CHEAP CAR RENTAL WESTPORT AIRPORT
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Cheap Car Hire Westport Airport
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West Coast Attractions
A rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time exploring Westport and surrounding areas. Here are a few of the many attractions around the spectacular South Island West Coast you might like to consider checking out. The letters on the map match those on the tabs below, where you'll find information about each attraction. For more ideas, check out the West Coast website.
A seal colony, lighthouse, dramatic views and a coastal walkway - Cape Foulwind truly has it all. You may also spot blue penguins and sooty shearwaters around here.
This headland was named by Captain Cook, after he encountered strong gales and winds here in the 1700s. It was Abel Tasman who was the first European to see the cape, however, and an old astrolabe (navigational instrument) erected in his honour can be seen overlooking Tauranga Bay.
The seal colony here is a breeding colony so there’s always something going on to observe at any time of the year - the females never leave and there are often playful pups basking and frolicking around the rocks. However the summer months are when the males arrive and spend time ashore (plus, it’s a lot warmer then!) without feeding, during mating season. It’s one of six breeding colonies on the West Coast and one of the most accessible in all of New Zealand.
A walkway stretches from Cape Foulwind south to Tauranga Bay, passing steep bluffs, sandy beach and green pastures. It takes about an hour and a half to complete. From Tauranga Bay it’s a short stroll to the seal colony viewing point. You’ll also find picnic facilities, toilets, and informational displays here.
You can choose to continue all the way to the Cape Foulwind lighthouse, in which case you may want to arrange transport at the other end (or commit to a 3 hour round trip). The tower is in much the same shape as when it was first built; the foundations for the original lighthouse (as well as the old keepers houses) are visible in front of the current one.
You will find Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay about 16 km from Westport - a fuss free drive from the town centre in your rental car. Simply follow Cape Foulwind Rd all the way to the coast.
A museum dedicated to coal mining? It exists, and you’ll find it on Palmerston St in Westport, not far from our rental depot. Opened in 2013, Coaltown is a great all weather (and all ages) attraction and the best source of information about mining and maritime heritage in the Buller district.
The township of Westport was originally built on coal, extracted from places like Denniston, and early coal workers endured hard lives spent mostly underground. The Coaltown museum preserves their stories, struggles, and the history of the communities these pioneering spirits built.
Inside this colourful museum you can watch videos, browse old photographs and journey back through the beginnings of the area, from the gold rush days to the development of mining. There are two film areas, one on coal mining and one on logging. Get an insight into the living conditions of locals, their struggles with unions, and the transport and shipping systems that developed.
Coaltown’s simulated mine offers a look at the gritty, day to day working environment that every miner dealt with. There is a confronting 8-tonne coal wagon that once descended at a 45 degree angle into the bowels of the earth and a 20-tonne braking drum used to control it on the famous Denniston Incline.
Meanwhile the Maritime display chronicles previous attempts to turn the wild Buller River into a shipping port. After all, there was only one way to get this ‘black gold’ out of Westport and sell it to the rest of the world.
Pubs and drinking were central to settler life and so naturally there is a brewery display as well.
Another collection currently on show is a selection of cameras from around the globe, spanning just over a century, owned by a local resident and complemented by a gallery of pictures by a local photographer.
Based in Charleston, 30 km south of Westport, Underworld Adventures offers a raft of thrilling tours. Pick ups from your Westport accommodation may be available, otherwise, it’s an easy drive in your rental car!
The narrow gauge Nile River Rainforest Train promises an epic journey in open carriages through ancient rainforest. Taking riders through the awe inspiring Nile River Canyon in Paparoa National Park, the route passes through several sites from the BBC’s The Lost World film production. Stretch your legs on a walk to the impressive Nile River suspension bridge and inhale the pure air. The park is full of amazing and otherworldly limestone formations, from caves to cliffs, and will have you craning your head at every turn.
Speaking of those limestone caves, you can combine a trip on the Nile River rainforest train with a tour of the Nile River caves. Venture into this maze of caverns, as masses of glow worms reveal themselves in the grotto. The Te Ananui cave system is dry at the upper levels, and home to numerous stalagmites and stalactites, while the lower ones have been shaped by the flow of underground streams (boots are available so your feet don’t get too wet).
Rafting is yet another option for exploring this area. In the lower levels of the cave system you’ll climb into an inflatable tube before emerging into the gurgling Nile River rapids.
For the daring, more extreme thrills can be had on the adventure caving tour option. This expedition involves abseiling and clambering over boulders, climbing ladders and scaling waterfalls, even crawling through narrow passages. It’s a real workout, taking you through waterways and dry caves for the full spectrum of underground adventure.
Old Ghost Road
The Old Ghost Road is a former gold mining route, recently revived as a trail for hikers and bikers. Westport is the base for The Old Ghost Road ; its two trail heads are about 2 hours drive apart from each other in your rental car. If you’re feeling intrepid, they are 2 to 3 days apart when riding, or 4 to 5 days if tramping. Keep an eye out for information and relics along the track that delve into the area’s rich mining history.
At 85km, The Old Ghost Road is New Zealand’s longest continuous single-track, stretching from Lyell to Seddonville, via the Mohikinui River gorge. It comprises landscapes of all descriptions - soaring mountains, deep gorges and valleys, thick rainforest.
While it is remote and beautiful it is also demanding, and shouldn’t be undertaken upon a whim. There are more than a dozen bridges that cross over rivers and creeks along the Old Ghost Road trail, and a handful of other land bridges, however there are still waterways
that have the potential of flooding after heavy rain. Spanning altitudes from near sea level to alpine ranges, conditions can vary greatly and swing in an instant, so it’s vital to be prepared for any type of weather - even in summer.
The Old Ghost Rd is an advanced (grade 4) mountain biking trail with variable natural surfaces - in places it is steep, narrow and challenging. Some sections may be easier to walk. Mountain bikers are advised to start at Lyell (near the upper Buller Gorge) and ride from south to north in order to enjoy the best experience.
Trampers need a reasonable level of backcountry experience. The direction in which hikers tackle the Old Ghost Road is less important than it is for cyclists, so take your pick.
There are six huts placed along the Old Ghost Rd - bookings are required ahead of time. Given the nature of this trail you will need to bring all your own provisions as there are no stores en route.
The Denniston Experience is a one of a kind attraction - an interactive underground tour of a historic coal mine. Just 25 km north of Westport, it’s a short journey in your rental car.
Take a train ride that whisks you through the Waimangaroa Gorge, over stone arches and uphill into the mine itself, a relic from the 1880s.
Over the duration of two and a half hours the tour will immerse you in the bleak and dustry outlook of life underground, with audio and visual holograms providing eerie simulations of how the mines ran. Try your hand at an assigned job - shovelling, hewing, erecting pit props - and see if you would have been able to hack it back in the days.
For decades this was the biggest coal mine in New Zealand - it’s estimated that 12 million tons made their way down this incline during its operational lifespan, from 1879 to 1967. It has since been strengthened with modern support systems. It was used as a tunnel for other local mines, with the Denniston plateau being the home of one of the best and richest coal seams in the country.
After the tour you’ll be able to explore the Denniston Incline railway, a true feat of engineering for its time, transporting coal down the plunging plateau to the plains beneath.
A shorter express option is available for those who are pressed for time. Compressed into 60 minutes, this tour includes just the highlights. You’ll take the train through the gorge and see the coal seams, stepping foot briefly into the underground mine, without the darkness or claustrophobia of the in depth experience.
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