Surfing and Swimming

Surfing and Swimming

Westport’s powerful surf beaches have attracted international recognition, with around 18 good surf breaks along the coast, all well patronized by both local and out-of-town surfies. Although big waves rolling in off the Tasman Sea preclude getting into water along many stretches of the Westport coastline, under good conditions it is possible to swim with care.

Carters Beach is a popular spot for local families with a children’s playground and domain. Care should still be taken when swimming here.

Tauranga Bay is a recognized surfing mecca. It has a left-hand point and beach break which is best at low tide in a 2 metre swell.  Right beside Tauranga Bay is Nine Mile Beach, which faces south-west and puts up some of the best beach breaks along this coast in the right conditions.

Tauranga Bay is a suitable place to swim, (sometimes), and is safer for surfing than Nine Mile beach.

West Coast beaches in New Zealand are known for strong ocean rips (currents which sweep you out to sea) from time to time. So if you decide to go for a swim or a surf, never go alone, take local advice, only do this on an incoming tide, and always always landmark yourself.  Nine Mile beach is for experienced surfers only.

At low tide at Tauranga Bay, saltwater mussels can be gathered – make sure you respect the per person limits and don’t take them from May through to the end of August when they are spatting and are thin and not good to eat.


Buller is a fisherman’s paradise. Crystal-clear river systems with countless pools make them ideal for trout fishing, both by fly and spinning methods. Whitebaiting is extremely popular in the season around the lower reaches of many rivers, and sea angling can produce some excellent fish for the holiday table also. Low tide is the best time to find paua or dive for crayfish.

Trout & Fly Fishing

Brown trout occupy a diverse range of habitats between the mountains and the sea including lakes, rivers, spring fed river tributaries and estuaries. With almost 90% of the region in public ownership barriers to access for anglers are, for the most part, dictated only by climate and terrain. In the case of waterways with private land adjoining, where there is no marked access please ask at the nearest farm house.

Many of the rivers mentioned in the West Coast web pages support trout populations that fluctuate depending on the time of year. The usual pattern is for the lower reaches of the major rivers to carry more fish in spring and early summer, after which trout move upstream to occupy mid-headwater habitats. Smaller streams generally fish best in early season before water temperatures increase and trout become active for shorter periods. Evening fishing is usually best in mid to late summer when insect hatches peak.

Almost any spot on the Buller River will offer a reasonable chance of a catch, especially early in the morning or at dusk. If any local information is needed, seek out Peter at ‘Toyworld’ in Westport’s Palmerston Street who is always willing to offer some expert advice.

Try trolling for kahawai on the lower reaches of the river as well – they will make their way up as far as the Buller River bridge at the entrance to the Westport township.

We hope you enjoy your ‘Coast angling experience’. Please do not take any more fish than you can use, and to preserve our waterways from didymo and other unwanted organisms, please check, clean and dry all angling equipment before leaving the river.


White-baiting in the West Coast rivers is a popular occupation with the locals (and others) in the season which runs from 1 September to 14 November annually. These small fish (about 4-5cm in length) are considered a delicacy and are generally served in fritters or patties – everybody has their preferred method! They are actually the young of several species of Galaxias or smelt and in spring make their way upstream from the sea, swimming near the river’s edge.

Regulations applying to whitebait fishing on the West Coast are different to those in other regions of New Zealand. Local rules should be checked first. Fixed stands must be licensed and many white-baiters fish in the same locations their families have fished in for several generations. It is possible in some areas to fish with a hand-held scoop net but this must not be within 20m of a fixed stand.  It is always courteous to check with other fishers first.

There are risks associated with white-baiting, as with any recreational activities around waterways. Take care to ensure the safety of friends, family and yourself.

Sea Fishing

You are never far from the bounty of the sea in Westport. You can surf cast for kahawai and snapper off the rocks at the mouth of the Buller River, and cast or longline right along the coast for rig, gurnard and snapper. There are flounder on the Orowaiti and Okari lagoons and crayfish and paua offshore from Cape Foulwind.

Pulse Energy Recreation Centre

The Pulse Energy Recreation Centre is Westport’s recreation base and has something for everyone. The facility includes 3 swimming pools, a fitness centre, a 2 court sports stadium, squash court and a hockey turf. There are also meeting rooms for small and large meetings and conferences.

The fitness centre hosts a great selection of daily exercise classes that visitors are most welcome to join, and the aqua aerobics classes provide a great opportunity for those who like to exercise in the pool. See the Pulse Energy Recreation Centre for more details.

4WD Off-Roading

There are a number of 4WD routes in the area, but it is advisable to check with the local Department of Conservation office before tackling any of these as conditions can change rapidly.


Live Cam