Abseiling (Rappelling) & Adventure Caving
Norwest Adventures Ltd., The Charleston Hotel, SH6, Charleston (tel. 0800/116-686 in NZ, or 03/788-8168; www.caverafting.com), can introduce you to the mystery and intrigue of the underworld. The Adventure Caving trip costs NZ$330 per person and requires high levels of fitness for people ages 16 and over - don't try it if you get claustrophobic or are afraid of heights. The Glow Worm Cave Tour (NZ$105 adults, NZ$80 children 5-15, NZ$335 family) is the dry, passive version of the Underworld Rafting tour (below). You travel by Rainforest Train to the huge Nile River glowworm caves, where you get to see amazing stalactites and stalagmites. You need to be able to walk unassisted on uneven surfaces, and robust footwear and warm clothing are advised. The Underworld Rafting experience involves making your way by raft along underground stream passages and out into the Nile River rapids. Some consider it a tamer adventure than that offered by Wild West Adventure in Greymouth. It's a 4- to 5-hour trip that costs NZ$165 per person.
For multiday white-water rafting expeditions, check out Eco-Rafting Adventures NZ, 108 Mawhera Quay, Greymouth (tel. 0508/669-675; www.ecorafting.co.nz), for a range of adventure packages on different West Coast rivers priced from NZ$500 to NZ$2,000, depending on the river and length of the trip.
Ultimate Descents, 54 Fairfax St., Murchison (tel. 0800/748-377; www.rivers.co.nz), offers three types of kayaks for all skill levels on Grade II to III rivers. You must be 13 years and over to participate in the 4 1/2-hour trips. Trips range in price from NZ$130 for a half-day's rafting adventure to NZ$135 for a half-day kayaking.
Chief among the best beaches is Tauranga Bay, 15 minutes south of Westport.
Two phrases sum up swimming on any of the West Coast beaches - extreme care and are you mad? Undertows are common and an ever-present hazard on beaches exposed to the westerly swell. Always seek local advice about safe areas. If you're uncertain, never get wet!
If you haven't found enough ways to test your nerves already, take a walk across New Zealand's longest swing bridge. Buller Gorge Swingbridge & Adventure Park, State Highway 6, Buller Gorge (tel. 03/523-9809; www.bullergorge.co.nz), offers a heart-pumping distraction 1 hour from Westport.
Tauranga Bay is a popular place to explore beaches, coastline, and seal colonies. There is a good-quality short track through the area, specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs. The seal-colony walk is 20 minutes round-trip, and the Cape Foulwind Walkway is 1 1/2 hours. A Department of Conservation's brochure with maps of both walks is available at the visitor center.
Call Buller Adventure Tours, in Lower Buller Gorge, SH6 (tel. 0800/697-286 in NZ, or 03/789-7286; www.adventuretours.co.nz), which also offers jet-boating and horse-trekking tours. Eco- and white-water rafting start at NZ$125, horse treks at NZ$85, and jet-boating at NZ$85.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.