I’ve made it no secret that the South Island’s West Coast is one of my favorite corners of New Zealand, a wild and empty coastline full of spikey mountains and dense rainforests, rugged beaches and feisty penguins. I love it.
There’s something about this place that gets under my skin in the best possible way. I yearn for it.
Whenever I need a break from the hustle and bustle of my busy life, I try and book in an escape up here once or twice a year, usually around Punakaiki. Taking a digital detox is crucial for me to get back to my roots and allow my mind to relax and then roam free without the burdens of the god damn internet.
Can you relate?
While I often book in different baches up here (bach being the kiwi word for a cabin type holiday home of the rustic variety – usually comes with endless spiders, no insulation and an outdoor toilet) this time around I was super keen to crash at Canopy Camping’s Woodpecker Hut – my kind of place!
The masters of delightful and charming glamping sites in New Zealand, Canopy Camping looks after very cool rustic holiday spots and luxury camping spots all over the country. But like me, the owners loved the West Coast so much they built their own glamping spots here.
I’ve stayed at quite a few of their amazing properties and that type of getaway, of going off the grid on an epic piece of land in a cool place, is totally my style of travel here. Queen of glamping!
I love the fresh clean smell of the air here and the sound of the waves breaking along the wild coastline. It’s paradise for me.
Picking up all the food I need to cook in Greymouth on the way up the west coast, I was packed up and ready to settle in and get all cozy at Woodpecker Hut for a few days.
My goal was to unwind, relax and do some writing. A Punakaiki getaway is good for the soul.
The West Coast is home to roughly 30,000 people on a good day and stretches 600 kilometers, almost the entire length of the South Island, which means it’s big and empty. Home to some incredible wildlife, like the infamous sandfly, perhaps this is why it’s the last bastion of undeveloped land here.
From glaciers, rainforests, mountains, caves and underground rivers, and a complex and fascinating history, this part of New Zealand rocks. In fact, many say it’s the last place in the country that still looks like what all of the country would have looked like before humans came and cleared the native forests for farming.
It’s no surprise that it’s a place of myths and legends.
Woodpecker Hut is hidden away on a coastal cliff overlooking the sea, and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably never find it. It’s set up almost in a rustic cabin style from the US, a haunting reminder of the rich and vibrant gold rush history of the area over a century ago.
Built by a local builder and artist, the waney edge weatherboard and native timber lining give this place a very cozy and comfortable vibe that if you’re like me, you love instantly.
As soon as I parked the car and stepped outside, I think I released the biggest, deepest sigh of contentment. This was the kind of place I’d love to have as a home someday.
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It’s made up of two small off-grid timber huts that are connected with an outdoor covered kitchen – we’re glamping guys – that has all the bits and bobs you’d find at a bach or holiday house you need for cooking.
One of the wooden huts is a lounge, with a little loft and a woodburner stove and cozy sofas overlooking the sea while the over room is the bedroom with a massive bed piled with pillows and blankets and hidden heater.
The build and design is nothing short of clever and cozy. Everything you could want but still homespun and unpretentious.
For someone who is a dreamer, an introvert and who likes to be left alone with her own thoughts for company, this is a great getaway for solo travelers, though I imagine more often it’s couples that stay here. I suppose I can see that it’s romantic.
But let’s be honest here, not sharing a bed is pretty awesome.
Not to mention Woodpecker Hut and a Punakaiki getaway is a great base to explore this part of the coast. I definitely recommend camping up here for at least a couple of nights, if not longer. You won’t regret it!
But I haven’t even mentioned the best part – Honey!
Oh wait, I mean the woodfire hot tub. But also Honey, a lovingly old yellow lab owned by the builders and whom the bedroom hut is named for “Honey Hut.” If they happen to be in the surrounding area working, you might get to meet this friendly pup who must have spent a fair amount of time on the site as it was being built up and occasionally returns on her own accord to check in on the guests.
I’m not gonna lie, I totally tried to keep her the whole time.
The views from every window of Woodpecker Hut will knock your socks off.
Rain or shine it’s an incredible part of the country and I loved soaking up the sunshine and watching the massive sun dip below the horizon from the spa as much as I loved sitting inside with a book and a blanket by the fire listening to the rain tap tap tap away on the metal roof.
Yes, on the West Coast you are likely to get every type of weather in one afternoon.
Since I had the luxury of driving up from my home in Wanaka it meant that I could pack as much as I wanted without airline baggage restrictions or a whingy boyfriend making me feel bad. This meant I brought all the books, all of the baggy sweaters and wooley socks and no make-up!
Are you reading anything good? Share!
Plowing through some of my books that I’ve had for a while and not gotten around to digging into yet, I basically spent my time away reading, writing, daydreaming and going for forest walks.
Oh, and did I mention there is no phone service or wifi?! HEAVEN!
However, if you do need anything, Punakaiki is less than 10 minutes drive away and has reception, a cafe and food options, though if you’re planning to cook stock up in either Westport or Greymouth.
If hiding away inside and never leaving it’s for you, don’t fret, there’s actually heaps to do in the area. Most tourists just breeze through this part of the West Coast on their way north or south to bigger hotspots, taking a wee break to walk around the famous Pancake Rocks nearby for a photo.
Curious limestone formations on the coastline here are made up of rock layers stacked like a pile of pancakes (good old kiwi ingenuity with that name) and it’s an easy walk though I definitely recommend walking along at high tide when the water can surge up through the blowholes!
There are plenty of wild beaches nearby and secret surf spots, along with plenty of hikes and tracks around the Paparoa National Park.
Here the elusive great spotted kiwi/roroa roam the forest and mountains and pterodactyls soar high in the sky. Yes, this is *actually* Jurassic Park.
Fox River nearby has a scenic 2 hour bush walk up the river valley and the Pororari River walk is a must if you’re in the area. You can rent little canoes at the campsite and boat up and down the mellow river (likely being devoured by sandflies in the process). You’ve been warned.
In partnership with the Paparoa Wildlife Trust, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is launching the next Great Walk here right in the national park – it’ll be open likely at the end of 2019.
The Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track will be New Zealand’s next Great Walk and will be a 55 kilometer 2-3 hike that crosses the Paparoa Range traversing my favorite part of New Zealand!
And to have a Great Walk open here with their amazing facilities and well-developed trails will be awesome as bush-bashing and tramping here otherwise is nothing short of nightmarish – how the early settlers and Māori pounamu hunters did it is beyond me.
In the next couple of months I’ll be heading back up here to walk the new Paparoa Track with DOC in preparation for the launch and I couldn’t be more excited. I dream for this kind of Punakiki getaway.
I hope if you guys ever get the chance to come to New Zealand or down south you make the time to check out one of my favorite places near Punakaiki too.
Do you have a go-to place that you like to hide away and detox too? Does this part of the world appeal to you? Spill!