Coastal Westland is a pretty rugged and sparsely populated place. Between Haast in the south and Hokitika in the north there are few towns and a thinly spread population.
“The District consists of a long thin strip of land between the crest of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. The low-lying areas near the coast are a mixture of pastoral farmland and temperate rainforest. The eastern part of the District is steep and mountainous. Many small rivers flow down from the mountains.
The southern part of the District notably contains the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.
Westland is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country, with an area of 11,880.19 square kilometres and a population of 8,403 people (2006 census). Approximately 45% of the population lives in Hokitika (popn.3500). The remaining 55% lives in small villages such as Ross, Franz Josef and Haast, or in rural areas”. Wikipedia
From Wanaka we travelled beside Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass to reach the West Coast at the mouth of the Haast River. Our destination for the night was Fox Glacier Village, from where we planned to visit the nearby Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.
Some 25 km north of Haast is the Arthur’s Point lookout from where views of the Tasman Sea and the coastline can be seen.
In the year I left high school I hitch-hiked around the South Island of New Zealand with a friend. It was almost a right of passage between high school and university. We had travelled down the West Coast to Lake Mapourika, which at the time was almost the end of the road. To join up with the road from Haast to Wanaka we had to walk the newly formed but far from finished section of the road from the lake to Arthur’s Point, a distance of about 10 km in wet sticky mud. In the distance we could hear heavy road building machinery. As the time ticked far too slowly towards “knock off time” of 5.00 pm we were afraid we would miss any chance of a ride to Haast and have to sleep the night in the bush. At last gasp we reached the work party just as they were packing up to leave for the night. Happily we flopped onto the back of a truck for the final leg of the day’s journey.
Heading north from Arthur’s Point the road travels inland for a distance before touching the coast again at Bruce Bay, a rugged pebbly beach strewn with driftwood. If you like rugged storm-lashed beaches, this is the place to be. It was fine on the occasion of our visit, but it is easy to imagine the chaos when a south-westerly storm is raging – cold, wind-blasted, with wild surf and horizontal rain!
At the northern end of the bay the trees stand defensively against the weather, stripped of their lower branches and clinging to the eroding boundary between land and beach.
You have to be hardy to live in these parts. It’s little wonder that the coasters have that steely weather worn look that comes from living everyday with the elements.
Click on any image for a larger view.