the surrounding alpine peaks are painted as though in watercolour on the surface of the lake.

After you’ve soaked in the view at Reflection Point and completed the trail a delicious treat is almost a necessity, and in my opinion the perfect end to the day. Despite its rural location the Matheson Café serves up some of the most delicious plates I’ve eaten during my stay here in New Zealand.

Inspired by the alpine vistas that surround the property owner and award winning chef Chris Alexander hits the spot with his combination of fresh local produce and crisp Kiwi flavours.



On the edge of Paparoa National Park is the community of Punakaiki. While I doubt many of you will resonate with the name, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with its most famous resident, Panacake Rocks.

Photographed by thousands each year these natural rock formations attract crowds from across the globe and are a great place to stop enroute north or south along the coast.

A 10 minute walk from the highway will take you out to the coast where millennia of pounding waves have sculpted the most unusual of natural artworks. When a south-westerly swell whips the ocean into a frenzy at high tide, Mother Nature puts on a powerful display of force firing water high into the air above those lucky enough to be stood watching on the walkway below.

Aside it towers of what appear to be rock pancakes stand against the force of the waves, creating a alien seascape of irregular forms.



In the northern corner of Westland sits Paparoa National Park. While its boarders encompass the heavily eroded formations of the Pancake Rocks, in its depths it harbours further examples of Mother Nature’s indomitable power.

Excavated over the years by the ebb and flow of the Nile River, the Te Ananui Caves provide a unique underground excursion to those willing to explore the depths of the park with just a flashlight and hard hat.

Our afternoon caving with the team at Underworld Adventures gave us the chance to step into a foreign world where light has no influence and the darkness dictates the delicate balance of life.



As you make your way towards the Tasman the road twists and turns following the fast flowing Buller River. Winding its way through a deep gorge the Buller is one of New Zealand’s longest rivers flowing over 170km before it reaches the Tasman Sea.

A rural Highway 6 which connects the Abel Tasman with Westland, this route is in my opinion one of the south island’s most epic drives. Navigating aside steep cliffs and surrounded by lush rainforest the Buller is a life source for much of the region.

If you fancy getting up close to the raging water and are willing to part with $5, you can suspend yourself above the river as you walk across the Buller Swingbridge. Alternatively for a rather larger fee take a ride on the Buller River Jet.

This article is part of our Snapshot Series. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more awesome #travelgrams.

For more fantastic imagery from our travels in New Zealand why not join us as we fly over Aoraki National Park, or kayak on the glacial waters of Lake Wanaka?!

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Have you explored the shores of Westland? Share your favourite moments with me below.

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23 Responses

  1. Lynda

    Wow, gorgeous photos guys! Having lived in Australia for basically all my life, it’s a wonder that I haven’t explored NZ yet! 🙁

  2. simon

    First of all, I just wanted to tell you what a stunning-looking website you have! It’s gorgeous. Second, how bad it it that, as a New Zealander, I’m living vicariously through your photos when I could fairly easily just go out there and have my own adventure?! This has inspired me to finally see a bit more of my own country – and finally go check out this “amazing Fox Glacier” that everyone keeps talking about 😉

    • Benjamin

      Thanks Simon! Its always the same, we never explore our own backyard. I’m glad we’ve inspired you to get out there and see what a superb country you’ve got!

  3. Corinne

    Charili, These vistas are gorgeous! I love the reflection the best. I’ve only been to the South Island, so some of the places you mention are completely new to me.

  4. Oliver

    Absolutely amazing shots and impressions! There are so many fascination and most intriguing places all over the world, but Iceland and New Zealand seem to have quite a magical spell… *sigh* Thanks for sharing!

    • Benjamin

      New Zealand has put me into a trance! I honestly feel as though no new destination could ever live up to the magnitude of the beauty I see here every day.

  5. Jenna

    Beautiful snapshots! I would love to explore all of these areas, but I think Fox Glacier and Buller Gorge are at the top of the list! Looks like such a fun area 🙂

    • Benjamin

      The Fox Glacier is such a breathtaking sight. To see so much ice compacted in a valley was rather mind blowing!

  6. Maria from Nerd Nomads

    Wow, your photos are amazing! Especially the Lake Matheson and Fox Glacier looks great! This really makes me want to go to New Zealand! Looks a bit like my home country Norway :).

    • Benjamin

      No worries Carmen! It’s great to be able to inspire others through sharing our own experiences of travel here in New Zealand.

    • Benjamin

      Thanks Emma! Are you a Westland native? You’ve a beautiful home to return to! I’d be homesick too!

  7. Megan Claire

    I’ve never been to a glacier before – Fox Glacier looks amazing. Would love the opportunity to do a heli hike; sounds wicked!!

    • Benjamin

      We’ve been blessed to have the freedom to explore in such depth during our time here. I highly recommend saving hard before you arrive and making the most of your 12 month working holiday visa.

  8. Carmen

    It’s so insanely beautiful. We love hiking so can’t wait to get to New Zealand and explore its beauty at some point. Thanks for the inspiration to do so!

    • Benjamin

      No worries Carmen! It’s great to be able to inspire others through sharing our own experiences of travel here in New Zealand.

  9. Stef

    Nice photos. I loved the South Island of New Zealand. Lucky you, you could see Lake Matheson with sunshine and all the reflections. It was a pretty bad day when I was there :-/ I haven’t been to the Buller Gorge, it looks amazing, will remind it for my next NZ trip 🙂

    • Benjamin

      We were very fortunate Stef. We only waited for around 40 minutes to capture this shot when the wind had dipped and almost died entirely.