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a VirtualTourist member from Red Wing

West Coast

Gillespies Beach


My wife and I will be spending several days at Fox Glacier in late November and would like to hike Gillespies Beach to view and photograph fur seals (we keep a resptful distance). I have heard it is only hikable during certain times of the day due to tides. Any suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated.

Also, if there are any other beach hikes in the area that are worthwhile for photography I would appreciate your insight.


3 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Christchurch

I have written a bit about Gillespies and Galway Beach on my West Coast page, so would refer you to that.

Do not expect fur seals there at all times. I have been there twice and not seen any fur seals. I think they are even more at Galway Beach, if I remember right. However, I have also been there, and there weren't any LOL

During low tide you can walk along the coast line from Gillespies to Galway Beach. But there is another great inland track from one beach to the other. It leads around a wonderful lagoon. Parts of the track were rather strenuous but in total it was well worth the effort - just not for fur seals.

Do you want to know about beach hikes just in this region or anywhere else on the West Coast (for example, not far away, at Okarito), or South Island, or the whole of NZ? Please specify, there are too many options.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Red Wing


Thanks so much for your reply. We will be spending about 10 days on the West Coast, split between Fox Glacier and Haast, so any beach hikes within a day's , drive are within range. Would appreciate any suggestions, including Okarito.

We are from the US and visited NZ once before, in 1989. We are returning to spend more time, starting at Golden Bay (with a day at Wharariki Beach, then to Fox Glacier, then to Haast, next Doubtful Sound, followed by Stewart Island, then Dunedin with our last stop on the South Island at Mt Cook. We'll spend a few days on the Coromandel Peninsula before heading home.

We hiked to Murphy Beach on our last trip and loved it. Any other suggestions for this type of paradise would be greatly appreciated.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Christchurch

Oh yes, Wharariki Beach is fantastic.

From the same carpark you can walk to Green Hill Beach, it is also wonderful. When I was there I was the only person on the track and beach.

Just some kms from there is the Farewell Spit. You are allowed to walk about 3 km into the Spit. Then you can cross it and walk on the outer side. The bird life on the inland side is spectacular. More walks (to lighthouse, for example, and maps at the Visitor Centre. Ask for clear directions, the tracks are not always clearly indicated.

From Takaka you can drive to the northern tip of the Abel Tasman National Park (Totaranui). Have you ever done the Abel Tasman Coastal Track? I think it is stunning, you walk through manuka forests from beach to beach. You take a water taxi to the start of the walk (wherever you want to start it) and walk to Marahau or get picked up wherever you want, for example at a place named Anchorage.

Between Kaiteriteri and Marahau you can walk down to the beach of the Split Apple Rock. Roosting shags there in the trees.

(All this and more on my Nelson/Tasman page)

Now to the West Coast.

There is a fantastic little walk just outside Fox Glacier, named Minnehaha Walk. You walk through a forest like taken from Lord of the Rings. Surely you will walk to the terminal face of the glacier, I suppose, and probably on the glacier?

Between Fox and Gillespies Beach you have, of course, Lake Matheson. You can make a loop walk around it, and on a clear day you see the reflections of the highest mountains in the water.

From Gillespies Beach there is also a walk to the south, to Otorokua Point. View of the Cook River mouth.

South of Fox would be some walks at Bruce Bay. High chance to see Hector's Dolphins. Short walks at Lakes Paringa and Moeraki.

In the Franz Josef area you have great walks, from 20 min (Sentinel Rock) to full day (Alex Knob). Always great views. At the DOC Visitor Centre (southern end of Franz Josef) they have free maps and advice.

From Okarito you can go on the Trig Walk (75mins return), a steady climb which is rewarded with fabulous views of Westland, or just walk along the rough grey sand beach. If the tide is low you can walk along the coast to the Three Mile Lagoon, if not follow an old pack track through the forest (2.5 hrs return).

As you are there in the breeding season of the white herons and royal spoonbills you should book a White Heron Tour. They take you through the rainforest on a jetboat, inaccessible on foot. The tours start in Whataroa, about 30 km north of Franz Josef.

Not far from Whataroa is a place named Harihari. There you can make the Harihari Coastal Walk (great views, about 3 to 4 hours, from the Wanganui Flat Road at the western end of Harihari).

There are plenty of walks to waterfalls, rocks etc. along the Haast Pass Road. You will drive there anyway on the way east, so there would be no need to make an extra trip from Haast.

A nice area for a day trip to the north is Lake Brunner, not far inland from Greymouth. Most start in or near the township of Moana. They are really scenic and lead through beautiful rainforest. (There are also walks in the Hokitika area but I do not find them overly exciting. However, to drive around in the hinterland, for example to the Hokitika Gorge, is quite nice.)

If you make it up to Westport I recommend Carters Beach. If there is no storm the beach is like a mirror. 10 min walk to the Seal Colony at Cape Foulwind. And still further north Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. The trip would be a long day though. Decide yourselves. Perhaps you would spend a night in the area on the way south from Golden Bay? In this case I would recommend to drive up to Denniston north of Westport. Great walks on the traces of the early coalminers.

You find more info on all this on my West Coast page.

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