THE TOWN OF LIGHT
The Bearded Miners are well known Reefton locals. Sit down and have a cup of billy tea with them and it might be a while before you leave! They'll share stories of how Reefton was founded around gold and brag how it became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric streetlights. Visitors can explore the town to learn about the gold and light history of the area, have a go at gold panning, explore the nearby Lewis Pass area or just soak in the scenic surrounds at the natural hot pools at Maruia Springs.
The Reefton Gold area includes Inangahua, Reefton, Blacks Point, Maruia, Springs Junction, Maruia Springs, Lewis Pass and Waiuta.
Your Guide to Reefton
Reefton, on the Lewis Pass road and near Victoria Conservation Park (NZ's largest), is well worth a stop and its claim to fame is an illuminating one – in 1888 it was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric streetlights! Now a curious mix of old and new, it's still a preserve of historic charm. Relax as you stroll down the main street wandering in and out of shops that have purposely kept their early 1900's feel, or put your feet up and stay a while in one of the Reefton accommodation options. There are shops, antique stores, a supermarket and dining in Reefton too.
A great place to see Reefton's history in action is the Reefton i-SITE as they have a walk through replica gold mine and a fully restored Holman Winding Engine. There are also many historic places of interest around Reefton, including the Historic Town Walk, the Railway Precinct, Alborns Coal Mine and the Big River area. All of which are now part of the many rich heritage expeditions available through the recently created Goldfields of Quartzopolis.
Both gold and coal are still mined today and you can do a tour that takes in historic mining sites and the present day Globe Gold Mine, or try your luck at public gold panning areas.
Take time to visit the Bearded Miners on the main street in their 1870s replica miners hut - a true West Coast "must do". The boys are always keen for a chat and a cup of billy tea and can show you how to pan for gold or shape steel on the old blacksmiths forge.
It is a little known fact the Reefton has one of New Zealand’s best skate parks – well worth checking out if you are travelling with children.
And maybe not so secret is that Reefton and the nearby Victoria Conservation Park are great spots for trout fishing. There is also kayaking, rafting and mountain biking into the Big River area and Kirwans Track. See more of the exhilarating things you can do while visiting the West Coast.
In March, the annual Quartzopolis Mountain Bike Race follows trails through historic goldfields from Reefton to Waiuta.
Must See Places in the Reefton Region
The Blacks Point Museum just a short drive from Reefton offers a fascinating insight into the life of the early settlers with historic photos, school and cemetery records and mining memorabilia.
From Blacks Point you will find numerous historic walks like Murray Creek and the Golden Lead Walks that go through native and beech forest teeming with birdlife. There is also great mountain biking into the Waitahu area, with a variety of tracks that weave through lush native bushlands and old mining ruins.
For those who want to get on the water, you can do guided rafting tours on the Grey River from here.
Maruia, Springs Junction & Maruia Springs
Maruia is a small township along the Shenandoah Highway (State Highway 65) which follow the scenic Maruia River. The river offers fishing as well as kayaking and canoeing opportunities. The township itself is small but does have some basic services like fuel, accommodation as well as an artisan gallery. It is centrally located within easy driving distance of Reefton, Murchison and the Lewis Pass area giving access to a range of walks including St James Walkway at Lewis Pass and walks in the Rahu Pass area.
Between Reefton and Maruia Springs is Springs Junction. It is literally a junction of 2 State Highways - State Highway 7 from Reefton and State Highway 65 to Maruia and the Buller Gorge. There is a service station, motel, cafe and toilets located here for a convenient rest stop and refuel before carrying on your way to either Reefton, the Buller Gorge or Lewis Pass
Near the summit of Lewis Pass, you will find one of the most relaxing places on the West Coast - Maruia Springs. These delightful natural hot pools, complete with a stunning mountain backdrop, have been formed into a variety of shapes, sizes and temperatures in a traditional Japanese style onsen. Rest, relax and truly rejuvenate. Nearby there are some great walks including the St James Walkway and the steep but rewarding Lewis Tops track.
Waiuta Ghost Town
Waiuta is a ghost town. It was once the site of New Zealand’s deepest mineshaft, the Prohibition Mine, and the richest gold deposit in the South Island (730,000 ounces or $1.4 billion NZD today). An easy 30-minute walk explores gold mining debris and a longer walk takes you to the Snowy Battery gold extraction plant following historic pack tracks.
Travel Distances and Times
For place names, hover over the yellow dots. Click on them to check travel distances & times from Reefton (in red);
More Information on the Reefton Gold area