What to do 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 CharmingCreek 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.
1. Walk the Cape Foulwind Walkway
One of the most popular walks on the South Island, the Cape Foulwind Walkway gives walkers a fantastic viewing experience 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 in9 Best Walks in Westport.
Location: Tauranga Bay or Lighthouse Road, 14km 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 of 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 our10 Interesting Museums on the West Coast.
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 30-minute 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: State Highway 67 in Ngakawau, 31km 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 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 at the Denniston Plateau. There are more than 50km of walking trails at the historic coal mining area packed with abandonedmachines with their stories told through the interpretation panels. Check out the walks and learn about the history of the Denniston Plateau in our10 Interesting Historical Places on the West Coast.
Location: Denniston, 25km 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 and Carters Beach, while experienced surfers will want to try the left-hand breaks at Tauranga Bay at low tide during a 2m 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: Beaches around 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. A few galleries to pop into include the Honeycomb Gallery, Whakane Gallery and the Art Hotel.
Location: Honeycomb Gallery – 204 Palmerston Street, Whakane Gallery – 173 Palmerston Street, and the Art Hotel – 10 Brougham Street.
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 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: 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.
Location: North Beach – North Beach Road, Carters Beach – Rotary Road.