The top of the West Coast
The region is well known for its rich coal mining history in addition to its abundant unique natural attractions and its warm, mild weather. Take advantage of the weather while visiting the Oparara limestone arches in Karamea and Kahurangi National Park, experiencing the noisy bluster of the seal colony at Cape Foulwind, or the beauty of Carters Beach near Westport.
The Northern West Coast includes areas such as Karamea, Little Wanganui, Seddonville, Mokihinui, Hector, Ngakawau, Granity, Waimangaroa, the Denniston Plateau and Westport with Cape Foulwind, Tauranga Bay, Carters Beach and The Buller Gorge.
Great Places to Visit in the Westport Karamea Buller Region
Karamea is a secluded haven, snuggled into the warm northwest corner of the South Island. Long empty beaches, river estuaries, incredible granite and limestone formations as well as tamarillos and fruit trees growing happily alongside Nikau Palms. It's a great place for those seeking to "get off the beaten track". But don't worry, there are still plenty of services including a general store, supermarket and service station and options.
The first true settlement of the area took place in 1874 when the (then) fine harbour and sea provided the only means of contact with the outside world. Farming, timber, flax and gold provided a means of living but in 1929 the Murchison earthquake caused the silting up of the harbour and cut the community’s road link for about two years. The Karamea Centennial Museum holds an excellent archival and photographic record of Karamea's early history. The Fenian Track to Adams Flat is an interesting historic track in Karamea.
There are many short walks near Karamea including the Nikau Walk and Scotts Beach Walk which highlight the natural bush and coastal features of Karamea.
The Heaphy Track is the perfect pick for families or those new to tramping. It starts or finishes at Kohaihai, 16km north of Karamea. From May to September the Heaphy is also open to mountain biking. Other trails including the Wangapeka and Karamea-Leslie Tracks are popular too.
There are guided walks and kayaking into the Oparara Arch and Cave and the Honeycomb Hill Caves from Karamea. You feel like you have entered another world when you visit – it is beauty born of a million years of isolation.
Between Karamea and Westport
The road between Karamea and Westport crosses the Radiant Range, offering magnificent views over native forests out to sea. Along the road you will find many small towns.
Call in at the local pub for a bit of authentic West Coast hospitality at Little Wanganui or drive down to the beach. Seddonville is just inland from the coast. It marks one end of the Old Ghost Road mountain biking track. The 80km multi-day walk or ride follows a long forgotten gold miners road and traverses native forest, alpine tops and seven ghost towns to historic Lyell in the Buller Gorge. Approx 25km of track from either end is open but the track is not yet completed. Check in at the Westport iSite for the latest status. See how to contact our Visitor Information Sites here.
There are some nice walkways along this stretch of road. At Seddonville you can access one end of the Charming Creek Walkway which takes you through a gorge and many historic features and is also open to mountain biking. The other end is at Ngakawau and Granity where you can do short walks to the coal bins, Watson and Mumms Mill. If you want to do the full walkway, locals would recommend you start at Seddonville and head downhill.
At Hector, look out for the Hector Pottery studio, gallery and Country Music Museum. The museum is bursting with owner Barry's collection of country music LPs, CDs, tapes, sheet music, song-books and autographed photographs.
Westport is a coastal township located near the mouth of the Buller River. While keeping its small town feel, there is a large town centre with restaurants and cafes, services and accommodation in Westport that you would expect to find in a much larger town. There is also an airport in Westport with direct flights to and from Wellington.
As the Coast's oldest town Westport has a fair few stories to tell. Westport is a town built on coal extraction from wild and remote places. There are many historical places of interest in Westport including historic buildings, railway and quarry sites and a lighthouse at Tauranga Bay.
Check out the Coaltown Museum where you can learn about its mining history and the pioneers who battled the rugged environment. The Westport iSite is housed in the new Coaltown Museum.
Westport ActivitiesFor experienced surfers, check out Tauranga Bay and Nine Mile Beach. Lessons are available for beginners at Tauranga Bay in summer.
Our favourite natural wonder in Westport is the Cape Foulwind Walk (16km southwest of Westport) at Tauranga Bay. One of many walks near Westport, it takes you over a prominent headland overlooking the Tasman Sea and at the southern end is one of New Zealand’s most accessible NZ fur seal colonies. You can watch the seals swimming and dozing year round but the best viewing is between October and March when the big bull seals return to mate and the pups are at their most playful.
There are some great events in Westport. The Buller Gorge Marathon and half marathon in February is one of the most scenic marathons in New Zealand while the Buller Gorge Tube Race is fun for everyone.
The road between Westport and Reefton takes just an hour and is a truly scenic drive. It traverses part of the Buller Gorge Scenic Drive which is rated as one of the “101 must do things” by the New Zealand Automobile Association and with good reason. Even on a misty rainy day the scenery is dramatic. Plus there are exciting options available to raft the wild rapids of the Buller River. The small town of Inangahua along the way was nearly wiped out by earthquakes in 1928 and 1967. Check out the video and historic display at the local hall to get an idea of the amazing power of nature.
Travel Times & Distances
For place names, hover over the yellow dots. Click on any yellow dot to check the travel distance/time from Westport (in red);
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