The Kawatiri River Trail was the brainchild of the Buller Cycling Club who mustered together up to 100 local volunteers to transform river and seaside swamps and gorse-ridden land into 8km of stunning (and easy) cycling and walking trails beside the lower Buller River. Taking six years to complete, the last of the board walks and bridges were installed in early 2017.
The track starts off on the south side of Westport and after going through a variety of terrain and surroundings (including part of the town), ends up at the Buller River mouth and North Beach. So much variety in such a relatively short distance is very refreshing and a joy to experience. Another factor which I found rather pleasing is that the whole trail is very easy to negotiate whether you’re on Shanks’ pony or on two wheels. The trails and tracks have all been very well built with an overlay of fine gravel which makes for smooth riding and stumble-free walking.
The Kawatiri River Trail starts under the Buller River bridge as you drive into Westport, on the east (or true right) side of the river. On leaving the car park, the trail immediately enters a large tract of stunted native bush and continues through this for one kilometre towards town. The Buller River itself is only ever a stone’s throw from the track and in many spots there are short walking tracks through the bush down to the water’s edge. During the whitebait season, which runs from September 1 to November 14, you will come across fishers at various spots all the way down the river to the mouth, trying their luck at catching the tasty delicacies. You might even be able to ‘snag’ a small feed off someone if you play your cards right!
The first transformation in your surroundings comes when you suddenly break out of the lush, cool bush and are quite contrastingly confronted with old shipping and fishing wharves. There is an aged wooden platform here that gives great views (looking directly downstream) of the old wooden piles and beams that no doubt used to support a thriving, hustling and bustling industry. There is some awesome character in the grain and texture of the old timber and really cool red colours in the rusty nails and bolts that would make fantastic subjects for photography.
Just around the corner is the Westport Railway Society building with several old coal carriages parked up on the grass that are also very photogenic.
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