28 May, 2019
Last updated on 01 September, 2023
Posted by Spaceships Crew
Adventures await along the Great Alpine Highway, from Christchurch to the West Coast. Grab your shorts, t-shirts, jandals & hiking boots and load them into your campervan to take part in the most scenic, wild and amazing road trip of your life.
Wake up refreshed and raring to go in the West Coast’s diverse city of Christchurch and then head west on Highway 73 straight into a world of natural beauty. Meander through the Canterbury Plains, slowly twisting and turning up into the foothills of the Southern Alps before arriving at Castle Hill.
Let the adventure begin
Now at an altitude of 700 metres, you will step back in time as you park your campervan and take a 10-minute walk to a cluster of ancient, gigantic, limestone rock formations, some towering as high as 50 metres, and wonder at these prehistoric watchtowers guarding Castle Hill in the Kura Tāwhiti Conservation Area. Watch fellow travellers bouldering and climbing and enjoy this phenomenal landmark with 360-degree views or explore on your own and participate in one of the exciting activities.
Still anxious for more adventure? Drive a short way to Cave Stream Scenic Reserve to explore this pitch-dark, 594-metre-long cave. Grab your torch or switch on your headlamp and wade into waist-high water to enter the mouth of this natural wonder. Test your physical strength against strong currents as water swishes and swirls against the limestone rock before arriving at a deep pool and a 3-metre-high waterfall.
Amazing views on the road trip from Christchurch to the West Coast
Time to wind down
Lake Pearson is the perfect place to spend a night at the campsite or have a restful picnic break from all your strenuous activity. This serene area has many hiking trails, so head for the Bealey Spur track, which takes you through a forest, grasslands and mountain tarns until you reach a point where you can view a glacier-carved valley below.
Arthur’s Pass National Park is another good place to relax or spend a night with it being halfway along the Great Alpine Highway. You can ramble down the west side of Arthur’s Pass beside swirling rivers on the banks of a lush rainforest or take an hour’s stroll to the base of the 131-metre Devil Punchbowl Falls.
Leaving the park, drive to a well-known viewpoint that overlooks the 440-metre-long, winding Otira Viaduct, which spans rivers and breathtaking, mountainous scenery. The rural community of Otira still boasts some original buildings from the 1920s as well as the John Buns Gallery of Modern Art, which is well worth a visit.
The last stretch of the journey
Still driving west on Highway 73, Jackson’s Retreat Alpine Holiday Park is ideal for a short break or a longer stay. With it being the only holiday park on the Great Alpine Highway, it even has a covered site for your campervan and is perfect for walking, fishing, hiking or joining the free nighttime glow worm adventure.
Chances are when you are driving through Inchbonnie, it will be raining. This small locality, situated on the north bank of the picturesque Taramakau River and a stone’s throw from Lake Brunner, averages 6 metres of rainfall each year. If you happen to arrive on a dry day, make sure to enjoy your stay to the fullest. Book a motel or campsite for a good night's sleep. Then enjoy and experience one of the West Coast’s finest forests the next day.
Getting to your final destination
Kumara is the last town before you finally reach your destination. This town is renowned for the West Coast Wilderness Trail, a cycleway, that opened in 2013 and wends its way through some of the best countryside to the town of Greymouth, the largest town on the South Island’s West Coast, and 40 kilometres away.
Make sure to make a stop in Kumara on your road trip from Christchurch to the West Coast, especially if your Spaceships is named Kumara
Time to relax in Greymouth
Or to get active... At last, we reach the wide river mouth and windy Greymouth where there are plenty of outdoor activities available. 4WD off-road tours, a challenging mud track quad bike tour or a pay a visit to Shantytown Heritage Park, a reproduction of a 19th-century gold mining town. A few kilometres north is Rapahoe Beach, which is a really cool place to visit for a refreshing swim during warmer, summer months.
Now the time has come to hop over to Monteith's Brewery and enjoy their amazing brews and a bite to eat. You might want to go for a tour of the brewery first, to see how they create their beers. Go for a brewery tour, then sample the beers and order some tasty snacks - their beer-battered fries are famous for a reason - as a celebration for completing this remarkable road trip.
Where to next?
After relaxing in Greymouth for a day or two, it's time to decide where to go next... Either go north to enjoy some amazing national parks there or go south to see the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. It doesn't matter which way you go from here, you will experience more amazing scenery. Make sure to stop at Hokitika Gorge on your way south to the glaciers to enjoy the bright blue water. When going North Punakaiki Pancake Rocks is a must-see. Although you will see many more amazing things on both routes. New Zealand will never cease to amaze you.