Local Attractions – Natural Features and Wildlife

Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks and Blowholes

The so-called Pancake Rocks are columns of limestone that began forming 30 million years ago. Sea, wind and rain over time have eroded the layers to resemble stacks of pancakes. Optimum viewing time is around high tide, especially if there is a heavy swell running as sea water is forced up through the blowholes with spectacular effect, but the stop is still worthwhile regardless of the conditions. The drive between Greymouth and Westport is rated by Lonely Planet as one of the 10 best coastal drives in the world, so aim to complete the journey in daylight hours if possible.
Location: State Highway 6, 56kms (50 minutes) south of Westport

 

Cape Foulwind Fur Seal Colony

Just a 15 minute drive from Westport township, the seal colony is easily accessible from the car park at Tauranga Bay. The track is well formed, the gradient gentle and it is a comfortable 10-15 minute walk to the viewing platforms. This is a breeding colony so offers plenty of activity to watch all year round. The female seals remain at the colony for their entire lives and the pups start to arrive around late November. The track continues along the bluffs to the Cape Foulwind lighthouse, which can also be accessed from the other end of the track.
Location: 16kms west of Westport on the Cape Foulwind road.

 

Oparara

The Oparara Basin is home to impressive limestone formations and magnificent rainforest inhabited by the great spotted kiwi, blueduck, kaka, NZ falcon, kea, the rare lesser short-tailed bat and large carnivorous snails, among many other species. Don’t miss the Oparara Arch walk (25 minutes one way) on a well formed track following the Oparara River, the Moria Gate Arch walk (30 minutes one way) and the Mirror Tarn walk (10 minutes one way). There are also other longer tracks to explore if time allows.
Location: Follow State Highway 67 to Karamea. From Karamea, drive 10kms on the Karamea-Kohaihai road. The turn-off point to the Oparara Basin is at McCallums Mill Road. Drive a further 16kms. This is a winding gravel road which is not suitable for motor homes or buses and care is needed. Allow 50 minutes driving time from Karamea to the top car park. Tours are available from Karamea if you do not wish to drive.

 

Buller Gorge

Rated by the AA as one fo the ‘101 Must-Do’s for Kiwis’, the drive along State Highway 6 follows the mighty Buller River. Stop at the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge Adventure and Heritage Park right beside the highway 14kms from Murchison, where you can walk across New Zealand’s longest swing bridge or take the ride across the river on the flying fox. On the other side of the river you can explore gold mining relics and a miner’s cottage or take a variety of walks or a jet boat ride on the river. Throughout the park, information panels will tell you about the history of the Buller Gorge and the flora and fauna of the area.

 

Heaphy Track

The Heaphy Track is one of the Department of Conservation Great Walks. The track is approximately 80km long and will take from 4 to 6 days to complete. At the northern end, the track starts at Brown Hut. 28kms from Collingwood in Golden Bay and ends 15km north of Karamea. It can be walked in either direction. The track passes through diverse landscapes including rainforest, river flats, tussock downs and nikau groves. Part of the track passes through Kahurangi National Park. There are several short walks at the southern end of the track, including the Nikau Palm walk (40 minutes), and Scotts Beach (1 hour). Public transport is available from the Karamea end of the track to Westport. Why not take a day or two in Westport to rest and recuperate at the end of the tramp, or from Westport, take a drive to the start of the track and do one of the short walks.

 

Northern West Coast Walks

There are many other stunning walks of varying length in the Northern West Coast region. The following are some suggested walks – we can supply more information about these:

Between Westport and Karamea:
Chasm Creek Walkway
Charming Creek Walkway
Britannia Track
Denniston Walkway
Lyell Walk

Between Westport and Greymouth:
Cape Foulwind Walkway
Charleston – short walks
Fox Rover and Fox River Cave
Trumans Track
Bullock Creek and Cave Creek
Pororari Gorge Track