Explore our regions
Fascinating Flora & Wildlife
Rising from the wild sea through sub-tropical rainforest to towering mountains, Westland National Park is unique in its representation of varied species of flora and fauna.
Near the coast, flax grows in abundance. As the land rises and the climate changes, the dense rainforest gives way to a tangle of subalpine scrub. Beyond are the tussock-lands and alpine herb fields. Above, only lichens can survive the brutal conditions.
The dense ‘living green’ podocarp forest is splashed with colour. Rata, the glory of Westland, provides a brilliant display of red flowers in January and February. The creamy kamahi flowers, native fuschia and coprosmas with their orange, red, blue or white berries and the yellow and white clematis all add to the rich tapestry.
Ferns are everywhere – on the limbs and trunks of trees and on the damp forest floor with mosses, and minute fragile orchids. On a night track walk glow worms can sometimes be spotted in tree trunks and along the banks of the stream.
The tranquil lagoons, pristine forests and high alpine tops are the habitat of virtually every mainland bird in New Zealand. Lagoons and lakes are particularly good spots for birdwatching. Ōkārito Lagoon, home to the famous kōtuku (white heron) and royal spoonbill, is a mecca for wading birds.
At Lake Mapourika you may be able to catch a glimpse of the rare Australasian crested grebe, scaup, grey duck, mallard duck, black swan, white-throated shag, white-faced heron, kingfisher, kererū (New Zealand pigeon), tui, bellbird, tomtit, grey warbler, brown creeper, silvereye and robin. On forest walks across Glacier Country look out for bellbirds, tui, kererū, fantails, bush robins and the intelligent kea, New Zealand’s alpine parrot.
Kiwi forage in the forest at night but are rarely heard or seen in the wild. The world’s rarest and most endangered kiwi, the rowi, lives in the podocarp forest surrounding Ōkārito. Okarito Kiwi Tours can take you on a trip to the forest or you can see a rowi at the West Coast Wildlife Centre year round.
For more avian information go to www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz
You may spot seals tumbling in the surf. After being almost exterminated by hunters last century they have made a come back.
Endangered native bats have a home here. You may be lucky and spot one at night at Lake Paringa.
Animals introduced to New Zealand and found in Glacier Country include Himalayan tahr, red deer and chamois. They were liberated in the early 1900s to provide hunting for settlers. Out of their natural environment they cause damage to the park’s native plants and expose soil to erosion. Today, hunting is permitted for the control of chamois and tahr, providing excellent sport for enthusiasts.