Long empty beaches, river estuaries, incredible granite and limestone formations. Better known for its legendary, rich coal mining history, the northern West Coast region of Buller surprises with some of New Zealand’s most sensational lesser-known natural attractions.
A naturally spectacular sculpture, the Ōpārara Arch, is one of a series of limestone formations shaped by nature over millions of years.
Windswept Cape Foulwind — a promontory south of Westport — is home to New Zealand’s largest colony of kekeno NZ fur seals.
Buller District extends from Punakaiki in the south northwards along the coast to Kahurangi National Park at the West Coast’s northern tip. It includes the smaller towns of Karamea and Reefton, and Victoria Forest Park to the west.
Oldest town on the West Coast and the main business centre for the Buller District, Westport is located at the mouth of the mighty Buller River. Most famous as a coal mining centre, it’s also the gateway to incredible natural wonders and some of New Zealand’s most beautiful off-the-beaten track landscapes.
The family-friendly Kawatiri Trail travels south from Westport along a spectacular and historic coastal route.
With a warm, mild climate and three great beaches within a few minutes of town, Westport is a beach holiday destination. Family-friendly Carters Beach — an endless sandy expanse — is a popular spot for camping, swimming, picnics, sunsets and bonfires. There are two surf schools in town.
Cape Foulwind Walkway, south of Carters Beach, is an easy, coastal walk along a breezy promontory to the country’s largest mainland kekeno fur seal colony. It’s highly entertaining around breeding season (November to February) when the young seal pups are finding their flippers.
The family-friendly Kawatiri Trail is a new walking and cycling track that follows the coast south from Westport. When fully completed (due 2024), it will travel all the way (55 km) to Charleston. Sections to Carter’s Beach, Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay — about half the full ride — are already open.
Learn about Westport’s fascinating coal mining heritage at the Coaltown Museum in town or, for amazing views, head out to the wild, remote Denniston Plateau — site of the infamous Denniston Incline and tales of mining hardships. Or take a tour of an operating mine at Stockton.
Foodies should note that the Westport Whitebait Festival is held each year in October.
Underground streams flowing through limestone have sculpted the wonders of the Ōpārara Arches near Karamea in Kahurangi National Park.
Karamea, sitting pretty in the warm northwestern corner of the South Island, is a secluded, off-the-beaten-track outdoor haven — gateway to Kahurangi National Park, the Heaphy Track and the Ōpārara Arches.
This region is a paradise for walking and hiking, birding, mountain biking, caving, fishing and hunting, kayaking and rafting.
There are many short walks near Karamea including the lovely Nīkau Walk and the coastal highlights of Scotts Beach Walk, at the western end of the multi-day Heaphy Track — one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks — which starts or finishes at Kohaihai, 16 km north of Karamea.
The impressive Ōpārara Arches are one of nature’s great artistic works — natural archways, sculpted by time and water, well worth an easy forest walk. Or take an unforgettable guided tour into the Honeycomb Hill Caves to experience a magical ancient underground world.
Crossing the emerald green waters of the Buller Gorge on New Zealand’s longest swing bridge.
Seddonville — one of many small townships north of Westport — marks the end of the Old Ghost Road. This 85 km multi-day hike or mountain bike ride follows a long forgotten gold miners trail, traversing native forest, alpine tops and seven ghost towns en route to the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge.
An outstanding day walk with amazing scenery, the Charming Creek Walkway starts from Seddonville. Based on an old bush tramway, the trail is packed with historical, botanical and geological highlights.
For a scenic road trip highlight, the one-hour drive between Westport and Reefton traverses the Buller Gorge, a wild and picturesque river valley formed by the mighty Buller River.
The Buller Gorge Marathon and half marathon, held in February annually, is one of the most scenic marathon routes in New Zealand.
The Sawmill Restaurant is fully licensed 40 seat restaurant specialising in wholesome West Coast New Zealand cuisine. Surrounded by untouched lush native bush, rugged mountains, and beautiful rivers, be prepare to be bewitched, charmed, and enchanted by one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets – Buller and the Northern West Coast.