Free (and Cheap) Activities in Westport
You can’t put a price of seals, baby, and that’s just the kind of free attractions you can enjoy in Westport! This northern historic mining town of the West Coast boasts some of the South Island’s best short walks, as well as more relaxing experiences from art-gallery-browsing to bush-train-riding. So stick to your travel budget with ease thanks to this list of free and cheap things to do in Westport!
1. Walk the Cape Foulwind Walkway – FREE
One of the highlights of Westport no matter your budget, the Cape Foulwind Walkway is a scenic coastal journey featuring a lighthouse and seals! The 1h15min easy-going one-way walk along clifftops offers outstanding views of the Tasman Sea with a colony of New Zealand fur seals seen from a viewing platform at the southern end of the walkway. At the northern end is the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse which is also worth a photo. There are car parks at both ends of the walk, so you could drive to each highlight if you’re lazy.
Location: Cape Foulwind Road, Tauranga Bay, approximately 17km (11 miles) from Westport town centre.
2. See Waterfalls and Old Bush Tramways Along the Charming Creek Walkway – FREE
Alternatively, if you don’t mind travelling further afield, the Charming Creek Walkway is an exciting walk with waterfalls and mining/logging relics. Starting from the Seddonville car park, the walkway is approximately four-hour return trip featuring an epic view of Mangatini Falls tumbling into the Ngakawau Gorge. Walk through bush tram tunnels, find abandoned coal bins and more surprises along the way. Note that the access to the walk from Ngakawau (the entrance closest to Westport) is closed due to a landslip. Learn more about Westports walks, all of which are free to do, in the 9 Best Walks in Westport.
Location: Charming Creek Road, Seddonville, approximately 58km (36 miles) from Westport town centre.
3. Check Out the Denniston Plateau – FREE
More fascinating historical sites await at the Denniston Plateau! Several walks in the area lead to all sorts of fascinating nooks between the Denniston Incline and its amazing views to the long-forgotten coal trucks and railways abandoned in this once-bustling mining area. Check out the walks available here, and see more 10 Interesting Historical Places on the West Coast to learn more.
Location: Burnetts Face Road, Denniston, approximately 27km (17 miles) from Westport town centre.
4. Browse the Local Art Galleries – FREE
For something more relaxing and a good rainy day activity, Westport has a few quaint art galleries worth discovering. The Whanake Gallery & Espresso Bar teams up great coffee with the artwork from a local artist and photographer focussing on the West Coast’s natural beauty. Alternatively, the Art Hotel is not only a budget accommodation in Westport but is an attraction in itself with a dedicated exhibition displaying contemporary art.
Location: Whanake Gallery & Espresso Bar – 173 Palmerston Street. Art Hotel – 10 Brougham Street, Westport town centre.
5. Take a Road Trip Up the Buller Gorge – FREE
Sure, you’ll need some fuel money but enjoying the dramatic river gorge scenery of the Buller Gorge is priceless. While the Buller River ends its journey in Westport, following it up State Highway 6 is a mesmerising journey of bush-clad mountains separated by the mighty Buller River. Stop by the Kilkenny Lookout for a striking view of the river bend about 27km (17 miles) from Westport and stop by Berlins Cafe & Bar for a coffee with a view. In Igangahua, you’ll find a small museum worth checking out, then combine your journey with our next point…
Location: State Highway 6
6. Cross New Zealand’s Longest Swingbridge – CHEAP
On your way in or out of Westport, don’t miss the Buller Gorge Swingbridge, the longest swingbridge in New Zealand at 110m (360ft) long! Crossing the bridge over the dramatic scenery of the Buller River costs around NZ$10 per adult, but that’s also to access four different bushwalks on the other side with native trees, gold mining relics and a view of Ariki Falls. You can also hire a goldpan for around NZ$12 to try your luck at not having to use our “free & cheap things to do” lists anymore!
Location: Upper Buller Gorge, State Highway 6, Murchison, approximately 81km (50 miles) from Westport town centre.
7. Walk or Cycle the Kawatiri River Trail – FREE
You don’t have to travel too far to enjoy this pleasant free walk in Westport. What’s more, you can even cycle it as some of the accommodations in town have free (or cheap) bike hire. Walk or ride along the Buller (Kawatiri) River which links the town with North Beach. Behind North Beach, you then have the Kawatiri Beach Reserve to enjoy with winding bike trails through the coastal forest. Learn more in the 9 Best Walks in Westport.
Location: Start from the Buller River Bridge, 1km (0.6 miles) from Westport town centre.
8. Visit the Coaltown Museum – CHEAP
Yes, more mining! Whether you’re a history enthusiast or not, the sight of the giant eight-ton coal truck perched in the centre of the Coaltown Museum is an impressive sight. Delve into the mock-up mining tunnel and see all of the equipment the miners used in this strangely fascinating museum that only costs around NZ$10 per adult.
Location: 207 Palmerston Street, Westport town centre.
9. Ride the Nile River Rainforest Railway – CHEAP
We’ve talked a little about all the bush tram remains found on the walks surrounding Westport but did you know you could ride one? The Nile River Rainforest Ride, operated by Underworld Adventures in Charleston, takes you deep into the forest of the Paparoa National Park. See spectacular limestone and granite cliffs on this railway journey that costs around NZ$25 per adult. At the end of the railway line, enjoy a short bushwalk in the national park before the return trip.
Location: 7368 State Highway 6, Charleston, approximately 25km (16 miles) from Westport town centre.
10. Play a Round of West Coast-themed Mini Golf – CHEAP
Finally, an attraction that won’t set you too far back is the Westport Mini Golf! What’s more, you could argue that you’re simply doing research, as the 18 holes are based on northern West Coast attractions. Putt through the Oparara Arch, tackle the Denniston Incline, swing across Caters Beach and much more! The mini golf can be found in the Westport Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels but is open to all. See more like this in the 10 Things to Do in Westport with Kids.
Location: 37 Domett Street, Westport, approximately 2km (1 mile) from the town centre.