The West Coast is renowned for impressive scenery and remote landscapes. But if you want to dig a little deeper and explore the heart of the West Coast, spend some time getting to know a local.
One of the best ways to do this is to experience one of the many events that are held throughout the West Coast each year. Ranging from the wild and wacky to the seriously strenuous, the West Coast has loads of fun events on offer.
With such spectacular scenery on the backdoor, it’s no surprise many events around the Westland district are sporting events. But there is also a wild food festival, a driftwood sculpture competition and many other events to give you the chance to meet some locals and go beyond the tourist stops.
Here are a few of the highlight events for the West Coast. There are many more, for a full list of events, read here.
Driftwood and Sand Beach Sculpture Festival – Late January
The Driftwood and Sand Festival is a celebration of handcrafted beach art, showcasing incredible creations made entirely from material washed up on the shore.
Held annually in late January, the festival invites participants to build works of art using only natural materials found on the beach. Created on the sand, the works of art draw onlookers onto the beach to view the impressive results. At the end of the festival, sculptures are judged, and winners are crowned. If you’re visiting the festival, look out for art workshops and “Penguinville” where children can build houses for the local blue penguins.
Rata Tree Blossom Festival – February
Known as the “New Zealand Christmas Tree”, the Rata is a native New Zealand tree that boasts a stunning red flower which blossoms in summer.The tree is a much-loved favourite amongst Kiwis as its red flowers herald the start of the Christmas holiday period.
The particularly delicate Otira Rata favours the high rainfall of the West Coast and only flowers well every few years. The Rata Tree blossom festival is a celebration of this reluctant tree, its beautiful red flower, and the role it plays in supporting the wildlife of the lush west coast forest. The festival features live music as well as stagecoach rides, a baking competition where all goods must feature rata honey (yum!) and a penny-farthing race. The festival is a great excuse to schedule some time to visit Otira, just north of Arthur’s Pass.
Coast to Coast – February
For multi-sporters, the Coast to Coast is the pinnacle of endurance sports achievement. This iconic event has been running since 1983 and is now a rite of passage for multisport athletes from around the world. Over 18,000 people have completed the incredible cross-country achievement since it first began.
As the name suggests, participants traverse the width of the South Island, starting from Kumara Beach on the West Coast and finishing in Christchurch in the East Coast. Comprising bike, kayak and run elements, athletes cross high alpine peaks and challenging terrain as they cross the main divide.
Hokitika Wild Foods Festival – March
The Hokitika Wild Foods Festival is an iconic New Zealand event, drawing thousands every year looking to challenge themselves and their palate. From the delicious to the disgusting, visitors test their nerve (and their stomachs) on some of the most challenging wild foods New Zealand has to offer.
Held every year in March, the festival features more than 50 stallholders offering the weird and wonderful. Expect food to range from the fairly tame whitebait, venison and gourmet sausages to the more daring huhu grubs, chicken’s feet, mountain oysters, crocodile bites, grasshoppers and snails.
The event always features great live music and draws visitors from around the country.
Old Ghost Ultra – March
Amongst the many multi-sport events that run in New Zealand each year, the Old Ghost Ultra Marathon is one out of the box. Played out on The Old Ghost Rd, the event gives participants the chance to access a long-forgotten gold miners access road.The road has recently been revived and is now an impressive 85-km mountain bike or tramping trail running between Lyell in the Upper Buller Gorge and the Mokihinui River in the north. The road traverses majestic native forest, rivers flats, tussock grasslands and a remote valley. Not only is the track perfectly designed for muddy mountain biking fun, remains of its goldmining past creates a historic, eerie backdrop. The track has been described as an outdoor museum.
The Old Ghost Ultra is an ultra-marathon event covering 2600 metres of cumulative elevation gain, taking athletes between 8 hours and 17 hours to complete.Something tells us this event is not for the feint hearted.
For more West Coast events, check out the full list here