Visit Whataroa, West Coast, NZ

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  • Whataroa is located just north of Franz Joseph Glacier, in a river valley that has been a centre of dairy farming since the 1870s. The Whataroa River, popular for white-water rafting, flows through the valley. Above and west of it, Lake Wahapo flows to the sea through the Okarito Lagoon, breeding ground of the rare New Zealand White Heron, or Kotuku.

    Although Whataroa is close enough to Franz Josef that visitors can easily enjoy its attractions and activities, it is a more peaceful place to stay, away from the noise of helicopters and the bustle of a busy tourist location.

    Accommodation in Whataroa (NZ)

    White Heron Sanctuary Tours offers tours to NZ’s only white Heron breeding ground, they also have Motels, cabins and studio units.

    Transport around Whataroa

    Whataroa is about 20 minutes’ drive north of Franz Josef, and 75 minutes south of Hokitika.

    Transport is by road. Most inter city buses make scheduled stops at Whataroa. Shuttle services operate between Whataroa and Franz Josef.

    Tourist Activities around Whataroa

    Okarito Lagoon is home to over 70 species of birds, including sea birds, forest birds and wading birds such as spoonbills and New Zealand’s famous and rare white heron – the Kotuku. These birds breed only at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve which is NOT accessible from Okarito. Nearby is the National Kiwi Breeding Centre, where the rarest species of kiwi, the Rowi, can be seen. The best way to view this area is by boat or kayak, and such guided tours are available.

    The Whataroa River, which flows through the valley to meet the sea north of Okarito, is famous for its white-water rafting, and has three navigable gorges to ensure an exciting journey. Rafting adventures can be booked easily

    The “back country” in the mountains east of Whataroa offers challenging hiking for experienced trampers. In particular, the Butler, Perth and Whataroa catchments are popular. These valleys are rain-forested, containing wild rivers strewn with boulders. Guided trips are available. Only experienced hikers with appropriate gear should attempt these walks alone. The weather can change rapidly and may require “sitting it out”.

    The skyline at Whataroa is dominated by Mount Adams (2,250 metres). Taller mountains including Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring are visible further inland. The starry sky at Whataroa adds to the scenery at dusk.

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