West Coast Highway (SH6)

The West Coast Road stretches along the rugged Tasman shoreline, offering a wide, diverse landscape. Fertile farmland and scrubby pakihi; cheerful towns and deserted gold settlements; the lush green of the indigenous forest and the snow of the Southern Alps, tinged pink in the aftermath of day.

The Coast, drenched by a generous rainfall (which fortunately tends to occur at night), is essentially a multitude of greens, in contrast with the browns, the greys and the yellows of Canterbury and Otago. The rain, too, gives the Coast its refreshing atmosphere and clean, fragrant bush. Winters are surprisingly mild and a time of year when the peaks are least often obscured by cloud. In spring the large rivers can be a ready source of whitebait.

The wild West Coast
The West Coast has a special niche in the folklore of the nation, doubtless as a consequence of the large contingent of Irish who came for gold and later settled here. The Coast is accepted as a place where nothing is too outrageous to have occurred; where the improbable is commonplace – the hotel that served a long beer instead of an early morning cup of tea; the mare that foaled during a race and still managed to come second – to the foal; the police who raided illegal hotel Sunday drinkers only to find them kneeling in prayer; and race courses where drink flowed so freely that a visitor could complain, ‚I’ve backed seven winners in a row, and if I’d had any money left I’d have backed the eighth!‘

Most of the stories surround the Coaster’s drinking habits, deriving from the era of six-o’clock closing, an hour which suited neither digger nor coal miner, and a restriction the Coast cheerfully ignored. Generations have been weaned on stories that surround the efforts (?) of local police to bring the Coaster into line with the rest of the nation. Certainly no other area in New Zealand is stamped with such individuality nor given such identity. From North Cape to Bluff the area is simply known as The Coast.