The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is increasingly being recognised as the guardian of the country's natural heritage. Within it is the largest area of protected land of any region in New Zealand and five of our thirteen National Parks are wholly or partly located here - Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur's Pass, Westland and Mount Aspiring.
The South Western part of the South Island was recognised by UNESCO as the Te Wahi Pounamu World Heritage Area in 1990, standing alongside the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Everest, amongst others.
It is a region of primitive towering rainforests, water-worn limestone landscapes, snow covered mountains and glaciers, rushing rivers, restless coasts and rare birds and plants. The diversity of the landscapes is more than matched by the variety of fauna and flora.
Rich in history, the first inhabitants were the Maori looking for the treasured pounamu (greenstone or jade), followed by European sealers and later goldseekers in the 1860s. A rugged land, a challenging climate and periods of economic 'boom and bust' have created people independent in spirit, genuine in their welcome and ever ready to introduce others to the beauty of this place that remains 'with the world's other special places'.