Things to Do in Westport New Zealand: Nature’s Gateway

Located on the rugged West Coast of the South Island, Westport New Zealand, is an “off the beaten path” destination that invites visitors to explore its surrounding untamed beauty and embrace outdoor adventures. With its rich history and breathtaking landscapes, Westport offers a unique and captivating experience for all who venture to this coastal town. We often visit Westport, as it’s a gateway to discover the natural wonders of the West Coast. Please keep reading to find our favourite things to do in Westport New Zealand.

Wild sea view.

What is Westport New Zealand known for?

Westport and the Buller District were once a bustling hub of gold and coal miners. The gold rush brought many fortune seekers to the area, and the coal industry sustained the town for many decades. Today, Westport is a gateway for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the many natural wonders of Buller New Zealand.

Coaltown Museum entry.

Getting to Westport

Westport is on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. There are several ways to reach this coastal town. 

If you’re arriving by air, the small Westport airport is serviced by Sounds Air with flights to Wellington. Otherwise, the nearest major airport is Nelson Airport, approximately three hours away. You can rent a car from Nelson or take a scenic bus ride along State Highway 6 to Westport. 

If you’re travelling from other parts of the South Island, regular bus services connect Westport to major cities such as Christchurch and Queenstown.

Alternatively, Westport is a thrilling self-drive road trip through epic mountain scenery. Picton to Westport is a 3.5-hour drive. Christchurch to Westport is a 4.5-hour drive.

Read – The Great Coast Road New Zealand: Greymouth to Westport Drive.

Prominent Landmarks in Westport NZ

Clock Tower Chambers historic building.

Westport has several prominent landmarks showcasing the region’s natural beauty and rich heritage. 

Westport Municipal Chambers

The charming main street of Westport is adorned by the historic Westport Municipal Chambers, also known as the Clock Tower Chambers, standing tall as the town’s most prominent landmark. Its rich history and architectural grandeur add a touch of elegance to the vibrant streetscape, captivating visitors with its timeless charm. 

Coaltown Museum

Housed next to the historic former Clock Tower Chambers, you can experience the legacy of mining at Westport’s Coaltown Museum. The museum showcases artifacts, photographs, exhibits and displays that offer a glimpse into the town’s coal mining past. 

You will also find the New Zealand Westport isite Visitor Information Centre at this location.

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony

Just a short drive south of Westport, Tauranga Bay boasts spectacular coastal views and is home to a thriving fur seal colony. 

Take a leisurely walk along the clifftop track, where you can witness these playful marine mammals in their natural habitat. 

It’s a captivating experience and one of our favourite things to do in Westport New Zealand. As it’s just a short walk from the car park, we often stop over to see the cute New Zealand fur seals at play, and we consider it an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Westport.

Denniston Historic area

Half an hour’s drive north of Westport is the Denniston Historic area. For those interested in historical places, Denniston allows you to step back in time and discover the fascinating history of the former leading coal mining town atop the Denniston Plateau. 

Denniston is at the edge of a steep incline railway. You can explore the Denniston Incline, which locals called the eighth wonder of the world while gaining insight into the challenging lives of the coal miners who once worked here. 

Whether you take a self-guided tour to learn about the area’s rich mining heritage, go on a mountain bike trail, do the short bush walks along heritage trails, or just soak in the panoramic coastal views from the elevated vantage point, Denniston is a must-visit!

Make sure you Download the Denniston Rose app for an interactive self-guided tour.

Additionally, you can take a four-wheel drive fully guided tour from Westport. Exploring the Denniston Plateau and offering an underground coal mining experience in an 1880s underground coal mine, the Denniston Plateau Adventure is a memorable highlight for many travellers.

For a full rundown of the Denniston Historic area, including photos and how to get there, check out our review on Denniston.

Things To Do in Westport New Zealand

Cape Foulwind Lighthouse

Westport is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a range of activities that showcase the region’s natural beauty and adventurous spirit. Here are some of the best things to do in Westport New Zealand.

Cape Foulwind Walkway 

The Cape Foulwind Walkway is an incredible walk along a picturesque coastal trail that winds along the clifftops and provides breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.

It is one of our hot picks for things to do on the West Coast

Starting from Cape Foulwind Lighthouse, you will immerse yourself in the refreshing sea breeze, encounter stunning rock formations, and view dramatic vistas. 

The 1.5 hr easy walk leads to the Tauranga Bay seal colony and ends at Tauranga Bay car park.

The seals are there all year round. Additionally, keep an eye out for dolphins and seabirds that frequent these waters.

Are you heading to Karamea next? Read A Hidden Gem: Things to Do in Karamea New Zealand.

Carters Beach

For a more serene beach experience, visit Carters Beach. Relax on the golden sands, take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters, and let the gentle coastal breeze rejuvenate your soul.

There is a cafe and accommodation at Carters Beach for those who want to stay a little longer.

Buller River & Buller Gorge, Buller New Zealand

Westport is right on the bank and at the mouth of the Buller River, offering visitors scenic picnic areas and a nature reserve.

However, if you arrive in Westport from Picton or Nelson, you will drive through the Buller Gorge. The mighty Buller River’s beauty and the epic bush-clad mountains make this area one of the most scenic in the South Island. We have taken this road trip many times and recommend everyone take the road through the Buller Gorge at least once.

Kawatiri Beach Reserve

Kawatiri Beach Reserve is a beachcomber delight. From unique stones to fascinating driftwood, you never know what surprises await as you explore the sandy shores.

Nile River Glowworm Caves

A twenty-minute drive south of Westport is one of the most magical experiences. Embark on an enchanting underground adventure by exploring the Nile River Glowworm Caves.

Guided tours venture into a network of limestone passages adorned with thousands of shimmering glowworms. 

Charleston is just 20 minutes drive south of Westport.

Read Next – Charleston New Zealand: Get Off the Beaten Track in Charleston NZ, and discover other natural wonders on the West Coast.

Best Places to Eat in Westport NZ

Westport NZ boasts more pubs and bars than most small towns; it’s a testimony of the gold rush and coal mining past. With close to a dozen Westport new zealand restaurants to choose from, drive down the main street of Westport and pick the ones that look best for you. Here are a few recommendations, which we have had great meals at.

Portside Bistro and Bar: Situated near the port, Portside Restaurant and Bar offers a diverse menu and outdoor seating. They specialize in seafood dishes, including fresh fish, toasted sandwiches, and burgers. The restaurant also features a well-stocked bar, making it a perfect place to unwind and enjoy a meal.

PR’s Cafe: PR’s Cafe is popular among locals and visitors. It offers a relaxed atmosphere and a menu featuring a variety of breakfast and lunch options. PR’s Cafe has something for everyone, from hearty breakfast platters to homemade sandwiches and salads. It’s a great place to enjoy a meal or grab a quick bite while exploring Westport. We personally love their pies the best.

The Denniston Dog: Visit The Denniston Dog Restaurant & Bar, a quirky and inviting pub that pays homage to the region’s mining history. Sample their range of craft beers and indulge in their tasty pub-style fare, including gourmet burgers, stone-baked pizzas, and grilled meat.

Heading to Greymouth? Read Next- The Best Things to Do in Greymouth New Zealand.

Is Westport NZ worth visiting?

View of sea and landscape from Cape Foulwind walkway.

With its rugged coastline, rich mining history, and adventurous spirit, Westport offers a unique blend of untamed beauty and cultural heritage. From exploring the Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony to delving into the fascinating history of Denniston, your Westport New Zealand things to do list will keep you captivated for a few days. Whether you seek exhilarating outdoor activities, natural wonders, or a taste of the local food, Westport promises an unforgettable journey that will leave you with cherished memories of the wild beauty of the West Coast.

Hi There! We hope you loved this post! To find more cool things to do in the South Island read our curated New Zealand South Island Bucket List – South Island Must Do.

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