Like a proud fly caught in amber, WESTPORT, despite government and tourist money and the council’s zealous desire to modernize, remains fixed in time. Diversions are scarce, except at the seal colony at Cape Foulwind, on the brain-clearing walk to the old lighthouse beyond or exploring the ghostly former coal towns of the Rochford Plateau. Were Westport – once known as “Worstport” – not a transport interchange, few would stay in this workaday fishing port as the temptations of the Heaphy Track and Karamea, 100km north, are too strong. However, stay some must, and time here is made tolerable by good-value accommodation, an engaging museum, some adventure activities and an outstanding restaurant, The Town House, that could hold its own in Auckland, Wellington and well beyond.

Almost everything of consequence in Westport is around Palmerston Street. For tours to the nearby former coal-mining town of Denniston.

Brief history

Westport was the first of the West Coast towns, established by one Reuben Waite in 1861 as a single store beside the mouth of the Buller River. He made his living provisioning Buller Gorge prospectors in return for gold, but when the miners moved on to richer pickings in Otago, Waite upped sticks and headed south to help found Greymouth. Westport turned to coal and, while the mining towns to the north were becoming established, engineers channelled the river to scour out a port, which fast became the largest coal port in the country, but now lies idle. Westport battles on, with a respectable-sized fishing fleet and the odd ship laden with the produce of New Zealand’s largest cement works, at Cape Foulwind, fuelled by coal from the opencast mine at Stockton.

 

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook