It's all about mining
Westport is the oldest European settlement on the West Coast when settlers came in search of gold. In 1878 however a coal mining company (The Westport Coal Company) was formed and became New Zealand’s largest coal producer. The Coal Town Museum is a must see. There are video clips of people working in the mine and talking about their experiences as well as a written account of someone who spent her early childhood in Westport, where her father worked in the mine. In the documents she describes how he built their family home and helped others to do the same, because he was a great carpenter.
Another very prominent mining town worth mentioning is Greymouth, about halfway between Hokitika and Punakaiki. We didn't stop and just past through on our way North. The Pike River Memorial 46km North East of the town was erected after 29 men lost their lives in an underground explosion. It is a stark reminder of how dangerous coal mining can be.
The former Westport Public Library is now listed as a historic place.
Municipal chambers of Westport - a beautiful building.
The Westport Information Centre and Coal Town Museum.
Inside the museum you get a real sense of what life as a coal miner could have been like.