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One of New Zealand's oldest ports, Westport sits at the mouth of the mighty Buller River. Once a boomtown for two separate gold rushes, it's now a quiet little hub (population 3,100) for the local farming and coal industries, plus the rapidly expanding adventure-tourism niche. It's a quiet place to stop over before heading south toward Punakaiki and the glaciers or north to remote Karamea and the Heaphy Track; the best of Westport is out of town, either on the coast or up the rivers. The iconic Westport look is breaking white-capped waves, blue sea, seals, rocky outcrops, and acres of flax and wetlands, although there are several striking art deco buildings along the main street. Stop by the little Coaltown Museum on Queen Street to learn about the port's history and check out an extensive mineral collection. Another museum at Denniston, 18 km (11 mi) north of town up a steep mountain range, details life in this lonely outpost from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Carving a living from the rich seams of coal in the surrounding tussock-covered hills, the settlers had to struggle with wild weather, isolation, and primitive conditions. An old underground mine is being reopened for visitors and the living history aspect of the settlement is being revitalized. A popular historical novel about these pioneers, The Denniston Rose, by New Zealand writer Jenny Pattrick, details the area and the harsh colonial lifestyle.
The Westport Visitor Centre can provide information on Karamea and Kahurangi National Park.
Westport at a Glance
Sports and Outdoors
Elsewhere in Upper South Island and the West Coast
- Abel Tasman National Park
- Around Nelson
- Golden Bay and Takaka
- Kahurangi National Park
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