A Kiwi's Point of View: Lisa Drysdale's West Coast Wilderness Recap

Cycling through the West Coast wetlands | Lachlan Gardiner
Cycling through the West Coast wetlands | Lachlan Gardiner

Our first trip of the season kicked off on the 27th of September on the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

The region certainly lived up to it's name with mother nature throwing all seasons at the group, but that didn't stop them from having an incredible time! It just goes to show, there's no such thing as bad weather when you've got good gear.

Read Lisa's day by day recap of her trip alongside some stunning photos below.

Rugged up cyclists |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i>

DAY 1: Ross to Hokitika

Travelling to the West Coast at the end of September was always going to bring an element of risk with the weather, but with MetService issuing a warning to expect ‘significant severe weather’ with periods of heavy rain, severe gales and snow to low levels across western and southern parts of the South Island, it is fair to say we were a little nervous.

Checking out the historic transport on the West Coast |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Ross to Hokitika |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Old railway bridge |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i>

Our group of 4 couples packed sensibly with plenty of wet weather gear and thermals and set off for the West Coast Wilderness Trail on the last weekend of September. The gorgeous weather in Christchurch gave us a false sense of security the night before. Pete arrived early on Sunday to collect us from the hotel and off we went to the Adventure South base to collect our bikes.

As we travelled over Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast, the weather deteriorated – the predicted wild conditions had arrived! The ride from Ross to Hokitika went well – through bush, over bridges and board walks. Very picturesque and a nice, flat section to get used to our bikes. The wind certainly added a bit of fun as we were blown into Hokitika. A great first day!

Day 2: Hokitika Gorge

The wild weather put a hold on the biking today, but Pete came up with a Plan B so that we wouldn’t miss out on a thing. First stop was Hokitika Gorge, which was still stunning, and then a drive out to the misty Lake Kaniere. We had time in the afternoon to stock up on more wet weather gear and a movie at Hokitika’s Regent theatre before dinner with must-have West Coast whitebait fritters and a few glasses of Monteith’s at Stumpers Bar. Another fantastic day!.

Hokitika Gorge |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i>

DAY 3: Hokitika to Kumara

After a visit to the Treetop Walkway – a very impressive set up that gets you up above the giant native trees – it was time to leave Hokitika and get back on the trail. We had a bit of distance to make up today, but we were ready for it. Pete met us at several stops along the way with snacks, additional clothing and words of encouragement.

It was a beautiful ride through the bush alongside the Kaniere water race before popping out at the lake. The next leg took us to Milltown, biking alongside the icy blue Kokatahi River. Plunger coffee, tea and lunch was set out for our arrival in the Milltown shelter and was very welcomed by us. The friendly local Weka also seemed happy for some company!


Hokitika |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Treetop Walkway |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> WTC 27 Sept 2020 |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i>

We zig-zagged up through farmland and bush, popping out at Cowboy’s Paradise and then continued to ascend to the summit of Kawhaka Pass. We experienced a little hail and snow on the descent, but that did not dampen the mood at all – it just added to the adventure! The day’s ride finished at the Kumara Reservoir. We all felt a real sense of achievement!

We were treated to a night at the historic Theatre Royal Hotel - the replica Miner’s Cottages were full of knick knacks from long ago, the warm bath was bliss and we could catch up on some washing! The night in the restaurant was great – lots of recapping of events from the day, delicious food and plenty of banter amongst the group.

DAY 4: Kumara - Greymouth - Punakaiki

Pete drove us back to the reservoir so we wouldn’t miss one bit of the trail. The weather had blown over and we were in for a gorgeous sunny day. It was so pretty alongside the reservoirs, with plenty of photo opportunities.

The trail took us back into Kumara, before the final stretch beside the ocean into Greymouth – we had finished the entire West Coast Wilderness Trail. But we weren’t done yet! The bikes were loaded onto the van and off we went for lunch at Monteith’s Brewery – a great way to finish!

Greymouth Finish Line! |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Truman Track |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> WTC 27 Sept 2020 |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i>

Our destination for the night was Punakaiki, but we had a couple of stops along the way to truly appreciate our surroundings. We stopped off for a stroll along Truman Track, a short bush walk down to the coastline to take a look at the waterfall that flows directly onto rocks on the beach. A little further along, the limestone cave formations are pretty impressive – awesome scenery around here!

The day was topped off with a walk in the Paparoa National Park, for those who wanted to (the rest spent the few hours soaking up the sun enjoying some cold Monteith’s in the garden bar at our accommodation for the night, the Punakaiki Tavern). The 8km walk took us alongside the Pororari River – the perfect way to loosen up after a couple of long days on the bike.


DAY 5: Punakaiki - Christchurch

The day started out with a trip to a natural attraction that I have wanted to visit for a long time – Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. The walk to the main attraction was beautiful enough on its own, but the rocks lived up to their reputation and were super impressive.

I could have spent hours here just looking – nature at its best! Next stop was Taylorville on the Grey River for a walk around the Brunner Mine Site – pretty cool to see one of the country's earliest industrial sites where coal was mined and coke and firebricks were manufactured in the late 1800’s.

Moana - Lake Brunner |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki |  <i>Lisa Drysdale</i> Experience the world class TranzAlpine train journey from the West Coast to Christchurch |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

Time for the last bike stint before heading home – a 30km ride along the shores of Lake Brunner into Moana. This was a fast ride, a good burn out before lunch and then boarding the TranzAlpine. This trip has a bit of everything! The train trip was the perfect way to end a perfect 5 days!

We cannot fault the whole experience, not even the weather! Pete, from Adventures South NZ, had everything organised but adapted things to enable us to complete the entire trail despite the wind, hail and snow. Having him there along the way with hot drinks, snacks, extra clothing, tips for the next leg, plenty of encouragement and knowledge of the area was just invaluable. I cannot imagine doing this without him!

Pete became a part of the group and we thoroughly enjoyed his company – he was the ultimate professional! This is a great trip for groups with varied physical abilities – it is challenging enough without being too technical and extreme.

And it is not only the biking, it’s the added extras – the gorgeous sub-tropical rain forests, lakes, rock formations, national parks, history, the unpredictable weather, the laughs, the challenge – the West Coast! We loved it!


Tripadvisor Review:

Four couples set out on the West Coast Wilderness Trail not too sure of what to expect and we loved it! In between the hail, snow and wind we completed the entire trail and had an absolute blast! We experienced the true West Coast!

Our guide, Pete, had everything organised to perfection. The accommodation was top notch, meals were fantastic and the bikes were great. Pete had plunger coffee, tea and snacks ready at regular spots along the way. His knowledge of the trail and what was required was hugely reassuring and he quickly became a welcomed part of the group.

He adapted our trip to get around the weather, but we didn't miss out on a thing. I cannot fault anything - not even the wild weather! This trail is loads of fun and a good challenge. We would highly recommend Adventure South and are looking forward to other adventures with them very soon. I couldn't imagine doing these types of trips without them!

It was our pleasure to host you Lisa and friends, we look forward to seeing you on the trails again soon!

See our 5 day West Coast Wilderness trip details here.

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