It’s been no secret how much I love New Zealand’s West Coast.
Ever since my first visit in 2013, I’ve been enamored with this quiet yet powerful corner of New Zealand. The least populated region, the West Coast, stretched almost the entire length of the South Island. Home to big mountains, unusual birds, ancient forests, and no people, it couldn’t be more perfect, especially for introverts like me.
But nowhere captures my heart more than the stretch of coastline from Greymouth to Westport, specifically around Punakaiki. It’s a place that tourists visit but not as many as other spots on the South Island with more dramatic vistas. This part of the West Coast is all about slowing down, taking it easy, and enjoying being in nature.
You can’t rush here; it’s a place that inspires mindfulness and relaxation. I come here at least once a year to go off the grid, relax, and reset, and I often come up here to write. This past winter, I spent almost a week at the Perfect Stranger’s Bach on a West Coast getaway, which was magical.
There is something so nostalgic about being by the sea. I often wonder if it speaks to some ancient part of our brands; are we tapping into something we inherently crave but can’t vocalize? Why? I think so. Can you relate?
One of my favorite things about this part of the West Coast is that it’s full of hideaways and old baches (classic kiwi holiday homes) hidden amongst the flax bushes beside the sea. With its dense rainforests, you often don’t even know they are there. Over the years, I have stayed in many of them, loving them all. Each and everyone has an epic story and make for an unforgettable West Coast getaway.
Perhaps I love this area because it does feel like a different decade. With little phone reception to being pretty remote, many baches have directions like “2.3 kilometers past the bridge by the third-mile sign, and if you come to the big bay, you’ve gone too far.”
Far out, I love that.
This time I spent five days at the Perfect Strangers Bach, just north of Punakaiki.
One of the OG baches of its time, it’s tucked away right about the surf. Family-owned for decades, discerning readers might recognize the name from the 2003 kiwi film Perfect Strangers, much of which was shot here. Trust me; it’s a lot more tranquil in real life.
Welcome to my happy place! I’ve driven by this spot so many times, but unless you know it’s here, you’ll miss it. It’s so remote that you park alongside State Highway 6 and wander down to it. There’s not a lot of traffic in this part of the country.
Weka definitely outnumber the locals here, as it should be.
A secret I spill so often it can’t really be called a secret anymore is that I think New Zealand’s West Coast is best experienced in winter, Punakiki especially.
From Fiordland up to Golden Bay, the winds die down in the wintertime, and the sea becomes calm. The clouds disappear, and you often get beautiful bluebird still, clear and warm days. Because it’s such a wild place, people tend to think that winter must be the worst weather, when I’ve found the opposite to be true. Big storms come in summer.
And once you get up to Punakaiki and further north, it sits in a wee trans-Tasman microclimate that brings warm, humid air. That’s why you get so many tropical native palms and nikau here. You can even grow fruit that otherwise you could only grow far north on the North Island.
The locals will probably murder me for sharing this, but I can’t help it.
But by far, the best part of staying at the Perfect Stranger’s Bach on a West Coast getaway is that you have your own private beach.
There aren’t any cabanas or coconuts here, but it offers some of the coastline’s best views. You have a sandy beach plus rockpools to explore – always check the tide times; low is best. And there’s a magnificent amount of mussels to forage along the coastline. Is there anything better than white wine linguini with mussels you caught yourself? Nope, there isn’t.
Just writing this has made me so nostalgic for this incredible place. To fall asleep to waves crashing along the beach and native birdsong in the air is nothing short of magical.
Where’s your haven? Do you have a favorite place by the sea that calls to you? Share!