DAY 1: WESTPORT
Situated at the northern tip of the Great Coast Road, Westport was brought to life by gold but sustained by coal. Dig into Westport’s mining history with a trip to the all-ages, all-weather friendly Coaltown Museum. There’s all sorts of mining-related treasures on display here, including an 8-tonne coal wagon once used on the Denniston Incline, and a mine simulation to give the kids a taste of underground life.
If you want to see the real (modern-day) thing, Out West Tours offers a fun six-hour-off-road tour to New Zealand’s largest coal-producing mine for just $20 (book at the Westport iSITE).
Stay the night at Carter’s Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, where you can wake up to the sound of waves on one of the West Coast’s safest, sandiest swimming beaches. It’s also where the first section of the new family-friendly Kawatiri Coastal Trail pops out — an easy 5 km ride through wetlands from Westport to Carters Beach.
If you haven’t brought your bikes, then head to the Cape Foulwind Walkway, 15 minutes from Westport. A good walk for small legs, the 3.4 km track features the biggest seal colony in the country, a lighthouse, and West Coast swells smashing against the rugged coast below.
Surfing might not be synonymous with the West Coast but just south of Cape Foulwind, the waves are tame enough for newbies to conquer. Professional surfer and national surfing judge Mark Perana offers lessons for all ages and abilities, in sheltered Tauranga Bay.
Stay: Carter’s Beach Top Ten Holiday Park — motels, cabins, sites and a playground near a safe swimming beach. Bella Vista Motel — family-friendly accommodation in the heart of Westport.