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 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
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
A track leads to part of the incline rail system, complete with coal tubs and tunnels.
A hilltop mining town, it has mine sites, 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.
Waimangaroa Heritage Sites
BRITANNIA GOLD MINE
A good walking track climbs through forest to a five-head battery.
CONNS CREEK YARDS
Relics at the foot of the Denniston Incline.
Denniston Heritage Sites
Climbs ‘The Hill’, also giving access to the incline.
Relics and superb views from the top of the famous incline.
BANBURY ARCH AND THE CAMP
A short walk to an impressive stone arch.
A former school building contains displays depicting the town and mines.
A loop around settlement and mine sites.
BURNETTS FACE SETTLEMENT AND ROPE ROAD
Past Denniston via a good shingle road.
Roperoad formations lead to mines and fan house.
Westport Heritage Sites
An essential stop before exploring the old coalfields.
BULLER COALFIELDS HERITAGE TRAIL
Links localities north to Seddonville.
The Coast’s oldest town has buildings from colonial to art deco periods.
Cape Foulwind Heritage Sites
Traces of the line and seaside quarry for Westport’s harbour works.
The functioning lighthouse and foundations of the original are at the north end of the walkway to Tauranga Bay seal colony.
Addisons Flat Heritage Sites
The last trace of a once famous gold mining town.
Charleston Area Heritage Sites
An authentic operation with tunnels and battery.
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.
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 9 History and Heritage products. You can search by name, place or quality ratings
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...
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.
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...
TripAdvisor Traveller Rating: 5.0 based on 4 reviews.
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 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...
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...
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...