The people who formed Westport and other West Coast towns were tough, particularly compared to today's standards. Sure, we went for three days straight without moisturiser last year and didn't even complain about it on Twitter, but these guys were even tougher than that. Take Denniston, the town on the hill: did you know that the path to get up there used to be so steep, once you moved in you'd only risk coming down again once a year? Once a decade, if you were a woman?
Okay, that actually makes them sound not very tough - the sort of people who'd stay cowering in their living room because they were scared of a little path - but what we mean is that they underwent tremendous hardship, just to eke out a living. Is that how you spell 'eke'? It doesn't look right for some reason.
Anyway, that original toughness is still visible in the hardy "Coasters" of today, and the environment in which they live. Even the names of the towns sound tough: Granity, Reefton, Hector … they sound like the names of people who'd shoot tennis balls at you on American Gladiators.
What we're getting at is that the coast has a real 'character' about it, formed by its history and its isolation from the rest of the country (not to get all Bachelor of Arts about it). We were just on the Reefton website and saw a news story announcing that the town is about to get its first ATM. Amazing! And particularly amazing when we tell you that Reefton was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to get a public electricity supply, in 1888. First with streetlights, last with a bank machine - you see what we mean by 'character'?
So you can now add 'withdrawing cash' to the long list of things to do on the West Coast. Our favourites: watching water spout up through the pancake rocks and blowholes of Punakaiki, walking the Charming Creek Railway, or visiting the seal colony at Cape Foulwind, which was originally named Rocky Cape by Abel Tasman but was renamed by Captain Cook because someone woke up feeling creative.
If you're looking for a good day trip, hunt out the incredible but quite secret Oparara Basin, featuring giant stone arches, a mirror lake and the chance to go inside caves filled with fossils, wetas and cave spiders. Yeah … let us know what that last one's like, we're busy buying moisturiser that day.
For cheap flights to Westport use the farefinder below, or visit grabaseat.co.nz the home of cheap airfares to Westport.