The glaciers (Fox / Franz Josef) get most of the attention in Glacier Country, a small area of the West Coast famous for…glaciers. As you’d expect I guess! There are a couple of beach areas to explore though, with Ōkārito being the one with the most to do. You can walk around the tiny village, hang out at the beach or hike one of the tracks. We did the Ōkārito Trig Walk on our recent trip to the West Coast — keep reading and you’ll find out if it’s one you’ll want to add to your itinerary.
Ōkārito Trig Walk
The Ōkārito Trig Walk starts in the main village. It takes around 90 minutes and there’s one steep section towards the end. It also links up with the Three Mile Lagoon Track — more on that later. You’ll first walk across a boardwalk through some wetlands and then it’s a steady climb up through the forest.
There are a couple of viewpoints along the way and some seats if you need a rest. After a steady uphill walk you’ll reach the Ōkārito Trig Walk turnoff. It heads straight up the hill — if you keep going along the main track and it’ll take you down to Three Mile Lagoon. It should take around 20 minutes (at a steady pace) to get to the trig from the turnoff.
After walking uphill through the forest you’ll be hoping the view is worth it — and it definitely is. From the viewing platform you’ll get an almost 360-degree view of the area, from the rugged coastline to the highest peaks in New Zealand (if the conditions are clear enough to see them).
There are some information panels explaining the rich diversity of plants you can see in this area. You’ll also learn about the rowi kiwi — a rare subspecies you can only find in this part of the island. This walk is located in Westland Te Poutini National Park, part of a wider UNESCO World Heritage site which also includes Mount Aspiring, Fiordland National and Mount Cook national parks. It’s one of the wildest and most beautiful parts of New Zealand.
The peaks were shrouded when we visited but we were still impressed with the views. It’s rare to get perfect weather on the West Coast, especially in the afternoons. Once done at the viewpoint, it’s all the way back the way you came or combine it with Three Mile Lagoon for a longer walk.
READ MORE: Ōkārito made it to #7 on our recent Top 12 Villages in the South Island list — check out the others!
Other Walks in Ōkārito
Three Mile Lagoon looks like a cool place to explore. There are a couple of different tracks, with the coastal one only doable at low tide. There are also a couple of shorter walks that we’ll be checking out next time.
Ōkārito is north of Franz Josef — drive past Lake Mapourika (which is beautiful on a clear, calm day) and then take the turnoff — it’s a 15-minute drive down a gravel road from there.
READ MORE: 11 of the Best Things to Do in Franz Josef
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!
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