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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.