Lonely Planet hails West Coast

By Eveline Harvey

Recognition is just an announcement to the world of what Coasters have always known, says local mayor.

The Whataroa River and gorge. Photo / Tourism West Coast
The Whataroa River and gorge. Photo / Tourism West Coast

Auckland was last week named by Lonely Planet's Best in Travel as one of the top places to visit in 2014, but the City of Sails wasn't the only New Zealand spot singled out.

The South Island's West Coast found itself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Victoria Falls and Mallorca on the travel bible's list of the top 10 regions tourists should consider heading to in the coming year.

"They are basically just announcing what we here on the West Coast have always known," said Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn in response to the recognition.

Namely, that there are amazing sights to be seen all along this ruggedly beautiful strip of country.

And despite its reputation among many New Zealanders as a remote region, Kokshoorn said technological advances were now helping drive tourism to the area.

"The isolation's going out of the West Coast ... you can connect with your cell phones and your Twitters and what have you."

Kokshoorn recommended visitors to the Grey District explore the area around Lake Brunner and suggested they could make the most of their arrival by travelling aboard the TranzAlpine from Christchurch before encountering some fresh air and sea spray at the Grey River mouth.

"The boiling sea and the vistas of the alps are just spectacular."

Westland District mayor Mike Havill said the fact the recognition from Lonely Planet came just ahead of the official opening of the national cycleway's West Coast sections and shortly after Eleanor Catton's Man Booker win with her Hokitika-based novel The Luminaries, was a "great coincidence".

Asked to choose a handful of local highlights for tourists, he singled out the drive along the coastal road as "phenomenal" and said the recently-opened Westcoast Treetop Walk in Hokitika was a "world-class" site.

Havill said the scheduled opening of the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Road sections of Nga Haerenga (the New Zealand Cycle Trail) later this month offered tourists the opportunity to experience the area in a different way.

"I think it's something to do and people like those interactional holidays ... not just standing around when they're on holiday."

Garnering special mention in the Lonely Planet write-up were the Cape Foulwind seal colony, the "mesmerising mirror lake of Matheson" and Hokitika Gorge.

"Those who think they've seen it all should prepare for some enlivening surprises," the book says of the region which "lays claim to three national parks and large tracts of three more".

Kokshoorn said the accolade was fantastic for the region but he was keen to appeal to domestic tourists as well as Lonely Planet's international audience.

"What we're saying to the rest of New Zealand is 'Come on over, we've got the billy on'."

Ten top West Coast tips

• Arrive in style aboard the TranzAlpine from Christchurch.

• Tackle a section of Nga Haerenga - The New Zealand Cycle Trail.

• Visit Hokitika and pick up some locally-crafted greenstone or glassware.

• Get in a spot of trout fishing at Lake Brunner.

• Marvel at the water colour in the Hokitika Gorge.

• Check out the wildlife at the Cape Foulwind seal colony.

• Take in the view from the new Westcoast Treetop Walk.

• Drive the fantastically scenic Great Coast Road.

• Have a contemplative moment at Lake Matheson.

• Head out on the ice at Fox and Franz Josef glaciers.

Further information: See Tourism West Coast.

- nzherald.co.nz

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