Family Activities in Westport
The northern gateway to the wild West Coast of the South Island, Westport is more than just a pitstop. Savvy families travelling the country stay awhile to experience the rich mining history taken over by nature, the family-friendly adventure activities along the pink granite banks of the Buller River, and much more! Free activities are plentiful between the walks to see seal colonies and bonding over making driftwood huts on the beaches. So choose the activities to suit your family’s tastes and budget with this list of things to do in Westport with kids.
For more family activities in Westport, as well as useful travel tips, see The Guide to Westport for Families and the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Westport.
1. See the Seals Along the Cape Foulwind Walkway
The Cape Foulwind Walkway is a must-do for families! The 1h15min one-way coastal walk takes you over the clifftops of Cape Foulwind on a hardpacked trail that’s even suitable for pushchairs. Highlights on the trail include the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse, as well as a viewing platform over the Tauranga Bay seal colony. While seals can be enjoyed year-round, the best time to get the seal action is between November and February. Park at the southern end of the trail to have easy access to the beach!
Location: Cape Foulwind Road, Tauranga Bay, approximately 17km (11 miles) from Westport town centre.
2. Check Out the Mining Relics at the Denniston Plateau
Another fantastic free attraction in the Westport area, the Denniston Plateau adds a touch of history to your family trip. Kids love balancing on the railway remains of this once-busy mining site. There are all sorts of short walks here that are suitable for active families. The Brakehead Walk is a 40-minute loop to a stunning viewpoint atop the famous Denniston Incline, while the Coalbrookdale Walk is a one-hour return walk with remains of tunnels, foundations, a haulage winch and a mine fanhouse. Check out more walks in the 9 Best Walks in Westport.
Location: Burnetts Face Road, Denniston, approximately 27km (17 miles) from Westport town centre.
3. Do Jet Boating, Ziplining and More at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge
On your way in or out of Westport, don’t miss the Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure & Heritage Park. Yep, it’s certainly a mouthful but that’s only because there is so much to do here once you cross the 110m (360ft) swingbridge over the Buller River. Go jet boating between pink granite rocks and to the spectacular Ariki Falls on the Buller Canyon Jet. Try goldpanning and explore one of the stunning bushwalks. Even getting back across the river can be an event on the 160m (525ft) flying fox which you can either ride in a sitting position, tandem or flying like Superman.
Location: Upper Buller Gorge, State Highway 6, Murchison, approximately 81km (50 miles) from Westport town centre.
4. Enjoy a Family-friendly Rafting Trip on the Buller River
Another way to experience the mighty Buller River is on a family-friendly white water rafting trip. Ultimate Descents offers an exciting but safe family white water rafting adventure suitable for kids aged five years and up. Revel in the amazing river gorge scenery with a mix of choppy rapids and gentle flows that even the little ones can help navigate with custommade paddles. The tour is based in Murchison, which again, is a good one to do on your way in or out of Westport.
Location: 38 Waller Street, Murchison, approximately 96km (60 miles) from Westport town centre.
5. Journey to Remote Valleys on a 4WD Tour
For a sense of the true West Coast spirit, join Johnny for an exciting 4WD adventure on Outwest Tours. On the “Johnny’s Journey” tour, delve into the green depths of the Awakari Valley with views of the rugged granite tops of the Paparoa Range and where wild red deer roam among giant native trees. Your local guide, who owns the valley, will teach the family about local bushlore as you visit various caves, pancake rocks, and a remote bush shelter for refreshments. Alternative tours with Outwest Tours take you to a working mine or a the historic mining site. Most importantly, the journey in an ex-army all-terrain passenger vehicle is an experience in itself.
Location: Tours depart from Westport i-SITE, 123-125 Palmerston Street, Westport town centre.
6. Check Out the Coaltown Museum
An all-weather activity in the centre of town, the Coaltown Museum will keep you occupied for about an hour with all sorts of interesting displays. Learn about the rich mining heritage of the West Coast by devling into mock-up mining tunnels and standing below the giant “Q” wagon, an eight-ton coal wagon perched at the angle it would have been on the steepest part of the Denniston Incline. There’s a small fee to this museum, which you can learn more about in the 10 Interesting Museums on the West Coast. Plus, see more all-weather attractions in the 11 Things to Do in Westport on a Rainy Day.
Location: 123-125 Palmerston Street, Westport town centre.
7. Build Sandcastles and Driftwood Huts at Carters Beach or North Beach
Westport has a couple of fantastic beaches for families to enjoy. Carters Beach is a local favourite for its temperate climate and plenty of room for walking, swimming, kite flying, building sandcastles or whatever your family likes to do at the beach. North Beach is another spectacular beach, backed by walk and cycleways and scattered with driftwood that kids love climbing or buidling huts with.
Location: Carters Beach – Marine Parade, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Westport town centre. North Beach – Derby Street, approximately 3km (2 miles) from the town centre.
8. Watch the Waves Crashing at Constant and Joyce Bays
South of Westport, Constant and Joyce Bays are another free attraction in the area that’s well worth a pitstop on your way in or out of town. The loop walk takes a mere 15 minutes, but you might want to stick around for longer to watch the gigantic waves crashing into the rugged coastal formations!
Location: Princess Street, Charleston, approximately 26km (16 miles) from Westport city centre.
9. Ride the Nile River Rainforest Train
Ride between the dramatic cliffs and dense native bush of the Paparoa National Park on a train journey with Underworld Adventures. While they offer a range of caving and glowworms tours suitable for families with older children, those with youngsters will find the Nile River Rainforest Train the best option. Experience the national park in a bush tram reminiscent of a bygone era where you’ll pass the limestone sculpted canyons of the Nile River. The train stops at a station in the heart of the forest where you can enjoy a short walk before the return journey.
Location: 7368 State Highway 6, Charleston, approximately 25km (16 miles) from Westport town centre.
10. Have a Round of Westport Mini Golf
Finally, between all of the above adventures, don’t forget to enjoy some downtime with the kids. A great place to do that is at the Westport Mini Golf. The 18 holes will take you on a themed journey of the northern West Coast which may inspire you for more attractions to visit. 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.
Location: 37 Domett Street, Westport, approximately 2km (1 mile) from the town centre.