Readers' pick: Westport to Greymouth

01:03, May 31 2012


Distance: 94km

When Captain Cook sailed past Westport nearly three centuries ago, he was obviously having a bad day.

He chose the name Cape Foulwind for the southern head of Buller Bay, and you begin any southbound road journey between the two largest towns on the South Island's west coast by passing near this feature.

It's worth turning off State Highway 6 at this point, particularly if you're a surfer. The point breaks at Tauranga Bay, south of the Cape, are legendary and quite enticing provided you don't mind sharing the water with an entire colony of fur seals and the fearsome marine predators that prey upon them.

From this point the Westport-Greymouth section of SH6 just gets better the more you travel along it.

The next roadside attraction is the historic goldfield around Charleston, and an exploration of that area that can happily fill in an entire day if you can spare it.


However the greatest natural assest of this stretch of road is the Paparoa National Park, located slightly further south. Famous for the pancake rock formations at Punakaiki, the national park really warrants further investigation.

Hire a kayak and paddle up either the Porari or Punakaiki Rivers, and you'll be soon gliding through unspoiled limestone country rich in mature rainforest and spectacular cave formations.

Any visitor from the Waitomo area of the North Island will wonder why their caves are world-famous and those of Paparoa National Park are virtually unknown.

However it is the drive that is the real delight of any journey down this spectacular stretch of coast. The huge amounts of weather and wave energy hitting this exposed coastline from the often boisterous Tasman Sea has carved the limestone outcrops into intriguing shapes, and the road never ventures far from the waterline.

As you drive around one spectacular headland after another, you begin to wonder whether this drive can get any better. A fine pick by our readers.