Highway 6 threads its way up the west coast of the south island of New Zealand. This is the least densely populated portion of an island with extremely low population density to begin with. At times, highway 6 travels along flats just off the beach. At others, it clings to the side of cliffs 10s or 100s of meters above the ocean. If you are lucky, there is a guard rail. Locals and tourist don’t really seem to pay much attention to the center stripe in the blind corners. And of course, the west coast is a rain forest so wet roads are the norm.
Along highway 6 you find gems like the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, Barrytown Knife Making (my post about it), Cape Foul Wind and finally Karamea (the end of the road). Some of these towns are little more than a backpackers lodge and few houses clinging to a small spot of nearly level land between the Tasman sea and the mountains. All along the highway is some of the most rugged and beautiful coastline I’ve ever seen, despite the rainy overcast weather.
I started in Greymouth, the west coast’s largest city (pop. 10k), and the point of demarcation from the TransAlpine railroad which I had taken from Christchurch. I made my way north to Westport and Cake Foul Wind and then back south to Greymouth again over the course of four days. Later in the trip, I visited again, this time spending several days in Karamea and visiting the arches there. In fact, over the course of my trip I drove almost the entire length of highway from Karamea all the way down to Queenstown where we diverged to take a more scenic and much less direct route to Invercargil.
For more of my images from New Zealand, see my set on flickr.