The West Coast, streching for 600 km along the western side of the Soth Island, is rugged and heavily bush-clad or forested in many parts. A number of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks, forests, rivers and heritage areas are located in the region. The drama is heightened by the nearness of the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s highest mountain range with 19 peaks over 3,000m tall. Even on the coast, these giants are only about 50km away. The alps are huge rainmakers, with annual rainfall in the region of around 2.8 metres.