Coal Town Museum, 165 Queen St. (tel./fax 03/789-8204), gives you the chance to walk through a true-to-life coal mine, complete with sound effects from the deep bowels of the earth. Even if you're not lured here by these promises, you'll find an interesting repository of historical artifacts. Check out the displays of maritime and pioneering history. The museum is open daily, from 9am to 4:30pm October through April (until 5pm in Jan; closed Dec 25) and 10am to 4pm from May through September. Admission is NZ$13 for adults, NZ$5 for children ages 6 to 16, and NZ$30 for a family.
If you want an insight into the rugged history of the Westport area, try the local guides at Outwest Tours (tel. 0800/688-937 in NZ; www.outwest.co.nz), who will take you on personalized tours of old coal mining and off-the-beaten-track areas, like Stockton Mine, New Zealand's largest coal mine, 750m (2,500 ft.) above sea level on the Stockton Plateau. You'll travel in 4*4 Unimog vehicles, traversing rivers and generally taking on everything in your path. It won't always be smooth, but it will be exciting.
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.