"The Coast" as it's affectionately known, stretches from Kahurangi Point in the north, to Awarua Point in the south, a distance of about 600km. Bordered on the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the east by the rugged Southern Alps, the region is undeniably one of the most scenic areas in New Zealand.
Before Europeans settled The Coast, early Maori prized the greenstone (pounamu or jade) which they used for ornamental jewellery and weaponry. As such, the Maori name for the West Coast is Te Wahi Pounamu, "The Place of Greenstone".
Early Europeans settled The Coast in 1864 primarily because of the discovery of gold there, and an industry sprung up around it, creating employment and towns, with many Europeans and Chinese miners seeking to create their fortunes.
The discovery of coal in the 1840's near the Buller River, added another valuable export resource for the West Coast, which still survives today.
The 1800's was a time of discovery with many exploitive trips by surveyors and geologists exploring the area, of note, Charles Heaphy, William Fox and Thomas Brunner.
Although the financial mainstay of the West Coast is its natural resources, the economy has shifted to include agriculture, horticulture and tourism, and has one of the fastest growing regional economies in New Zealand.
Today the region is still sparsely populated with the 2006 census recording just over 31, 000 people.