Now I know what you might be thinking, New Zealand has a rainforest? Say what?
My thoughts exactly. Who knew?
And yes it does, and it is magnificent.
I hope you can keep a secret because I’m about to give away one of New Zealand’s best. Are you ready?
As much as I love my snowy mountains of Wanaka, the turquoise lakes of Canterbury, the hustle and bustle of Wellington and the volcanoes of the North Island, even the Catlins on the rugged south coast, there is one spot that keeps calling me back over and over again – New Zealand’s wild west coast.
My first introduction to the West Coast was with Haka Tours last Christmas and it stuck with me. Since then I’ve been back on my own on my road trip moving to Wanaka and also on my Jucy winter roadie and once again last month.
I can’t stay away.
When I first heard about the West Coast, kiwis told me with pride that it’s one of the last pristine areas of the country – it’s what New Zealand used to look like hundreds of years ago before it was settled and the land was cleared for farming.
Nowadays, it’s like nowhere else in New Zealand.
Dense bush (rainforest) rubs shoulders with the rough Tasman Sea and backed in by the mighty Southern Alps and Fox and Franz Josef glaciers dropping down from Mt. Cook. In short, it’s epic. It’s wild. it’s people are a bit weird. It never stops raining, and it kinda looks like Jurassic Park.
Less than 1% of New Zealand’s population lives here making it, how do I phrase it delicately? Remote as hell. And even though one of the main roads in the South Island runs the length of the west coast, it doesn’t really get that much attention.
Most people blast through the West Coast, stopping for photos at the famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki before powering all the way down to Franz Josef Glacier. The middle bit gets overlooked, but in many ways, it’s the best part.
It’s classic New Zealand at its finest!
I was trying to plough through The Luminaries, an amazing but dense book set in the gold rush era of the West Coast in Hokitika the first time I heard about Canopy Camping, a site that hosts several glamping sites around New Zealand. I already fell in love with glamping on the Kapiti Coast last year, and I was keen to give it a try again.
As soon as I saw pictures of Hurunui Jacks near Hokitika, I was sold.
In early spring my friend Laura and I decided to escape the endless Wanaka winds and head northwest to check it out for ourselves.
For people living in Wanaka, the West Coast is a popular weekend getaway. Just over the mountains through the Haast Pass, the rugged West Coast with its ancient baches, good fishing and wild beaches is a favorite spot.
This is also one of my favorite drives in New Zealand. To say it’s stunning is an understatement.
The rain and the clouds rolled in just as we were passing Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers heading north; you can never escape the rain on this side of the mountains.
But since that’s what makes it so green and lush, I decided to look on the brightside and see it as cozy and atmospheric.
Trust me, when you visit, you’ll probably think the same thing.
About 10 minutes past Hokitika cell reception ended, and I knew this would be the exact, quiet chill getaway I was looking for.
After being warmly greeted by Maureen and John, the owners of Hurunui Jacks, and of course, faithful Dennis, we grabbed out bags, switched our sneakers for gumboots and made our way through the woods along a bubbling creek to our “tent.”
As we slid our way through the mud, mentally thanking them for the rain boots, we had no idea what to expect, getting a little nervous the further we went. What did we get ourselves into? And then about 10 seconds later we popped out at the site.
Oh my god, it was heaven on earth!
Grinning from ear to ear, we barely heard Maureen and John explain how everything worked before we jumped on the bed and went around exploring, giddy as a bunch of kids.
It takes a lot for me to really love a place to stay, but man, as soon as I walked into that tent I knew I would never, ever want to leave.
As we sat there in peace and quiet, we both turned to each other and said, “are you cool if we just stay here the whole 3 days?”
Yep. Same page. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a hotel.
After a quick run back into town for supplies (olives and lots of wine) we put everything away in the separate kitchen and made ourselves at home.
Lighting all of the traditional lanterns, we started a fire in the kitchen stove and in the tent to make things warm and cozy and made dinner under the candles. It was magical.
I spent the next two days reading The Luminaries, snoozing, taking pictures, going for walks, playing with Dennis, repeat.
This was my kind of vacation.
Ancient rainforest, a bubbling creek, muddy gumboots and a copy of the Luminaries, doesn’t get more west coast New Zealand than that! #Bliss (not pictured delicious whitebait patties and some sandflies) A photo posted by Liz Carlson (@youngadventuress) on
Only a few minutes walk from the main house, it’s the perfect mix of closeness and distance at the same time, and overlooking the Kaniere River in thousand year old dense native New Zealand bush, it couldn’t be more quaint.
I loved walking out of the tent and being enveloped by the deep mossy trees and getting dripped on even when it had stopped raining.
There are few lush green spots left like this in New Zealand.
Since it mostly rained the whole time, we refused to feel guilty by not leaving.
I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a place that was an experience and destination in and of itself, and I definitely can’t remember the last time I spent a day without looking at my computer in my thermals reading and resting. With hot water bottles, classic kiwi wooly blankets galore and the toasty woodburning stoves, we made ourselves at home.
I learned that Laura is way better at starting fires than me, and that I need to do girlfriend getaways more often! As much as I love traveling alone, I was really happy I had a friend to share such a cool place with.
Hurunui Jacks is on an old salmon farm and is Maureen and John’s pride and joy, and for good reason.
You can see the passion and love for the place in every little detail. If you want to experience the “real” New Zealand, head here.
I felt like I stepped back in time 150 years to the gold rush era. From the fresh eggs from their chickens and herbs from Maureen’s garden to the whitebait fritter recipes (a West Coast classic) to all the rain gear you could ever want to outdoor bath deep in the woods heated from the kitchen stove, I felt like I had everything I could want and more.
Years of work have come together in perfect harmony creating a place that is unlike any other.
Not only is Hurunui Jacks a place I see myself coming back to year after year, it’s a place I’ll also be sending friends and family to when they visit. And since you guys fall in that category, I had to share.
Have you ever stayed in a place like this? Would you be keen to escape from it all and sleep in an ancient rainforest? Ever been glamping?
Many thanks to Canopy Camping for hosting us in Hokitika, like always I’m keeping it real, all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!
72 Comments on “Escaping to New Zealand’s Wild West Coast”
Looks absolutely amazing! Sure would be fun to check it out some day. Did you see any wildlife besides Dennis the guard dog?
yeah lots of birds!
I love the West Coast, rain or shine (I prefer shine though!). There is a similar rainforest on Auckland’s wild west coast which I love and try to visit whenever I am home. We did two days of the Hillary Trail which is the best way to see the more remote and pristine bits but Piha, Whatipu and Karekare beaches and their surroundings are stunning too
Cool! I need to do more up there!
I need to do more down there! Planning on spending a couple of weeks in Central Otago and the Catlins in October, can’t wait 🙂
both those areas are awesome!
Washington State in the USA also has temperate rainforests! Most people think rainforests have to be tropical, but they aren’t always. This looks so pretty!
I love Washington!
Gorgeous photos! That tent looks fantastic. Would love to spend a few nights snuggled up under that canvas.
It’s really the most amazing place!