Rainforest Retreat: an Eco Escape on the Wild West Coast

Updated: Feb 28

New Zealand's West Coast is one of my favourite places in the world. It's hard to explain, but this remote part of the country has a rugged kind of magic.

A collection of buildings perched on the edge of Franz Josef/Waiau and engulfed by bush, Rainforest Retreat is exactly what it says on the tin. Here you'll find options for all budgets and travellers; from dorm rooms to deluxe treehouses, and everything in between. The site is extensive without feeling busy. There's a calm that sweeps over you as soon as you pass reception, and step into the winding paths of palms and tree ferns.

After a few weeks of sofa surfing, camping and staying in the back country, we decided to treat ourselves to one of the Deluxe Tree Huts. This modern and impeccably designed studio space was right at home in the rainforest canopy, bedecked in wood and natural tones. A private balcony looked out over views of treetops and rolling mountainsides, a perfect spot to enjoy the morning birdsong while tucking in to the complementary breakfast hamper.

Falling at the end of our summer adventures, our trip to Franz Josef was more about rest and relaxation than adrenaline fuelled activity - though there's plenty of adventure on offer, if that's your jam. We opted for some of the shorter hikes just outside of town, laidback tracks which ambled to views of the Franz Josef Glacier (known as Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere or "The Tears of Hine Hukatere" in Te reo Māori). After our stroll, it was back to town for iced coffees and lunch at The Landing, one of the three restaurants in the small centre. We played cards and watched as helicopters took off overhead, embarking on trips to the glacier. In the evening, we sussed out the vegan options at Monsoon, a restaurant on site at Rainforest, before dashing over to catch sunset at St James' Church, a tudor-style chapel overlooking the glacier.

Rainforest Retreat are dedicated to caring for the incredible nature they're surrounded by, a commitment that's written into the company's core values. This is something they say was a completely natural choice for their team, and they encourage visitors to share any ideas or opportunities to lessen their footprint that they might have missed.