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Charleston New Zealand with Paparoa Mountains in the background

Charleston is the first small town south of Westport on State Highway 6, in the northern part of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Located in the Buller District, it is a significant historical gold mining town once boasting more than 5,000 residents and more than 30 hotels and shops. On January 29, 1868, Robert Hannah set up his shoe shop in Charleston. His business grew to become the largest shoe manufacturer and retailer in New Zealand in the day. Hannahs continues as a major nationwide brand in New Zealand.

Today Charleston is a quiet hamlet, offering dramatic views of the rocky coastline and the Paparoa Mountains from the tracks at Constant Bay. Explore the tiny bays, and witness the wild crashing waves of Constant Bay and Joyce Bay. Charleston has a myriad of other entertainments -- from river swimming to tramping the river tracks, glow worm cave exploration, rafting, and other adventures.


Charleston was once a thriving gold mining town after a goldrush in 1867. It is now a quiet village, and a gateway to adventures such as caving, vertical rock climbing, underworld rafting, kayaking and tramping.

The nearest i-SITE Information Center is 23 km north in Westport.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

By car[edit]

Charleston is south of Westport, 23 km on State Highway 67.

  • When travelling from Nelson or Christchurch, take State Highway 6 from Inangahua Junction via the Buller Gorge to the junction with State Highway 67. Allow at least an hour for travelling the gorge. The road through the Buller Gorge is single lane in several places and frequently traveled by buses and trucks. Take care, be patient, and enjoy the scenery.
  • When travelling north from Greymouth, take State Highway 6 along the coast via Punakaiki. Allow about 1 hour driving, plus set aside an hour to see the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki.

By bus[edit]

Get around[edit]

Map of Charleston (New Zealand)

By car[edit]

The town is tiny and there is no real town centre. In order to get to the sites you'll need a car.


  • 1 Constant Bay. A dramatic narrow bay, with a track to a viewpoint. Constant Bay was the port of entry for Charleston in its heydey.
  • 2 Joyce Bay. Another dramatic narrow bay, with a track to another viewpoint.
  • 3 Drive the Beach Road. Traveling north on State Highway 6 towards Westport, turn left on Beach Road after crossing the Nile River. Traveling south on State Highway 6, turn right on the Beach Road shortly after crossing the Little Totara River.
  • 4 Historic Cemetery, Old Nile Road (Cemetery Road) (just north of Charleston village).


  • 1 Underworld Adventure Centre, 7368 Hwy 6, +64 3-788 8168, . Glow-worm cave and underworld rafting experience.
  • 2 Constant Bay Loop Track (Princess Street). Loop track with spectacular views of Constant Bay -- possible to do quickly in 15 minutes, but may take much longer with the non-stop views. Optional track not appropriate for children leads to vertical cliffs with even more dramatic views. Rock climbing access to cliffs for those with experience and proper equipment.
  • Joyce Bay Flagstaff Hill Track (State Highway 6 to Princess Street in Charleston). Track to the top of Flag Hill for spectacular views.
  • 3 Mitchells Gully Goldmine, 7664 State Highway 6 (4 km northeast), +64 3 789 6257. Explore old tunnels and glow worm cave. Picnic area. Locally roasted coffee, tea and hot chocolate offered.
  • Awakari Valley Tour, 7354 Camp Street, +64 27 641 8267, toll-free: 0800 688 937, . 8:30am - 3:30pm. This tour of the Awakari Valley is on private land in Charleston. The tour is conducted by the owner, Johnny Currie, and takes 5-6 hours. Tours depart from the Westport i-SITE Visitor Center. If you are booking a tour within 24 hours of intended departure – ring instead of email to book and obtain confirmation. Confirm your booked tour the day before if tour reservation was not made locally. $210 per person.
  • Charleston Market, Charleston Hall, State Highway 6. Monthly market held monthly on Sundays. Check Facebook page for schedule.


  • Pounamu Gallery (Jade Shop) (State Highway 6 in Charleston, across from Princess Street).

Eat and drink[edit]


Freedom camping is not permitted at Constant Bay / Joyce Bay.

Go next[edit]


  • Westport - largest town in the northern West Coast region (25 minutes, about 23 km)
  • Granity - to the north on State Highway 6 and State Highway 67, a historic mining town with some notable features (45 minutes, about 55 km))
  • Karamea - About 2 hours (122 km) drive to the north on State Highway 6 and State Highway 67 past Westport. It's the start (or finish) of the Heaphy Track.


  • Punakaiki - stunning coast road south on State Highway 6 (30 minutes – 29 km)
    • The Truman Track is south along the coast from Westport and is a 15 minute hike to the coast with excellent breakers and a pebble beach.
    • Pancake Rocks & Blowholes at Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park. Exceptionally interesting rock formations viewed from a paved trail, much of it wheelchair accessible.
  • Barrytown - a hamlet with a gorgeous beach and a great vibe
  • Greymouth - the next sizeable town to the south, 65 minutes (74 km)


  • Reefton – inland to the south-east, but the drive will take you north on State Highway 6 along the Buller River, then south on State Highway 69 towards Lewis Pass and Christchurch. The drive is about one hour and 15 minutes (92 km) but allow time for the vistas along the lower Buller River gorge.
  • Murchison - inland to the north-east on State Highway 6. The drive is about one hour and 30 minutes (111 km) and will take you through the whole of the Buller River gorge.
This city travel guide to Charleston is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.