The Town of Westport was created by gold and coal, and its tourist attractions are either connected to that history or to the wonderful natural environment surrounding the Port of Westport.
Abel Tasman first saw it in 1642, naming it Rocky Cape. Captain James Cook named it Cape Foulwind when his Endeavor was blown out to sea from this point. The breeding colony of fur seals is present and active throughout the year at Cape Foulwind because the females live at the same colony throughout their lives. Less than ten kilometers from the Port of Westport, a 10-minute walk from the car park takes visitors to a viewing platform over the seal colony that offers information about the seals and about the New Zealand’s past sealing industry.
The Port of Westport’s Coaltown Museum contains displays describing the industrial history of the Buller region. Displays include a replica of a real coal mine and the equipment used to handle the huge volumes of coal that were taken from the earth. The museum also contains displays on other industries that built the area including the maritime trade, sawmilling, minerals, transportation, and brewing.
The historic settlement of Denniston is about 15 minutes from downtown Port of Westport. With great views of the town and surrounding scenery, Denniston was founded in 1800s by coal miners. At 600 meters above sea level, many of the early settlers seldom left the settlement, sometimes staying there for as long as a decade. Today, visitors see the mine sites, mining relics, rope roads, and remains of the township hidden away in some of New Zealand’s harshest environments. The settlement has many walking trails of varying lengths as well as mountain biking and ATV tracks.
Less than 20 kilometers northeast of the Port of Westport on South Island’s coast is Ngakawau, an operating mining village with a colorful history and several great walks. North of the village is the Charming Creek Walkway, one of New Zealand’s top five short walks, through pristine rainforest where native birds sing to you as you follow the Ngakawau Gorge. The village is also home to Hector Pottery, makers of internationally-famous handmade tableware and sculpture, and the Stockton Mine Aerial Ropeway built in 1953 to bring coal down from opencast mines. Ngakawau is also popular with both river- and sea-fishermen and with beachcombers and surfers.