Westport to Cape Foulwind

Westport to Cape Foulwind


Situated near the mouth of the Buller River, Westport is the Northern West Coast’s largest town and offers a range of services you’d expect from a larger centre, including an airport. Dine, wine or enjoy a movie! Its central location makes it an ideal place from which to explore the surrounding area – whether its north for arts and crafts, west for surf and seals, south for the fascinating limestone landscapes of the Paparoa National Park, or east for gold and history.

Westport is the gateway to the Northern West Coast. Named after a town in Ireland, it is the service centre for the Northern West Coast and Buller region which has a population of around 10,000, of whom approximately 4,000 reside in the town itself.

It has a spectacular location on the mighty Buller River with the steep Paparoa Ranges behind it and around it a beautiful estuary area called the Orowaiti Lagoon.

It has all the services you will need for a short visit or longer term living. Westport offers 24 hour fuel, two major supermarkets, a diverse range of accommodation from budget to luxury, a good range of cafes and bars, a micro-brewery, a multi-screen and live theatre complex, an all year round recreation and conference center with a full gymnasium, lap and hydrotherapy pools, an acclaimed links golf course, and a huge choice of activities to enjoy.   Look for information on these under the specific activities which interest you eg. surfing, mountain biking, walks etc.

Westport and its surrounding villages are perfect for people who just want to ‘discover’ and experience things for themselves – but it also has some world class adventure activities – Underworld glowworm rafting through the amazing Nile River Caves at Charleston; a 4WD tour into the beautiful Awakari Valley to view deer roaming free in their natural habitat and guided tours through the World Heritage Honeycomb Caves in Karamea. And don’t miss the Denniston Experience, three adventures which take you back to mining as our early settlers knew it and life at the coal face.

A short history of Westport

Like most of the West Coast, the history of Westport is all about mining and timber – first gold and then coal.  Gold fever attracted fortune seekers in large numbers between 1864 and 1867, boosting the population – from 250 to 26,000 in the three years of gold booms.

The discovery of coal bearing deposits happened during the same decade. From 1867 the coal mining industry began in earnest, and by 1895 Denniston in the north had become the largest coal producer in this country. The development of other services such as the port, roads, shops and trades were all funded by the needs of the miners and their families.

Today, Westport and the Buller region has a more diversified economy with mining, fishing, tourism and dairy farming being the main industries. The growth of dairy has been possible through ‘flipping’ previously acid hardpan soils with huge diggers to create free-draining rich pastureland.  Recently a hydro electricity generation plant has been re-built and a technology hub, the EPIC Centre which supports new and emerging businesses, has been established.

Cape Foulwind sunset

Cape Foulwind & Tauranga Bay

Cape Foulwind is a popular place to spend time enjoying the sea air, exploring the coastline and visiting the rookery of kekeno – the New Zealand fur seal.

Māori knew the Cape as Tauranga which refers to the sheltered anchorage the bay provided for voyaging canoes (waka). It was also used as a resting place as they travelled the coastal areas by foot and by sea. Abel Tasman sighted the Cape on 14 December 1642 and named it Rocky point. In 1770 it was named a “place of foul winds” by Captain Cook when his ship was beset by gales and wind. Major European settlement began in the 1860’s when the settlers established flax/harakeke and timber mills.

If you’ve got some surfing enthusiasts in your group, some of the best surfing on the Coast is right here, at the café end of Tauranga Bay.  The café used to be the Surf Club.

Tauranga Bay carpark has picnic tables, great toilet facilities, and a beautiful beach to play on. It has story boards about the wildlife, history and environment. Watch out for Weka birds (native flightless Bush Hens). They are curious, always up for stealing your lunch, and not afraid of people. If  you don’t watch out, they’ll grab your muffin!

Cape Foulwind Walkway and Seal Colony

The walkway is situated on the Cape Foulwind headland, about 16 km south-west of Westport. Carparks are located at the southern end (Tauranga Bay) and northern end (Cape Foulwind) of this spectacular walkway which features a seal colony, a lighthouse and also provides panoramic views of mountains and coastline.  The seal colony is a short 10 minute walk to the viewing platform or if you feel like a nice clifftop walk you can get there from the Cape Foulwind end but allow 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The headland is an important site for the seal colony as well as the sooty shearwater – a large sea-going petrel – and blue penguins.

More information can be found on the walks page.

How it got it’s name

Several of our early explorers have had fun naming Cape Foulwind.  In 1642 Abel Tasman the Dutch navigator called it Clyppygen Hoeck (Rocky Corner); Captain Cook an early English explorer, less than impressed with the wind which prevented him from landing, called it FoulWind; and in 1827 the French Dumont Durville called it Les Trois Cloches (the Three Steeples).

Carters Beach

Just 5 kilometres south of Westport on State Highway 67A, is the charming seaside village of Carters Beach. This is a special and beautiful place with an uninterrupted view of the Tasman Sea over the extensive flat grass grounds of the domain. There is also a first rate 18-hole golf links course to enjoy adjacent to the Westport Airport. Back on the domain, there is an extensive children’s playground, cafe, numerous excellent accommodation providers and a lovely white sand swimming beach. This is the safest of the beaches to swim in around Westport, but it is still a West Coast beach and is not surf patrolled so swimmers must take care. The best thing of course is the absence of sand-flys.


8 kilometres south from Carters Beach, you will come to the small settlement of Omau or “The Cape” as it’s known locally. From here you can access the lighthouse walk, around 1.5 hours one way south along the coastal cliffs to Tauranga Bay.

There are stunning coastal views out over the Tasman Sea, an excellent country pub and a well maintained community domain and function venue. There is a wide range of accommodaon at Omau and Cape Foulwind also to suit all budgets.


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