Westport and Karamea
The Northern West Coast is rich in coal mining history, natural attractions, adventure activities and warm weather.
The northern West Coast
The region is well known for its rich coal mining history in addition to its abundant unique natural attractions and warm, mild weather.
Take advantage of the weather while visiting the Oparara limestone arches in Karamea and Kahurangi National Park, experience 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:
- Little Wanganui.
- The Denniston Plateau.
- Westport with Cape Foulwind, Tauranga Bay and Carters Beach.
- The Buller Gorge.
Visit the Buller Region
Karamea is a secluded haven, snuggled into the warm northwest corner of the South Island.
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 stations.
- Long empty beaches,
- river estuaries,
- incredible granite and limestone formations,
- tamarillos and fruit trees growing happily alongside Nikau Palms.
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 record of Karamea's early history.
The Fenian Track to Adams Flat is an interesting historic track in Karamea.
Things to do in Karamea
The area of Karamea borders Kahurangi National Park and is a natural wonderland with caving, birdwatching, mountain biking, fishing and hunting, kayaking and rafting opportunities.
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.
There are guided walks and kayaking into the Oparara Arches 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.
This 85km multi-day walk or bike 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.
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.
Westport is a coastal township located near the mouth of the Buller River, the Coast's oldest town famous for its coal mining history.
Photo Credit: Charles Bruning
There are many historical places of interest in Westport including historic buildings, railway and quarry sites and a lighthouse at Tauranga Bay.
The Westport i-SITE is housed in the new Coaltown Museum.
There is an airport in Westport with direct flights to and from Wellington.
Things to do in Westport
For a great family swimming spot, head to Carters Beach where there is a park, playground and nearby golf course.
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. The best viewing is between October and March when the big bull seals return to mate and the pups are at their most playful.
Westport is quite the surf town and very passionate about it, with 2 surf schools offering lessons and hires 365 days of the year, with great beaches for all levels.
There are 3 surf beaches within 5 mins from town, all with beach breaks. We have the warm Tasman current that hits us so the water never gets that cold, with world class waves and consistent swells all year round.
For experienced surfers, check out Tauranga Bay and Nine Mile Beach. Lessons are available for beginners at Tauranga Bay in summer.
The Westport Whitebait Festival is held each year in October, and the Buller Gorge Marathon and half marathon in February is one of the most scenic marathons in New Zealand.
- Check the weather in Westport on yr.no
The Buller Gorge
Photo credit: Charles Bruning
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.
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 Oparara Wilderness Trail run is back in 2021