The Coast

Big Bay Fiordland
pounamu trail dusk
shipwreck "Empress"
coast walk
Unusual  Sights
Yellow Eyed Penguins, Tawaki - Fiordland Coastal Walks
rivermouth fiordland

The coastline sits on the south-west corner of New Zealand’s South Island between Milford Sound and Jackson Bay. It is New Zealand’s longest stretch of walkable wilderness coastline. It is remote and forgotten, untouched and magical. You will be left spellbound.

There are a variety of land and seascapes. There are long wide sandy beaches with rolling surf backed by dunes and wetlands, such as Big Bay, Martins Bay and Kaipo Bay in the south and the quite unbelievable beach at the Cascade River mouth in the north.

There are fresh and free rivers, large and small, running into the sea with the rivermouths often the congregation point for wildlife. The Kaipo River, Hollyford River, Awarua River, Hackett River, Ryans Creek, Gorge River, Spoon and Fork Rivers, Callery River, Hope River, Cascade River, Teer Creek and Stafford River, each with their own character and all as crisp, clear and untouched as any in the world.

There are stretches of boulder-strewn coast laced with pounamu (a form of New Zealand jade, or greenstone) if you can spot it. There are places where gold prospectors have paused —rarely visited. There are beaches of light sand and blue waves. And sweeping bays of gravel and stone sculpted to the ocean's curve. There are broad swathes of low tide rock pools and driftwood piled deep and high above. Backed with lush and verdant coastal vegetation, these coastlines are often the resting and nesting place for New Zealand's wildlife.

The ocean itself is spectacular. Deep sea canyons just offshore ensure a deep blue sea and sealife in abundance. The surf can at times be gigantic and awe-inspiring and at other times calm and peaceful. It will be captivating and you will have the best seat in the house.

You will get to experience one of New Zealand's newest marine reserves, the Gorge River Marine Reserve, which combined with the conservation land in the World Heritage Area, creates a land-sea environment unique in New Zealand.

The longest walk, the Haast to Hollyford Coastal Walk, includes our Forgotten Coast plus one of New Zealand's Great Walks the Hollyford Track. During this epic 10-day adventure, you  will soak up the coastal environment before venturing deep into Fiordland mountains.




There are also sheltered inlets and coves, tiny bays, beaches, nooks and crannies all dotted along the coast, which are secretive and seductive. Exploring and ambling around these is one of the delights of this coast.

The history of mankind up and down this coast is long and rich, though infrequent and often characterised by adversity due to its remote and uncompromising nature. The coastline includes the historic Barn Bay to Big Bay Tihei Mauri Ora route utilised by Maori for access to pounamu fields and trading routes. Several sites along the coast developed into settlements, such as Martins Bay where Maori chief Tutoko resided for a time. Similarly, European and other settlement has been tried and tested at various locations, then eventually abandoned. Remnants remain.

The environment along the coast is that of pure wilderness. It is virgin New Zealand. The flora is thick and lush from the giant podocarp forests to the low and ancient coastal vegetation. The birdlife is abundant and contains a wide array of New Zealand species, including many endangered species, such as kiwi and tawaki (Fiordland crested penguin). The sealife is equally rich ranging from whales and sharks to paua (abalone) and lobster. To describe each and every species in this entire environment would take forever – best to come and see for yourself. You will return home satisfied having experienced New Zealand’s coastal wilderness.

World Heritage Site

Fiordland is a World Heritage Area

Proposed Marine Protected Areas West Coast, South Island

Proposed Marine Reserves PDF