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Travel Guide

Westport things to do, attractions, places to go

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In this Article

Westport & Karamea travel guide

Discover Westport’s rich legacy of gold mining. Delve into the past and Westport’s top attraction, the Denniston Plateau; a harsh reminder of the coal industry. Find out how the West Coast’s identity was forged in a mine at the Coal Museum or stroll along the waterfront and marvel at the power of the mighty Buller River as it enters the sea. Must-dos are the road trip along the Buller Gorge, the Karamea Cave system and the small largely forgotten towns once bustling with miners. Delve inland from Westport and find the abandoned coal mining town of Millerton.

Westport Weather Forecast and Observations

The West Coast is the wettest part of New Zealand.  Simply carry a Blunt umbrella and enjoy the mists and fog that drapes around the hills and mountains evoking a sense of mystery.  It is evocative of the conditions facing nineteenth century miners as they trudged over mountain passes in search of the elusive nugget of gold.

TOP 5 WESTPORT ATTRACTIONS

Unpack, unwind and unforgettable West Coast, Westport. Discover remote Karamea, former gold mining towns of Granity, Ngakawau. Walk the Charming Creek trail and stand atop the misty bleck Denniston Plateau.

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BULLER GORGE SCENERY – A LIFETIME MEMORY MOMENT

Arrive blown away by breathtaking scenery on the road trip of a lifetime. The lower and upper Buller gorge is staggering beautiful. Check out our inspiring State Highway 6: Nelson, through mountain passes to Westport – Best Bits.

 

5 UNMISSABLE DAY TRIPS FROM WESTPORT, WEST COAST

  • Karamea and Oparara Arches, sensational rock arches, caves and forms together with mossy creeks and waterfalls
  • Charming Creek Walkway, a suspension bridge, historic gold mining relics and breathtaking scenery are the perfect combination for a shared cycle / walkway
  • Charleston and underground caving, embark on an adventure
  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks is one of the West Coast’s premier attractions. The must-do amazing layered rock formations, with their blowholes and stacked rock arches, is memorising.
Punakaiki, New Zealand
Punakaiki
Denniston coal wagons, West Coast, New Zealand
Denniston coal wagons
  • Denniston Plateau and nearby historic coal mining towns is an incredible story. For many decades Denniston was New Zealand’s largest producing coal mine, yielding a premium quality coal from underground mines. Yet the miners and their families endured a life ‘living on the edge’, exposed to the elements on a barren windswept plateau. The isolation and difficult living conditions forged a close-knit community. Source History: Denniston area

WALKS & OUTDOORS WESTPORT, SOUTH ISLAND

One of the most popular walks on the South Island, the Cape Foulwind Walkway gives walkers a fantastic viewing platform into the daily life of a seal colony. The 40-minute one-way walk also incorporates a historic lighthouse and scenic coastal views. Check out more walks like this in Top 10 hidden walks, West Coast, Buller region. Walk in unforgettable places on the West Coast, South Island, abandoned towns, coal mining tunnels and deserted beaches.

THE KAWATIRI COASTAL TRAIL – TOP PICK

The Kawatiri Coastal Trail is a grade-2, family-friendly cycle and walking heritage trail that will connect the Buller district towns of Westport and Charleston. The coastal trail is stunning. The walk starts at the Buller River bridge, passes into town with its cafes for a coffee fix then quickly moves onto tidal estuaries, river views, coastal landscapes and plaques describing wildlife and human activity …

Kawatiri Coastal Trail, Charleston coastline, New zealand @Peter Coburn
Kawatiri Coastal Trail @Peter Coburn
Carters Beach, Westport, New Zealand @top10westport
Carters Beach @top10westport

CARTERS BEACH – WESTPORT

Located on the western side of the Buller River, approximately 5 km from Westport, Carters Beach is the only sheltered sandy beach on the West Coast suitable for swimming. The beachfront starts at the Buller River wharf and continues for another 9 km of wide grey / iron sand. The Kawatiri Coastal Trail connects Carters Beach to Westport on its journey to Charleston.

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The nearby Golf Course (18 holes) has spectacular views of the beach

KAWATIRI HISTORIC RAILWAY WALK – MURCHISON

The railway bridge to nowhere, its evocative and poignant reminder of ‘lost’ transport connections. Explore a tunnel that is not too spooky (you can actually see the light twinkling at the end of the tunnel. And enjoy the clear tea coloured river water (naturally coloured with leaf tannins)

Kawatiri Rail Tunnel, New Zealand @travel_with_scott
Kawatiri Rail Tunnel @travel_with_scott
Lyell Cemetery, New_Zealand @WikimediaCommons
Lyell Cemetery @WikimediaCommons

LYELL CEMETERY – UPPER BULLER GORGE

Indulge in your love of Victorian cemeteries, complete with overgrown tombstones, trees poking their way through grave sites and rusting ornate iron cemetery fences. Try to decipher the tragic stories of loss on the individual headstones. Hidden from the road on State Highway 6 is a short walk through a historic cemetery. The walk passes the remains of a vanished Lyell gold mining community.

GRANITY-MILLERTON ROAD

Abandoned buildings, vegetation forcing its way through windows and collapsed walls. This is the walk for heritage buffs interested in the relics and objects left behind. The closed road is safe to walk as far as the Millerton Granity Creek bridge. To further explore Millerton, the hilltop coal mining settlement, now largely abandoned retrace steps. Follow the newly constructed road to Millerton… read more in Top 10 hidden walks, West Coast, Buller Region.

Millerton abandoned town, abandoned bus stop, New Zealand
Millerton
Ngakawau coal terminus for Stockton mine, New Zealand
Ngakawau coal terminus for Stockton mine

HECTOR & NGAKAWAU

Walk in tiny settlements

  • Find the Country Museum Museum in Hector
  • Gawp at the massive train wagons laden with coal at the Ngakawau Stockton depot
  • Fossick for gemstones on iron sand beaches
  • Observe the impact on climate change on the eroding seawalls in Granity. The ocean is grabbing chucks of land as it continually surges forward.

WESTPORT GEOGRAPHY

Westport lies on the alluvial plain of the mighty Buller River and the evidence of the power of the river in full flood is graphically illustrated with information plaques along the riverside walk. Walk to the edge of the seawalls and watch the river battling its way into the ocean. The submerged sand spits created by the release of energy are a constant threat to shipping. The harbour loop offers stunning photo moments of the town, river and surrounding mountains.

Westport main street South Island, West Coast, New Zealand
Westport main street

ART & HERITAGE WESTPORT

Coaltown Museum, Westport, New Zealand @boon
Coaltown Museum @boon

COALTOWN MUSEUM

Coaltown Museum is an interactive heritage museum that appeals to all age groups. .  The West Coast’s identity is forged in a mine. Mining, pounamu (greenstone jade), gold, coal or timber, the West Coast’s economy is based on extradition. Original mining machinery can be kick started into life with a push of a button,  there is an authentic full sized replica of a mining tunnel evocatively recreating life underground and numerous personal stories of life as a miner or miners family on the Denniston Plateau.

Mining sites such as Denniston, Millerton, Stockton and Seddonville are captured with photographs, memorabilia and artifacts.  The museum is also the home to the Westport visitor information centre making the centre an excellent start to your West Coast holiday.

DENNISTON HIGHLIGHTS

  • Historic coal mine site.
  • Famous Denniston Incline.
  • Denniston outdoor museum.
  • Panoramic coastal views.
  • Mountain biking and walking trails

The Denniston Plateau is home to one of the richest, high quality coal seams in New Zealand. For decades it was the country’s largest producing coal mine, with an estimated 12 million ton carried down the incline during its operation from October 1879 to August 1967.  Denniston was created by coal and existed only to produce coal.  With the mine’s closure, Denniston closed.

Denniston incline, Westport, New Zealand
Denniston incline

The town infrastructure has disappeared into the efficient recycling world of the west coast with very little evidence of the residences and homes of over 2,000 people.  Only two houses remain.  Yet steps to nowhere, abandoned mining equipment is everywhere and extensive industrial foundations, house piles remind visitors of the disappeared people and town.  Spectacular mist swirls around the landscape adding to the sense of closure and history where people once stood.  Coal is still mined in the area today at the nearby Cascade mine and New Zealand’s largest opencast mining operation in Stockton.

Denniston Plateau plaques, New Zealand
Denniston Plateau plaques

DENNISTON WALKING TRAILS

Denniston walking trails are described by the Department of Conservation in the guide to Denniston walking tracks: Denniston area, West Coast region. If you have time for only one walk a must do is the Brakehead Walk with its interpretative panels invoking the spirit of Denniston. The walk commences at the car park guiding visitors to the lookout point and views of the sheer drop of the incline. The feat of engineering is described with photos and memorabilia. Walkers pass Denniston’s first settlement ‘The Camp’ and on to the Banbury Arch (a drystone arch) viewpoint. The 1.1 km walk returns to the car park passing the historic mine workshop site.

COALBROOKDALE WALK – DENNISTON PLATEAU

Unearth another fascinating slice of history on the Denniston plateau. Most visitors walk the  Brakehead walk to the top of the incline and the associated information visitor centre. The Coalbrookdale walk is another short walk introducing visitors to the cable-car rope system for carrying coal down the notoriously steep incline. The walk is a gentle slope with a well maintained track.

Denniston, New Zealand @Doc1
Denniston @Doc

GETTING TO DENNISTON PLATEAU

Westport to Denniston Plateau

Denniston is approximately 30 minutes from Westport. Travel along State Highway 67 and turn right at Waimangaroa. From here the Denniston Hill road twists and turns for 8 km, taking around 15 minutes to arrive at The Denniston Experience. All roads are sealed. You are climbing 1.7 km over 600 metres in elevation.  It is a great start to the Denniston journey. It is possible to drive the route with a motorhome however take care on the sharp hairpin bends. There is a large car park at the main entrance.

WEATHER ON DENNISTON PLATEAU

Weather on Denniston is subalpine.

The weather at Denniston is sub-alpine and can change quickly, so please bring sturdy closed in footwear (walking/running shoes are adequate)

  • An extra layer of warm clothes
  • A raincoat

NOTE

Denniston’s mining tour is closed indefinitely.  It was an introduction to life as a miner.

Denniston, New Zealand @Doc
Denniston @Doc

MINING LEGACY CASCADE STOCKTON OPEN CAST MINE TOUR

Perhaps you would like a tour of Stockton’s current mining operations at the nearby Cascade mine, New Zealand’s largest opencast mining operation in Stockton.  Tours of Cascade are only through an authorised tour operator,  Stockton Mine Tours – Outwest Tours.

  • Departs: Westport Visitor Information Centre
  • Duration: 6 hours for the tour.
  • Booking: Online or Visitor Information Centre, 24 hours notice necessary minimum numbers required.  The tour operator can arrange private tours.  Contact directly to discuss details.
Stockton coal mine area, Denniston, New Zealand
Stockton coal mine area

Modern mining tour offers an opportunity to observe the contemporary face of mining on the West Coast. Outwest Tours is currently the exclusive operator of tours through the Bathurst Resources Stockton Opencast Mine site on the Stockton Plateau. Departing from Westport, this 5–6 hour tour passes through several small towns and climbs to the Plateau, delivering an off-road adventure along the way. At Stockton Mine, the largest coal-producing mine in New Zealand, visitors learn about the life of a miner and some of the mining processes such as removal of topsoil, blasting, removal of overburden and, very importantly, site rehabilitation after mining is completed.

Enjoy eating your packed lunch (not provided) in one of the smoko rooms on the mine. You’ll get a real sense of the daily workings of a mine site. During the tour you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Tasman Sea to the west and the Southern Alps to the east, before descending from the Plateau and visiting the aerial ropeway which takes the coal down to the rail loading facility at Ngakawau.

The tour returns to Westport at about 3.30-4.30pm

To book click HERE Stockton Mine Tours – Outwest Tours – Guided scenic off-road 4wd Tours, Westport, West Coast.

HECTOR COUNTRY MUSIC MUSEUM

Hector Country Music Museum Buzz and Judy are dedicated fans and buffs of country music. This is a must-go destination for music lovers. Enjoy the passion and admire the hard work in establishing this private museum.

QUIRKY FACTS

Westports of the world

Worldwide there are more than 20 towns called Westport, mainly in North America. New Zealand’s Westport is the only one in the southern hemisphere. A thriving organisation, Westports of the World, holds annual conventions, hosted in New Zealand in 1988, 1997 and 2006.

Source: Wikipedia

@Hector Country Music Museum
@Hector Country Music Museum
Westport Railway Preservation Society, New Zealand
Westport Railway Preservation Society

WESTPORT RAILWAY SOCIETY

What a gem Westport Railway Preservation Society for lovers of locomotive history and people interested in transport. The Society acquired the former NZ Railways goods shed and offices to house the C and future rolling stock which forms the basis of its museum today. The museum now houses a comprehensive photographic collection.

One of the Society’s other main assets is the former Milburn Cement’s shunting locomotive which members have restored to full working order. The group already has a wide range of historic rolling stock, including a 1940s guard’s van, Q coal wagons, goods wagons, Denniston Incline ammunition wagon, bulk cement wagons and several distinctive motorised trolleys.

To visit the collection collect the Society directly or peer over the fence at the historic rolling stock.

TOP 6 THINGS TO DO WITH FAMILIES IN WESTPORT

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Coal Museum where pushed buttons start massive coal machinery
  • Charming Creek walk / cycle day trip
  • Buller Gorge jet boating

Westport is a quiet backwater town on the West Coast, South Island. Traditionally the town’s fortunes have been tied to the coal industry. Dairy on the river flats has grown in increasing importance with tourism a light in the diversification stakes.

For kids there is a lot of ‘urban style’ entertainment in the form of shopping malls and adventure parks. The town, built on an alluvial plain, is very flat, easily biked and walked. The main street is a stretched out shopping hub with a supermarket, various retail outlets, town hall and a vibrant visitor centre and Coal Museum.

COAL MUSEUM

Get the kids to watch the interactive clips of the Denniston incline with its terrifying almost vertical drop. Coal miners will talk directly to the audience. Lots of buttons to push, whirl and a darkened replica coal mine tunnel to enter.

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Museums being indoors is a great rainy day place.

Coaltown Museum, Westport, New Zealand @Stuff
Coaltown Museum @Stuff
Lower Buller gorge, New Zealand @tulip.kuning
Lower Buller gorge @tulip.kuning

BULLER GORGE JET BOATING

Buller Gorge jet boating, rafting and walking one of NZ’s longest swing bridges over the swiftly flowing Buller River. Exhilarating fun for kids and young at heart making their way across a swaying bridge over the rushing torrents below. For more ideas about what to do in Murchison check out Murchison Travel Guide. Alternatively you can join a guided tour from Westport organised by Buller Adventures and take the hassle out of the day.

DAY TRIP TO PUNAKAIKI PANCAKE ROCKS

A day trip to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks to go exploring, check what to do in Charleston at Paparoa National Park. Kayaking is great choice as double kayaks means everyone gets to go on a river trip

WESTPORT MINI GOLF

Westport mini golf at the local holiday park. Westport is a small town with a main street and not much else. Do not expect to find a shopping mall. You will locate excellent local bakeries for picnic supplies.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk, New Zealand @Department of Conservation
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk @Department of Conservation

BEACHES, SANDCASTLES AND SURFING

Take a leaf out of Hokitika’s beach signage and build driftwood signs, castles and fantasy worlds at Tauranga Bay, definitely making a good selfie moment. There is even a local surf club offering lessons.

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Wild West Coast beaches have dangerous rips and currents, only swim between lifeguard flags

Waterfall in Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, Karamea, New Zealand
Waterfall in Charming Creek walkway

CYCLING / WALKING CHARMING CREEK WALKWAY – TOP PICK FOR FAMILIES

Charming Creek Walkway

A premier day walk / cycling trail with amazing views, a variety of cycling, a suspension bridge, waterfalls, tunnels and coal mining relics. Enjoy reading information plaques along the route telling the story of the Watson Brothers, two early Scottish settlers, who carved out the private railway the track is built on. Their coal and timber operations ran from 1914 to 1958. Things to go range from discovering mining relics, wondering about your nerves and the swing bridge and the mystery of tunnels and what is on the other side.

GETTING TO CHARMING CREEK EXIT / ENTRANCE

Buller Adventures will arrange drop off, pick up and bike hire. Buller Adventures have teamed up with Habitat Sports who have a fleet of 2021 Specialized Stumpjumpers for hire.

Alternative route

For a shorter walking / cycling option start at the Hector end and hike for about one hour to Mangatini Falls.

Charming Creek can be walked in either direction. Initially follow SH67 from Westport for the starting points.

  • South end: Follow the signposts at Ngakawau.
  • North end: From Seddonville follow Charming Creek Road to the abandoned mine site.
Charming creek, Westport, New Zealand @Miles Holden
Charming creek @Miles Holden

SAFETY MESSAGE

  • Hazards
    • This area has rapidly changing weather since it’s in the wild West Coast.
    • Don’t cross beyond barriers, there’s significant rock falling beyond the barriers.
    • Keep children close because of exposed edges.
    • Watch out for smaller rock falls around Mangatini tunnel.
  • Don’t drink water from the streams
    There is a high mineral count from the acid mine drainage. The water is monitored daily by BT mining to ensure it sits with the relevant tolerance. Bring your own water.

SOURCE Charming Creek North Walkway

@bazilssurfschool
@bazilssurfschool

FAMILIES ON A BUDGET ON THE WEST COAST

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Check out Bazil’s Hostel & Surf School – TOP PICK

The perfect place for those who want to surf. A budget hostel that caters for the surfing fraternity The enterprising owners hire kayaks, surf boards, SUP, bikes as well as organising bespoke, designed by the Bazil’s team rainforest trips.

DAY TRIPS

CHARMING CREEK

Walk or Mountain Bike the dramatic esaperments, walk to dramatic waterfalls and pass abandoned mining relics. The swing bridges and old railroad tracks create a sense of drama and it is definitely an outdoor museum nestled in a beautiful landscape.

CHARLESTON & PUNAKAIKI PANCAKE ROCKS

Pancake Rocks is easily accessible from SH6. The walk explores the odd limestone stacked coastal rock landscape of Punakaiki. There are blowholes with the roar of suppressed water energy creating dramatic moments as the force of water surges upwards into a fountain of seawater. The largely flat boardwalk is mostly wheelchair accessible.  Spectacular views, geological oddities, coastal forest, rich birdlife and marine mammals are highlights along this walk. For details what to do and see check out Guide to Charleston, Paparoa National Park what to do and see.

Charleston and underground caves

Punakaiki, New Zealand @Wikivoyage
Punakaiki @Wikivoyage

LOCATION

Charleston is a settlement nestled in Constant Bay

Charleston is a former gold mining town, now a hub for adventure tourism. The town sprung into existence after the discovery of gold (1867). The nearby Paparoa National Park offers extensive limestone caves for glowworm excursions, cave exploration and caving expeditions. The Pororari River is a great introduction to kayaking for the family and there are walks for all fitness levels.

GETTING THERE

Charleston and Paparoa National Park are located on State Highway 6. The easiest method of transport is private vehicles. There are regular day trips from either Westport or Greymouth however you are limited to what you do and see. For more information about what to see and do on SH6 check

PAPAROA NATIONAL PARK TOP SIGHTS

  • Explore Paparoa National Park with Underworth Adventures from Nile River Canyon bush train to Glowworm tour
  • Te Ananui (Metro) Cave system exploration
  • Explore Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks walking tracks
  • Paparoa National Park’s Pororari River, kayaking for all fitness levels and family groups with Punakaiki Canoes
  • Leisurely explore Paparoa’s coastal tracks along Pororari River

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Blowholes are at their best around high tide when there is a south-westerly swell.

Punakaki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Punakaki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park

KARAMEA THINGS TO DO

Unwind in Karamea, West Coast. It is apt; you’ve arrived at the end of the road, literally. There are several national parks and the place to go is the world-class natural attraction Oparara Caves and Walkway.

Oparara cave, Dramatic Limestone Arch, Karamea, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Oparara cave

KARAMEA TOP SIGHTS

  • Long empty beaches where the only footsteps are yours
  • River estuaries rich in bird life
  • Incredible granite and limestone formations of the Oparara Basin
  • Fascinating local stories of life on the West Coast
  • One of New Zealand’s Great Walks entrance / exit Heaphy Track

Karamea is a no exit town. A town at the end of a narrow winding journey becomes the destination. You do not drive through Karamea, rather Karamea is the place you drive to and stop. Karamea is the custodian of millions of years old limestone caves, whisky-coloured rivers, temperate rainforest and a visitor experience that harks to a time when mass tour buses did not frequent New Zealand destinations. Unwind, unforgettable experience.

DOES KARAMEA HAVE SHOPS?

You have adventured to the end of the road where there is a general store, supermarket and service stations. Off the beaten track is actually very comfortable.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO SEE THE OPARARA CAVES?

Undoubtedly on a guided tour as major attractions are not open to the public to visit.

Oparara Valley, New Zealand @Grey Wanderings
Oparara Valley @Grey Wanderings

DAY TRIP TO KARAMEA FROM WESTPORT

Karamea is a no exit town. A town at the end of a narrow winding journey becomes the destination. You do not drive through Karamea, rather Karamea is the place you drive to and stop.

learn more
Oparara Arch, New Zealand @Last Resort Karamea
Lake Hanlon, Karamea Bluff, New Zealand @ronaldraiden
Flagstaff beach, Karamea Estuary, New Zealand @Shellie Evans

WHERE TO STAY IN KARAMEA

Karamea Village Hotel, New Zealand @booking
Karamea Village Hotel @booking

For a touch of comfort KARAMEA VILLAGE HOTEL is recommended. Check out Karamea village hotel to book. Judged “Best Country Hotel 2011” by Hospitality New Zealand (HNZ). The restored  landmark hotel is located in the heart of the village. Very helpful and enthusiastic hosts will make you think about returning.

BUDGET

For those on a budget check out Karamea Memorial Domain and Camping Grounds to book.

There are powered and non-powered camping sites, full range of facilities and standard motel accommodation. For overnight accommodation in Karamea forward bookings are strongly recommended in the peak season.

FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN KARAMEA CHECK OUT

KARAMEA HERITAGE

The Karamea Centennial Museum holds an excellent archival and photographic record of Karamea’s early history.

KAHURANGI NATIONAL PARK & OPARARA BASIN / VALLEY SYSTEM

Oparara is home to the Powelliphanta, a carnivorous snail which is up to 70mm across. Oparara Basin is a journey back before dinosaurs to a primeval setting where your imagination is your companion. Access is via a 15 km narrow gravel road not suitable for motorhomes and buses. A height restriction barrier of 2.8 m is in place near the start of McCallum’s Mill Road. Please take extreme care when driving on the 16 km of gravel road and watch for oncoming traffic at the blind corners.

Kahurangi National Park Guided Walk & Cave Tours West Coast is an excellent resource for visitors, and it is strongly recommended you budget for a guided tour. Access to specific caves is by guided tour only and the passion of the locals managing the tours is unsurpassed.

Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand @Department of conservation
Kahurangi National Park @Department of conservation
Wangapeka Track, New Zealand @Michal Klajban
Wangapeka Track @Michal Klajban

WANGAPEKA TRACK

Wangapeka Track: Kahurangi National Park, Nelson/Tasman region check out for details.

DOC managed region. The track crosses two saddles, each of over 1,000 m, and travels through the beautiful beech-forested valleys of the Wangapeka, Karamea, Taipo and Little Wanganui rivers. The Wangapeka Track traverses the Kahurangi National Park from east to west. Enter the track from either the Little Wanganui settlement or Tapawera.

  • Length: 53 km
  • Duration: 4 -5 days
  • Grade: Advanced

HEAPHY TRACK

A Department of Conservation (DOC) supervised region, described by DOC as, “Travel through expansive tussock downs, lush forests and nīkau palms to the roaring seas of the West Coast. Heaphy Track: Golden Bay area.’ Traverses varied and diverse landscapes through coastline, rainforest and alpine grasslands. The longest of the Great Walks, it traverses through Kahurangi National Park. For Heaphy Track tramping details scroll through the DOC online resource for relevant information…

Great Walk recommendations:

  • Look and listen out for great spotted kiwi/roroa and takahē around Gouland Downs.
  • There are nocturnal carnivorous land snails around Heaphy Hut on a damp night.
  • Mountain bikes are allowed between 1 May and 30 November.“

Time and skill level: 5 days between Karamea and Golden Bay.

Heaphy Track, New Zealand @Karamea Information Centre
Heaphy Track @Karamea Information Centre
Scotts Beach, New Zealand @Travel Notes
Scotts Beach @Travel Notes

CHEATS GUIDE TO HEAPHY TRACK – SHORT WALK

SCOTTS BEACH WALK / ESTUARY

If you want to experience the Heaphy track without the hard slog then this is the walk for you. A picturesque forest walk along the Heaphy track coastal route. Look out for birds pied stilts, black swans, oystercatchers and blue herons. There are picnic tables, BBQ and toilet facilities. Perhaps there are seals on the beaches and in early summer the flowering rata among the nikau palm groves make for a New Zealand postcard scene.

  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Grade: easy

CAN YOU VISIT THE OPARARA VALLEY AS A DAY TRIP FROM WESTPORT?

Yes you can visit Oparara Valley on a day trip from Westport if you are willing to spend more time in the car driving than exploring ancient limestone caves.

The drive to Karamea is a mere 97km as the arrow flies yet it routinely takes 1 ½ hours driving time (one way) then you encounter the 15 km gravel McCallums Mill Road leading to the Arches. Narrow, winding, hairpin bends that test the driver. Allow between 45 – 55 minutes driving time (one way). Read more about Westport to Karamea road trip, travel guide, things to do: Best Bits.

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Going this far, stay overnight, unwind in an unforgettable place.

Oparara basin, New Zealand @westcoast
Oparara basin @westcoast

WHERE TO STAY IN WESTPORT, SOUTH ISLAND

@top10holidayparks
@top10holidayparks

Westport is undoubtedly one of the cheaper places to stay in New Zealand; even on the West Coast. This is due to the fact the iconic Tranzalpine train stops in Greymouth and Arthurs Pass, one of the world’s stunning alpine drives terminates in Greymouth. Westport is connected to New Zealand via the Buller Gorge, an extraordinarily beautiful gorge connecting Westport to Nelson, the upper South Island.

One of New Zealand’s classic touring routes, the Great West Coast, state highway six pays homage to Westport with time spent exploring an off the beaten tourist track town.

NZ West Coast, South Island where to stay and best accommodation locations

Location, location, location says it all. You need to be conveniently located next to your bucket list attractions and / or not in a position where unnecessary time is spent travelling from one activity to another.

Learn more
@Rimulodge
@hokitikafirestationapartments
The Links Carters Beach Apartments, Carters Beach, New Zealand @Booking

WHERE TO EAT

Westport’s main street has a number of bakeries, Asian style takeaways and cafes. There is not a fine dining destination due to its location (remote) and small population.

For good coffee and innovative cafe cuisine check out

  • Whanake Gallery and Espresso Bar
  • PR’s Cafe

HOW TO GET TO WESTPORT?

Visitors can drive on the iconic State Highway 6, Great West Coast touring route or arrive by public bus.

DRIVING – Travel through the Buller Gorge for one of New Zealand’s premier road trips on the Great West Coast touring route.

TRAIN – There is no intercity train service to Westport.

INTERCITY BUS CONNECTIONS – Regular daily connections to South Island towns. Check the West Coast Regional Guide for details.

Westport Palmerston St main street of town, New Zealand
Westport Palmerston St main street of town
West Coast, South Island, NZ always prepare for rain, New Zealand
West Coast, South Island, NZ always prepare for rain

GETTING AROUND WESTPORT?

Westport is a small regional town, the preferred transport is either your own rental vehicle and/or guided tours. Vehicle is the preferred choice to the spread out nature of attractions and places to go.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT WESTPORT?

The best time to visit Westport is between December to mid-March, New Zealand’s summer season. Winter is prone to heavy seasonal rainfall making travel difficult.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTPORT

What is the most annoying thing about travelling to the West Coast?

The most annoying thing about Westport and the West Coast are sandflies. Carry repellent and balm for icky, itchy bites.

Is Westport worth visiting?

Westport is worth visiting especially for heritage fans with its rich legacy of extractive industry from gold and cold. Evocative mining trails in lush emerald green forests are the stuff of legends.

Does Westport have a nightlife?

Westport does not have the nightlife of a larger city such as Christchurch. The population is less than 5,000 people.

SANDFLIES

Insect repellent is necessary as the swarms of black clouds of sandflies is known to cause acute discomfort to holiday makers. Repellent such as deet can be effective, but many people don’t like using it. There are numerous natural remedies available. Sandflies do not like wind, smoke and rain. Sandflies are most numerous during daybreak and dusk in humid, overcast conditions, just before it rains.

The West Coast of the South Island, particularly Fiordland, is notorious for New Zealand’s biting insects.

When do they bite?

Sandflies cannot see at night, so they seldom bite in the dark, and generally remain outdoors. Peaks in biting often occur when light intensity increases in the morning and decreases at dusk. The morning peak comes from young sandflies that have recently emerged from pupae, and the higher evening peak is often the result of sandflies taking blood after laying eggs earlier in the day.

Sandflies are most active in dull, overcast and humid conditions, when they may bite at a similar rate throughout the day.

Source Sandflies: New Zealand’s blackflies – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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