The Must-Dos in Westport: A Cool Coastal Town on the West Coast
The oldest town of the West Coast of the South Island, Westport is rich in history and boasts epic natural landscapes to explore on all sides. The coastal town lies at the end of the Buller River, where a road trip up the stunning Buller Gorge is a must! Alternatively, check out the rugged coast along the many coastal walkways or along the beaches, also popular with surfers. There’s also plenty of opportunities to learn about the area’s mining past through abandoned relics in Denniston or along the Charming Creek Walkway. There are even museums and art galleries should the weather not be playing ball. Either way, you’re sure to be inspired to do something awesome with this list of things to do in Westport.
If you do plan to stick around for a few days, then check out these 10 Best Motels in Westport and 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Westport. And don’t forget to check out our complete guide to Westport with some more awesome things to do in Westport.
1. Walk the Cape Foulwind Walkway
Described as one of New Zealand’s best short walks by the Department of Conservation, the Cape Foulwind Walkway is not to be missed! Not only will you get some awesome rugged coastal cliff scenery, a cheeky look at a lighthouse, and probably a few weka birds, you’ll also get an awesome view of a seal colony. There’s so much incorporated in this hour-long one-way walkway that you’ll have no trouble walking back the same way. Check out more walks like this in the 9 Best Walks in Westport. This is also one of the walks listed in the 10 Things to Do in Westport with Kids.
Location: One access is at the car park at the end of Lighthouse Road just off State Highway 67A. Alternatively, continue on State Highway 67A to the Tauranga Bay car park to start at the other end of the track (closer to the seal colony). The walk is approximately 14km (9 miles) west of Westport.
2. Check Out the Coaltown Museum
Westport is the oldest town on the West Coast with a proud heritage, particularly in coal mining. Learn all about the hardships and the risks the pioneers endured at the Coaltown Museum. The museum is full of relics, interactive displays and plays vintage footage from the Denniston Incline – a feat of engineering at the time. See more museums in the area with our 10 Interesting Museums on the West Coast, as well as more wet weather activities in the 11 Things to Do in Westport on a Rainy Day.
Location: Palmerston Street.
3. Walk or Mountain Bike at Charming Creek
More mining relics await abandoned among the dramatic river gorge landscape of Charming Creek. While the Charming Creek Walkway is about a 1h15mins drive from Westport, it’s well worth the journey to follow this railway line past spectacular waterfalls, over swingbridges and through railway tunnels. It’s a real adventure that can be walked or biked. Find out more about cycling the trail with our Mountain Biking on the West Coast guide.
Location: Charming Creek Road, Seddonville, 56km (35 miles) north of Westport.
4. Take a Trip Down the Buller Gorge
Do a scenic road trip through the Buller Gorge. The most scenic part of the drive is along State Highway 6 to Murchison. Stop by the Kilkenny Lookout, about 27km (17 miles) from Westport, and continue to the Inangahua Junction with a small museum. Following the Upper Buller Gorge Road, you’ll find historic mining relics and walks in Lyell, including the multi-day mountain biking and hiking excursion, the Old Ghost Road. The Buller Gorge Swing Bridge makes a fantastic photo opportunity and is home to an adventure attraction park. Finally, stop by Murchison for the cafes and another museum.
Location: State Highway 6.
5. Check Out the Denniston Plateau
Another historically significant place near Westport with plenty to see is the Denniston Plateau. There are more than 50km (31 miles) of walking trails at the historic coal mining area packed with abandoned machines with their stories told through the interpretation panels. Check out the walks and learn about the history of the Denniston Plateau in our 10 Interesting Historical Places on the West Coast.
Location: Denniston, 25km (15.5 miles) east of Westport.
6. Learn to Surf
Get some South Island surf in at some of Westport’s excellent surf breaks. Popular beaches for surfing are North Beach (The Tip) and Carters Beach, while experienced surfers will want to try the left-hand breaks at Tauranga Bay at low tide during a 2m (6.5ft) swell. Further down the coast at Nine Mile Beach are more surf breaks. Beginners are best to take a surf lesson, which can be booked through Bazil’s Hostel & Surf School.
Location: North Beach – Coates Street. Carters Beach – Marine Parade, approximately 6km (3.7 miles) from Westport. Tauranga Bay – Tauranga Bay Road, approximately 17km (10.5 miles) from Westport. Nine Mile Beach – Okari Road, approximately 17km (10.5 miles) from Westport. Bazil’s Hostel – Russell Street.
7. Check Out the Art Galleries in Town
Every large town in New Zealand has its fair share of art galleries, and Westport is no different. The Whakane Gallery is a good choice, which is also an espresso bar arguably pouring the best coffee in town. Alternatively, have a quick browse around the InterSpace Gallery of The Art Hotel to see contemporary art exhibitions. See more experiences like this in the 9 Romantic Activities in Westport for Couples.
Location: Whanake Gallery & Espresso Bar – 173 Palmerston Street. Art Hotel – 10 Brougham Street, Westport town centre.
8. Visit Charleston
This small town south of Westport is well worth visiting with its own collection of walking trails, as well as a caving/glowworm tubing activity provider. See the dramatic coastline on the short Constant & Joyce Bay track or follow an old bush tramway on the 1h30min Tiropahi Walkway. Charleston also has a few eateries, as well as accommodation.
Location: Charleston, 26km (16 miles) south of Westport.
9. Play Golf or Mini Golf
Enjoy views of Carters Beach as you play at the Westport Golf Club‘s 18-hole par 72 golf course. Green fees are affordable. A fun alternative is at the Westport Mini Golf. Play 18 holes with Northern West Coast themes, such as the Oparara Arch, the Denniston Incline, Carters Beach and more! Find this mini golf course at the Westport Holiday Park.
Location: Westport Golf Club – Marine Parade, Carters BEach, approximately 7km (4.3 miles) from Westport. Westport Mini Golf – 37 Domett Street.
10. Relax on North Beach or Carters Beach
Westport’s beaches are excellent places to relax, whether it’s for walking or watching the sunset. Charters Beach enjoys a mild climate, making it a great place to hang out in summer. North Beach is abundant with driftwood where it’s popular to make small bonfires at the end of North Beach Road to toast marshmallows and stargaze. See more free activities in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Westport.
Location: North Beach – North Beach Road. Carters Beach – Marine Parade, approximately 6km (3.7 miles) from Westport.
11. Cycle the Kawatiri Trails
Although there are plenty of awesome bike trails around Westport (just check out Westport – Guide for Backpackers for more details), the Kawatiri Trails can be accessed right from town. These grade 1-2 trails wind their way partly in the forest and partly along North Beach for a variety of scenery.
Location: Access is from Beach Drive or the junction of North Tiphead, Coates Street and Craddock Drive.