A Guide to an EV Road Trip on NZ’s West Coast

A Guide To An Epic EV Road Trip On NZ's West Coast

Travelling along the rugged West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is an incredible experience beyond compare. The West Coast offers the perfect blend of nature and wildlife, from glacial lakes to lush rainforests; this journey is a must-do for all travellers.

With the increasing adoption of EV's in New Zealand, it is now much easier and convenient to undertake a long-distance road trip like this one and it’s always nice knowing you’ve got the option to make a conscious choice for the good of the planet.

To save you time researching, we’ve put together a guide with all the best things to do along the West Coast, so you can make the most out of your trip!

Best time to visit:

Although the West Coast is an epic spot to visit all year round, the winter months are truly magical. The West Coast is known for having a very wet climate, but you’re more likely to be treated to calm, clear, chilly days during the winter time as well as beautiful starry skies. Alternatively, the summer months will bring the warmer temperatures and longer days, allowing extra time to explore. Honestly, rain hail or shine, this place is a beauty and worth a visit no matter what time of year you decide to visit.

Getting there:

There are a couple of ways to get to the West Coast but you’ll likely be coming from either Queenstown or Christchurch. These two main hubs are the perfect place to pick up your choice of vehicle, and there are plenty of EV options available if that’s what you're opting for. We picked up our trusty Polestar 2 from the Sixt depot in Christchurch. The drive to the coast from both of these locations is absolutely stunning and will give you a taste of what awaits you on the West Coast. 

One of the significant advantages of travelling in an EV on the West Coast is the network of Chargenet charging stations. The Chargenet network is designed to support EV road trips, providing a reliable charge for your vehicle when required. The charging stations typically take less than an hour to get your EV charged, giving you plenty of time to explore the local sights, grab a bite to eat, or simply relax and recharge yourself while your vehicle is charging up.

Where to stay:

There are plenty of accommodation options, each offering their own distinct experience. Below we’ve listed just a few of our favourites. This will help you to choose based on your preferences and the activities you plan on doing during your time on the West Coast. 


Rainforest Retreat:

Nestled in the heart of Franz Josef, Rainforest Retreat offers a unique experience surrounded by lush greenery. This accommodation provides a range of options, from cosy cottages to eco-friendly lodges. Relax in their hot pools or unwind at the onsite restaurant and bar after a day of exploring the glaciers. The Rainforest Retreat is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the West Coast.


Brewers Night Inn:

Located in Reefton, Brewers Night Inn is a charming accommodation option that offers a comfortable and quaint stay. With its cosy interior, this inn captures the warmth and hospitality of the West Coast. After a day of sightseeing, indulge in some local brews at the Reefton Distillery or get takeaways to enjoy at the cabin. One thing we also love about this spot is it’s dog friendly!

Scenic Hotel Punakaiki & Te Waonui:

For those looking for luxurious accommodation, the Scenic Hotel Punakaiki and its sister property, Te Waonui Forest Retreat, are excellent choices. Scenic Hotel Punakaiki offers stunning views of the rugged coastline and provides modern, comfortable rooms and facilities. Te Waonui Forest Retreat, on the other hand, offers a secluded and eco-friendly experience amidst the rainforest. Both locations have Chargenet stations close by, making them convenient options for EV travellers.


Welcome Flat Hut & Mt Brown Hut:

For outdoor lovers seeking a more adventurous experience, staying at Welcome Flat Hut or Mt Brown Hut is a must. Welcome Flat Hut is situated in the heart of Westland Tai Poutini National Park and offers stunning views of the Southern Alps. The hut provides basic but comfortable accommodation and access to the nearby natural hot springs. Mt Brown Hut, located near Hokitika, offers a peaceful retreat surrounded by wilderness, a welcomed sight after the slog to get there. There are very limited facilities up there as well as only having the 4 bunk beds. It’s first in first served so bringing a tent as a backup is a good idea. These huts provide an opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

Best things to do:

The West Coast of New Zealand's South Island offers a wide range of things to see and do. From hikes, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, beaches and lush rainforests, there are many must-visits. Here are just ten of our top highlights:


  1. Haast Pass Waterfalls, Blue Pools Walk & Wilson Creek Chasm:


If you’re coming from Queenstown, you’ll drive through the stunning Haast Pass, home to some pretty incredible waterfalls. Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls are easy to access and involve very little walking to get to. If you haven’t already, be sure to download the free Roady app for more info on all of these places mentioned. 

The Blue Pools offer a serene and mesmerising experience with crystal clear blue waters. The hidden Wilson Creek Chasm is an incredible otherworldly sight and will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.

2. Okarito:

A hidden gem on the West Coast, Okarito offers a peaceful retreat and stunning natural beauty. Take a kayak tour through the Okarito Lagoon, home to diverse birdlife and surrounded by pristine wilderness or head out for a stroll on the Okarito Trig Walk. The views of the ocean and mountains from Okarito is what makes this place well worth a visit.


3. Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers:

The Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are among the most accessible glaciers in the world. Embark on a guided tour or take a helicopter ride to witness these massive rivers of ice up-close.

4. Lake Matheson:

Near the Fox Glacier township, Lake Matheson offers a picture-perfect reflection of the Southern Alps, making it a photographer's paradise. The loop track is nice and easy and there are multiple viewpoints of the lake and mountains throughout the walk.


5. Alex Knob & Copland Track:

For adventurous hikers, the Alex Knob and Copland Track provide slightly more challenging but rewarding experiences with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. We’d put the Copland Track up there as one of the best hikes in the whole country. At the end of the hike, you’re greeted to the Welcome Flat Hot Pools, a natural spring tucked in amongst the mountains. Spend a night at the Welcome Flat Hut and wake up with a soak in the pools. The Alex Knob Track will reward you with one of the most iconic views of the Franz Josef Glacier.

6. Franz Josef Kayak or Quad Tour:

Another great way to see more of the Franz Josef area is by heading out on a Kayak Tour on the pristine Lake Mapourika, one of the West Coast’s many beautiful lakes. For those keen on a bit more of an adventure, the Quad Bike tours will see you traverse challenging terrains with alpine scenery and lush secret forest trails. 


7. Hokitika and Hokitika Gorge:

Hokitika is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the unique arts and crafts culture of the West Coast. Explore the local galleries and workshops to discover intricately carved greenstone (pounamu) and other stunning pieces. You can also have bonfires on the beach in Hokitika and the sunsets here are absolutely magic. A short drive away, Hokitika Gorge awaits with its turquoise waters surrounded by native forests, creating a beautiful, peaceful setting.


8. Punakaiki 

Known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, Punakaiki is a must-visit destination on the West Coast. Witness the incredible rock formations that resemble stacks of pancakes and experience the power of the sea as the blowholes spray water high into the air. The Paparoa National Park surrounding Punakaiki offers a variety of walking and cycle tracks and is a great place to explore the lush rainforest and dramatic coastline.

9. Reefton 

Visiting Reefton, a historic mining town, is a journey back in time with a touch of modern charm. Known as the "Town of Light," Reefton offers a unique blend of rich heritage, natural beauty, and outdoor adventures.


10. Karamea & The Arches

For those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures, Karamea is the perfect destination and is located at the very top of the West Coast. Visit the famous limestone formations known as "The Arches" and take in the breathtaking coastal scenery. Karamea is also the gateway to the Kahurangi National Park, offering hiking opportunities and a chance to witness rare wildlife.


No matter where you go, nor what you do, we can guarantee an unforgettable experience as the West Coast truly is something special. So pack up that EV and get on the road to one of the most incredible places in our New Zealand. 


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