State Highway 6 is the main road up and down the entire west coast and runs right through the park, you’ll see the Green and Yellow DOC signs everywhere. The national park visitor centre is in Franz Josef township and all the best spots are easily accessible from the main road. You’ll need your own vehicle or to be on a tour though, there’s very little public transport and shuttle services to the more off the beaten track spots (which are the best ones of course!)
Flying to Westland - Hokitika is the nearest airport, the 140 km (90 mile) drive will take at least 2 hours (take your time, you’re on the Coast now). The only flights to Hokitika are from Christchurch, so you’ll need to fly there first and change planes for the quick hop over the alps.
By Train - There are no railway lines down the coast, but the TranzAlpine runs from Christchurch to Greymouth and you can travel by road from there. The TranzAlpine leaves Christchurch every morning at 08.15 am and gets into Greymouth at 12.45 pm. Allow 2 to 2.5 hours for the 180km (110 miles), make sure you stop in Hokitika on the way!
From Christchurch to Westland: A long trip for a single day and not one that we like to make, if you’re coming to see the country then take your time over the pass and down the coast, there’s so much to see and do. All up, 385 km (240 miles) from Christchurch to the Westland National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef. We always break up our journey by staying in Punakaiki, adding Paparoa and Arthur’s Pass National Parks to your list before the World Heritage Area in Westland.
From Queenstown to Westland National Park: A lot of guidebooks will suggest this itinerary, but for us this is just a bit long for a single day’s travel, especially if it means missing out on staying in Wanaka. The 350 km (220 miles) will take 5 hours, with minimal stops only. If this is your one and (maybe only) trip to New Zealand then we reckon you should take your time and enjoy it, it’s pretty amazing country!
From Wanaka to Franz Josef: This is what we like to do, head up the coast from Wanaka, rather than Queenstown, giving us much more time to travel safely and really enjoy the ‘Heritage Highway’. We always take our time to cover the 290 km (180 miles), everyone always tells us they love all the photo stops and short walks on the way.
From Abel Tasman / Nelson to Westland: If we were showing mates around NZ and this was on our route, we’d travel from Nelson to Punakaiki, spend a night or two there, before heading down to Glacier Country. Technically you could do it in one day, but you’d miss so much of the countryside so what’s the point? The distance is 480 kilometers (300 miles), don’t even think about it!