Introducing Westport to Greymouth
SH6 along the surf-pounded coastline here proffers fine ocean views. Fill up in Westport if you’re low on petrol and cash – there’s no fuel until Runanga, 92km away, and the next ATM is in Greymouth. The main attractions along this stretch are the geologically fascinating Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. To break the journey, consider the following.
Set on 52 serene hectares 17km south of Westport, solar-powered, energy-efficient Beaconstone Eco Lodge is both earth- and guest-friendly. The style is a little bit Americana cool, while the comforts are many, including cosy beds and a laid-back communal area. Bush walks on the doorstep. There's only room for 12, so booking is recommended.
Jack’s Gasthof is 21km south of Westport on the Little Totara River. Laconic Jack swapped Berlin for this gentle spot more than 22 years ago, and he and Petra still run this eternally popular pizzeria (mains $10 to $25; open from 11am) with adjacent bar improbably bejewelled with a disco ball. Rooms and camping for horizonal dancing.
For a true taste of the region’s gold mining past, swing into Mitchell’s Gully Gold Mine, 22km south of Westport, where you'll meet a pioneer's descendants and explore the family mine. There are interesting tales, relics, tunnels and railtracks, plus a giant waterwheel and the odd trap-door spider.
The next stop is Charleston, 26km south of Westport. It's hard to believe it now, but this place boomed during the 1860s gold rush, with 80 hotels, three breweries and hundreds of thirsty gold-diggers staking claims along the Nile River. There's not much left now except a motel, campground, a clutch of local houses and the brilliant Norwest Adventures with whom you can explore some utterly amazing hidden treasures.
From here to Punakaiki is an attractive mixture of lowland pakihi scrub and lush green forest alongside a series of bays dramatically sculpted by relentless ocean fury. Drive as slowly as the traffic behind you will allow.
Punakaiki & Paparoa National Park
Located midway between Westport and Greymouth is Punakaiki, a small settlement beside the rugged 38,000-hectare Paparoa National Park. For most travellers, it’s a quick stop for an ice cream and a squiz at the Pancake Rocks; a shame because there’s excellent tramping on offer and some tragically underused accommodation.
11 Day South Island Explorer
Hike the Franz Josef Glacier, cruise with the dolphins through Doubtful Sound, visit New Zealand's highest peak, Mt Cook, and go wild in Queenstown - the extreme adventure capital of the world. There's so much to do on New Zealand's South Island, this is bound to be an unforgettable travel experience and a rollicking adventure. Where do you sign up? Right here!
Marlborough and West Coast Cycle
Cycle from beech forests to beaches to discover wilderness, wines & wildlife