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About halfway between Westport and Punakaiki along SH6 is Charleston. It was once a thriving gold mining town with about 12,000 inhabitants. The most well known bays are: Constant Bay, Joyce Bay, Ladies Bay and Doctors Bay. The turn off is well sign posted. The reserve has public toilets and forms a good base for parking, a picnic or BBQ. It is a good starting point to explore the tracks through the dense flax bushes. At the start of the reserve immediately to the left starts a track leading to Doctors Bay and further to the Charleston Rocks, a popular spot for climbers on the 60m rockface. Pods of Hector dolphins are regularly sighted cruising the coastline. Enjoy the wonderful views from a variety of vantage points. Allow 1 hours
There are 2 new tracks called The Argylland The Bromielawthat are 2-3 hours each. They are open to the public but not advertised. Ask Andre for more information.
Nile River Rainforest and Limestone Cliff Walk
The Charleston Nile River Rainforest Walk takes you through ancient rain forest in to the magnificent Nile River limestone Canyon. Allow 1 hour
Mitchell’s Gully Historic Gold Mine
Mitchells Gully Gold mine is 5 minutes South from Birds Ferry Lodge where gold is still mined today. You can take a short tour and see how gold was mined 100 years ago.
Cape Foulwind Walkway and Seal Colony
The Cape Foulwind Walkway takes you along the cliff tops. The Seals are 5 mintes walk from the Tauranga Bay car park and you can continue along the cliff tops to the lighthouse end, which takes 1 hour. Tauranga Bay has relative safe swimming and the surfing is usually good. On the south side of the bay is a small cafe/restaurant called The Bay House.
A challenge with just reward, this is not for the faint hearted. Before the start of the track up to the peaks some farmland needs to be crossed. From Westport, drive into the Buller Gorge. Just before you drop down to the river flats a bright yellow sign points you in the right direction. Follow this road jump the gate and follow the farm track until the airstrip. At the highest point of the strip are the fertiliser bins. Facing uphill, to the left is a sign, follow the fence line and at the marker hop over. The track is well marked up to the tree line after which small cairns and snow poles lead the way. The 4-bunk hut is bright orange and visible from some distance. With the hut as a base the rock gardens and seagull colonies of the Peaks can be explored. Hut fees are payable at Wood’s menswear, main street Westport or use the honesty box. Recommended 2 day trip but can be done in 10 hours. Take clothes for all weather conditions, reasonable fitness required.
An opportunity to wander through a small area of lowland forest without leaving town, just as it once covered the present site of Westport. From Palmerston Street head south until just before the Buller Bridge. To the left this magnificent piece of bush is clearly visible. It offers some impressive examples of mature native trees like rimu, rata and kahikatea. Allow 45 min.
Westport Riverside Walk (Millennium Walk)
A pleasant walk of about 4 km that could be started anywhere along the way. At the Post Office head South following the main street. On reaching the Buller Bridge turn right, then pass the railway marshalling yards on the left. A bit later pass the cement silos on the right. Access is possible further along the wharf, passing the dredge and barge moorings, and the coal loading facilities to finish up at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The round trip is finished by walking back along Palmerston Street until reaching the Post Office again. Allow 1.5 hours.
A relaxing beach walk starting at the Buller River mouth, Westport side. A feature of this beach is that timber flushed down the Buller River is washed up by the coastal current and forms the only protection from the sea. It is a great source for the wood carvers in the region who are always on the look out for well weathered pieces of native timber. Park on the Northern tip head, sign posted from Derby Street as Buller River Mouth. Walking North the beach can be followed till the Orowaiti Lagoon, being both mouth of the Orowaiti River (locally sometimes referred to as Giles Creek) and exit point for the Westport Flood Protection Scheme. Not crowded at the best of times the beach soon becomes totally deserted while heading North. The tidal character of the lagoon forms an ideal habitat for a great variety of birds. The round trip is about 10 km. Allow 3 hours.
The Britannia Track is named after the most successful gold mining operation in the area. It is sign posted about 3 km north of Waimangaroa off SH 67. (O’Connor Road) The unsealed road crosses the railway, passes a farm house and seems to turn into a farm track. Just keep going, keep left at the fork but look out for single wire electrified gates. (If found open, leave open, if found closed, get through and close again.) Park at the small picnic area at Stoney Creek. Go straight up until the benched track turns into a narrow trail. Here a small steep track takes you down to the battery site of the Britannia Mine. Small trails allow for some more exploring and many relics can be found. Half way down the main track again is a small trail leading to a mine shaft. Complete with props, drips, semi-transparent cave wetas and glow worms. As the track bottoms out a detour to the Republican Mine can be taken. This site is flood prone and only bits and pieces can be found now. At lower water levels in the creek follow the trail, you need to cross the creek twice. After a boggy section, re-unite with the main track. Gold panning at the picnic area has brought some good results. Pan hire at the farm house. Allow 4.5 hours, bring a torch.
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