west coast history & heritage
If you love to discover gems and tales of old, there's plenty of history and heritage to soak up on the West Coast. The region early Maori called Te Tai O Poutini was valued for its precious pounamu jade. Later, Europeans came in search of other rich resources such as gold, coal and timber. They came by foot, pack track, boat and air. Many historic features they left are accessible today by road or on walks on the West Coast.
Learn about the gold, timber, coal, Maori and aviation history of the West Coast at the many heritage sites on the West Coast. Those listed below are easliy found, well marked and in many cases interpreted via information panels, brochures and books. Visitor Information Centres & i-SITES have further details on the history and heritage of the West Coast.
Karamea Heritage Sites
KARAMEA CENTENNIAL MUSEUM
The rural Karamea Centennial Museum offers a unique slice of West Coast history with huge collections of photographs and a range of displays covering Maori history, farming, gold mining, sawmilling, flaxmilling, shipping and the earthquake of 1929 that ruined the port and brought more challenges to this isolated community. Family heritage, district and school archival material and local artifacts and memorabillia are available.
Find out more about Karamea Centennial Museum from the Karamea Community website.
FENIAN TRACK TO ADAMS FLAT
In the mid-1800s gold-miners searched for gold in this area, carving out a bridle track through the beech & podocarp forest that is now a serene walk enjoyed by many.
Along the Fenian Track is the historic Adams Flat Hut. The Hut, named after John Adams who was an early West Coast settler, is a monument of a typical goldminer's hut made of timber and iron. Now in ruins, a replica was built in 1999 through the Department of Conservation. The grave of John Adams' who is believed to have died in 1882, lies close to the hut marked by a totara with his name engraved.
You can learn about other walks and tracks along the historical Fenian Track from Karamea Information & Resource Centre's website
Seddonville Heritage Sites
CHASM CREEK WALKWAY
An old Seddonville branch railway line for exporting timber and gold out of Charming Creek Valley preserved as a track for an easy and magnificant walk through old railway tunnels, gorgeous views from bridges and all through a beautiful native fauna. 30 minute return walk. A return night visit it recommended to view the glow worms in the tunnel.
You can read more about the walk on the New Zealand Tramper website
Ngakawau Heritage Sites
CHARMING CREEK WALKWAY
A great walking and mountain biking opportunity, the Charming Creek Walkway takes you deep into West Coast nature and history. Along the way you will spot remnants of the gold and coal mining and saw milling tradition the region was renowned for, precious fragments of sawmills and old tunnels. Thr suspension bridge along the journey provides an umissable view of Mangatini Falls. There is access from Ngakawau and beyond Seddonville. 3 hours each way.
See more about the walk on the Department of Conservation website.
STOCKTON COAL AERIAL ROPEWAY
A vital piece of equipment for coal mining the Stockton Coal Aerial Ropeway is a bucket line used for transporting coal down from the Stockton mine on the plateau to the mine bins in Ngakawau, near Hector. Stockton Mine is the biggest opencast mining operation in New Zealand, and still operates under NZ company Solid Energy.
See incredible archival footage of the Ropeway in operation in 1953 on the Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand website
Granity Heritage Sites
Located in Northern Buller next to historic coke ovens from the early twentieth century, Granity Museum holds historical photographs of nearby towns and settlements, as well as old mining and saw milling photos. The museum also exhibits incredible displays of everyday facilities from West Coast history like bars, sewing rooms, kitchens and old technology like phones, record players and cameras amongst some of the memoriabillia.
Read more on the official NZ Museums website
The hilltop settlement of Millerton had once been one of the prominent coal mining towns back in the day. Lots of mining taking place around the Papahaua Ranges from the time of its opening in 1896 up until the 1960s. In Millerton you can see not only the mine sites but also rope road formations, the shell of a bathhouse and a dam wall. Part of an inclined rail system that took coal down to Granity can be visited via a short track from the old Millerton Road. 30 minutes return walk.
Read more at Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Paths that were formed by a poet who once resided in Millerton, the Bathhouse walks are a hidden gem in this area. And the Bathhouses themselves are a historic treasure too. A creek formed the resevoir where the coal miners used to come and bathe after a long day mining, and remnants of the pipework which flowed with hot water heated by the mines still remains at the site.
Read about the walks on the Buller website
Waimangaroa Heritage Sites
BRITANNIA GOLD MINE
It takes only 20 minutes into the walk on an old bullock track to reach a gold fossicking area. North of Waimangaroa, this bush track leads to the Britannia Battery site where you can see quarts mine workings and a complete 5-head stamp battery. This was the site where the Britannia Mining company once processed gold back in the day.
Read more about this track on the Buller website.
CONNS CREEK YARDS
A railway shunting area at the foot of the Denniston Incline you can see some of the restored rail tracks in the yard area, where Q wagons carried coal, and were lifted by cranes and dropped into the holds of coal ships at Westport.
Find out more of the rich history of Denniston Incline on the Denniston website.
Denniston Heritage Sites
DENNISTON BRIDLE TRACK
A walk up from the flats near Waimangaroa also gives access to the incline. A return duration of approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes and about a 2 hour walk one way. The uphill climb was once the only way for the early settlers to reach Denniston, before the coal cableway was installed, which meant they had to carry all their belongings up with them!
See more about the Bridle Track on the Buller website.
The Brakehead walk lets you walk past one of Denniston's first settlements named 'The Camp.' You will be lead to the impressive stone Banbury Arch viewpoint where on a clear day you see unforgettable views across the Tasman Sea.
A former school building that has been restored to house this Museum that celebrates the Denniston Plateau, which the old mining community referred to as 'the eighth wonder of the world.'
Find out the story of the Museum and Denniston's History on the Denniston website
DENNISTON TOWN WALK
A 40 minute loop through history as you walk through the streets of Denniston town. It begins at the old school site, and along the way you will encounter old residential sites with perishing chimneys and also the town bowling green. The walk ends back at the Denniston school site, where you began.
Roperoad formations which once carried coal from the mines to the top of the Denniston Incline. Highlights on this walk are remnants of tunnels, a haulage winch and a mine fanhouse.
Westport Heritage Sites
This museim is the ultimate source of knowledge about coal mining and maritime history in the West Coast, particularly about settlements in the Buller region. Having been refurbished in 2013, Coaltown Museum is a modern collection of classics, including a simulated underground mine and a real Q wagon which had been used on the Denniston Incline.
Read more on the Buller website
BULLER COALFIELDS HERITAGE TRAIL
This route links localities north to Seddonville and the drive along it offers a unique window into the coal mining history as well as stunning scenic views. The trail is 120km in length but there are various stops along the way, and you can enter and exit the trail for a number of places as well.
Read more on the Buller Coalfields Heritage Trail website.
Cape Foulwind Heritage Sites
CAPE FOULWIND WALKWAY
Southwest of Westport along the beautiful and rugged coastline, the walk between Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay is nothing less than inspiring. The functioning lighthouse and foundations of the original are at the north end of the walkway to Tauranga Bay seal colony where you might spot some of the seals taking a swim, or having a rest along the coast line.
See more on the Department of Conservation website
Addisons Flat Heritage Site
Addisons Flat is well-known for a historic battle that took place at the area in 1868. This was a time of political turmoil between the Irish Fenians and the government forces at the time. Riots, uprisings and executions, the history is fascinating and a must-visit site for NZ History buffs.
Read all about the Battle of Addisons Flat on The Encyclopedia of New Zealand website.
Charleston Area Heritage Sites
MITCHELLS GULLY GOLD MINE
Restored by the ancestors of pioneers, the Mitchell's Gully Gold Mine is a unique and personal perspective of mining history. You can see remnants of the mine including an authentic stamping battery that is run by a waterwheel . The Mitchell's Gully Gold Mine provides a true understanding of how masses of gold were recovered by the miners back in the day.
A former goldfield harbour with a walk to the signal station site.
Catholics and Protestants at the opposite end of town.
Fox River Heritage Sites
A sea cave occupied by travellers from the earliest days.
FOX RIVER BRIDGE
A timber truss bridge gives walking access to a former road tunnel.
Runanga Heritage Sites
Restored, complete with the original union slogans.
Greymouth Area Heritage Sites
COBDEN GUN EMPLACEMENT
Short climb from Wickes St to World War Two relic with town and river views.
MAWHERA VILLAGE SITE
Marked by a plaque beside the highway bridge.
TOWN HERITAGE WALK
Links significant buildings and other historic sites.
GREYMOUTH EVENING STAR MURAL
Headlines from local history. Mackay Street.
An extraordinary array of photos and relics on town, port etc.
COAL RIVER PARK
Relics and sculptures on floodwall and wharf celebrate the harbour and its main export.
The Coast’s most famous historical attraction with steam train, sawmill and gold panning.
A bush walk with tunnels, water races and fascinating gold workings.
Kawatiri Junction Heritage Sites
A track on the old Nelson-Kawatiri rail formation crosses a bridge and passes through a tunnel.
Murchison Heritage Sites
Displays in the former Post Office recall the devastating 1929 earthquake and other local history. (Please make a donation.)
Ghost town revived by photographs. Walk links cemetery, alluvial gold workings and stamp battery.
Reefton Heritage Sites
REEFTON VISITOR CENTRE
Features a mine engine and realistic ‘underground’ section.
HISTORIC TOWN WALK
Passes buildings dating from the town’s earliest days, including the School of Mines.
POWER HOUSE WALK
Recalls NZ’s first public electricity supply of 1888.
Station, locomotive shed and (in town) a Fairlie locomotive.
In town and 3km south, graves of prospectors and miners.
A track around remains of a small coal mining operation.
Big River Heritage Sites
GOLD MINE, BATTERY, SAWMILL AND COAL MINES
A remarkable historic complex, accessible via walking tracks.
Blacks Point Heritage Sites
Much mining and domestic memorabilia. (Please make a donation.)
MURRAY CREEK - LANKEY CREEK TRACKS
Link the reef mines that gave rise to Reefton.
GOLDEN LEAD WALKS
Along a water race with a longer option to a battery.
Blackwater Heritage Sites
A TINY SCHOOL
Marks a settlement with gold rush roots. (Donation please.)
Waiuta Heritage Sites
WAIUTA TOWN AND MINE
Relics of the Coast’s last great gold strike.
BATTERY AND POWERHOUSE
Foundations linked via a raceman’s track.
The top of NZ’s deepest mine shaft (879 metres).
Moonlight Heritage Sites
Hydraulic sluicing ‘monitors’ mark the Moonlight Road turn-off.
Passes tailing walls, hut sites, water race and battery.
Blackball Heritage Sites
Covers the town’s significant remaining buildings and other sites.
Chimneys, ventilator and bath house shell adjacent to the road.
BLACKBALL- ROA RAILWAY LINE
Includes unusual timber bridges.
Crosses the Paparoa range, passing gold workings, miners’ huts and a battery.
Nelson Creek Heritage Sites
NELSON CREEK WALKS
An unusual footbridge crosses to bush tracks through intriguing gold workings.
Red Jacks Heritage Sites
LOCALLY BUILT LOGGING LOCOMOTIVE
Beside State Highway 7.
Brunner Heritage Sites
Coal mines, brickworks and coke ovens linked by a suspension bridge.
BRUNNER DISASTER GRAVE
Last resting place for victims of New Zealand’s most deadly mine explosion.
Kotuku Heritage Sites
SCHOOL AND MINI BUNGALOW
Reminders of a former sawmilling settlement.
Lake Brunner Heritage Sites
A station, overhead footbridge and station master’s residence (now a café).
Bush walk to a former lakeside logging camp and wharf.
Greenstone Heritage Sites
Scattered graves overlook the site of a vanished gold town.
ALBERT HUNT PLAQUE
Commemorates the Coast’s first payable gold rush.
Kumara Heritage Sites
Recall a late great gold rush and miner/politician R.J.Seddon.
A unique facility, formed among tailing boulders.
A house-sized boulder amidst stacks of sluice tailings.
Mining tunnels and a gold panning area where a gold town stood.
People of many nationalities lie in a genuine ‘Boot Hill’.
Hokitika Area Heritage Sites
Recognises the special status of the river to Maori as the source of pounamu (nephrite jade or greenstone).
Graves dating from the gold days, plus a panoramic view.
Restored timber tower on Seaview Hill, near the cemetery.
A replica shipwreck recalls the busy port and treacherous entrance.
The columned library now serves as the visitor centre, art gallery and museum entrance.
Features displays, research archives and audio visual. (Entry fee.)
HOKITIKA TOWN WALK
Shop window panels trace site histories since the gold rush.
LAKE KANIERE WATER RACE WALK
Follows a system built for gold mining and now used to generate electricity.
A view over one of the country’s great goldfields.
Paddle steamer and timber truss rail bridge.
Ross Heritage Sites
ROSS INFORMATION CENTRE
Audiovisual, scale mine models and all-weather panning area.
Follows an old water race to the historic cemetery overlooking town.
A fantastic collection of onetime everyday objects. Free of charge.
Hari Hari Heritage Sites
TRANS TASMAN FLIGHT
The first solo flight from Australia, by Guy Menzies in 1931, is commemorated where he landed.
Okarito Heritage Sites
A reconstructed remnant of gold rush shipping days.
DONOVAN ’S STORE
Restored upon The Strand, the gold rush main street.
A century-old building, now restored as a youth hostel.
Franz Josef Heritage Sites
A wrought iron cliff-side structure on Roberts Point track.
ST JAMES ANGLICAN CHURCH
Famous for glacier views that come and go.
Through old gold workings to intriguing tunnels.
The only tangible trace of another former gold town.
Parts of two machines that worked the sand for gold.
Driven through a coastal cliff along the diggers’ beach highway’.
Scene of the highway opening in 1965.
Haast Heritage Sites
HAAST VISITOR CENTRE
Covers aspects of history from Maori travellers to modern roadmakers.
HAPUKA ESTUARY WALK
Panels interpret historic aspects of Open Bay Islands, viewed from the track.
The Coast’s most southern settlement boasts its sole sea wharf.
The earliest known European burial spot on the West Coast.
Interprets history from early Maori to a disastrous Government settlement of the 1870s.
Heritage West Coast have an amazing Augmented Reality app available to download from their website - learn about the stories from yesteryear and see how the buildings looked from years gone by as you travel around our region.
For more information on West Coast History & Heritage sites please visit:
We have listed 15 History and Heritage products. You can search by name, place or quality ratings
The Denniston Experience
Come coal mining with us.
Enjoy a fully guided tour into an original 1880's underground coal mine.
Kitted out with a hard hat, lamp & raincoat a narrow gauge train takes you along the spectacular Waimangaroa Gorge and then 170 metres uphill into the oldest of Dennistons' mines.
Advanced audio visuals bring the experience alive with the sights and sounds that...
The Nile River Rainforest Train Is a short interpretative train journey through primeval rain forest whilst seated in small open sided carriages. The journey takes you in to the magnificent Nile River Canyon & passes through the “The Lost World” film site. The train will wait at the “Soft Rock” Terminal while visitors take a short 200 metre forest walk...
Discover fascinating stories of real New Zealanders and experience a recreated gold-rush village. West Coast isolation, extreme weather and rugged terrain produced stories of fortitude and ingenuity. Shantytown tells these pioneering stories through a fascinating mix of experience and displays.
Ride the Steam Train through native rainforest, experience the sights and sounds of a working sawmill, watch the sluice gun...
This fabulous uniquely original tour will lead you on a journey of discovery along the Arahura River - known as one of the richest sources of Pounamu (Greenstone) in New Zealand.
Here you will travel with your guide, a local Maori Carver with over 30 years experience along the sacred Arahura River and learn the history of the Kati Waewae...
The 80km-long Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys, providing days of adventure and spectacular huts for mountain bikers and trampers.
In the North West corner of the South Island of New Zealand a ghost is awakening. A long-forgotten gold miners' road is being revived as a world class mountain biking and tramping...
The Hokitika Museum is a regional museum located in the heart of Westland and housed in the historic Carnegie Building.
Audio-visuals provide a great introduction to the West Coast while exhibitions tell stories of pounamu, tangata whenua, the gold-rush, whitebaiting and more. Don’t miss the giant Meccano model dredge or the quiz for kids! Open 7 days.
The museum has a great...
Westland Greenstone specialises in the design and manufacture of quality New Zealand Jade Jewellery, Sculptures and Ornaments. We produce a wide range of traditional and contemporary designs and are prepared to guarantee the authentic New Zealand origin of our products. You are welcome to enter our carving room to view our Carvers at work. Paua, Bone and other jewellery also...
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If you want a special piece of authentic Maori pounamu (jade) then come and visit Garth in his studio / gallery.
Garth hand carves every pendant and sculpture personally from genuine West Coast jade that has been collected by Garth and his whanau (family) from West Coast Rivers and Mountains.
Come in and watch Garth carve and hear the history...
Coaltown is brand- new museum dedicated to telling the stories of the pioneers who battled our rugged environment in search of a better life.
The Buller District has a rich history and our brand-new museum which opened in June 2013 is dedicated to telling the stories of the pioneers who battled our rugged environment in search of a better life.
Waiatoto River Safari. Ocean to the Mountains 2.5 hours of extraordinary nature and exceptional beauty only seen on this trip. Experience the history of Gondwana land, smell the rainforest as you walk softly through the dripping ferns with the sparkling clear light shimmering, with the snowy peaks as your backdrop. Your experienced guide will lead you through the ancient river,...
Put together by owner/operator Colin Luff, this gallery features some of the West Coast's best local artists.
Kereru Gallery offers top quality paintings, jewellery (NZ basalt, pounamu and ceramic) and stylish woodcrafts made by Colin himself on Site. Friendly local atmosphere, set in the Paparoa Ranges in the iconic village of Blackball.
John Kennedy head guide of SideTrack Tours, has worked in the tourism and hospitality industry for over 30 years and has an extensive history in tour guiding. His experience includes:
Guide Tourism New Zealand’s Visiting Media Programme
Sea Kayaked Guided in the Abel Tasman National Park
Self employed tour walking and driving tour guide.
It is his love of history that...