The West Coast is one of the administrative regions of New Zealand, located on the west coast of the South Island, and is one of the more remote and most sparsely populated areas of the country. It is made up of three districts: Buller, Grey and Westland. The principal towns are Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika.
To New Zealanders the term 'The Coast' generally refers to the West Coast of the South Island, and 'Coasters' to those that live there.
'Westland' is used by some New Zealanders to refer to the whole of the West Coast, including Grey District, Buller District, and Fiordland.
Fiordland is geographically on the west coast of New Zealand but has no road connection, and is in the Southland rather than West Coast administrative region.
The West Coast region reaches from Kahurangi Point in the north to Awarua Point in the south, a distance of 600 km. To the west is the Tasman Sea (which like the Southern Ocean is known to be very rough, with 4 metre swells being common), and to the east are the Southern Alps. Much of the land is rugged, although there are coastal plains around which much of the population resides.
The land is very scenic, with wild coastlines, mountains, and a very high proportion of native bush, much of it native temperate rain forest. The West Coast is the only part of New Zealand where significant tracts of lowland forest remain-elsewhere, for instance on the Canterbury Plains and in the Firth of Thames, they have been almost completely destroyed for settlement and agriculture. Scenic areas include the Haast Pass, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and the Heaphy Track.
The region has a very high rainfall due to the prevailing northwesterly wind pattern and the location of the Southern Alps - these two elements give rise to heavy orographic precipitation. The flip side to this is the rain shadow effect which is responsible for the relatively arid climate of the Canterbury Plains on the other side of the Southern Alps.
The region's area is 23,000 km². It is divided into the three districts of Buller, Grey and Westland.
The West Coast is also famous for being the only New Zealand nesting place of the rare White Heron / Kotuku, which nests near the Okarito Lagoon and can be visited from tours operating out of the small farming township of Whataroa. This rare bird appears on the New Zealand $2 coin.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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