Breakers is a great place to base yourself while you explore the fantastic history of the West Coast. The West Coast has some amazing gold and coal mining history and you can explore many of the old mining areas, trails and relics. Many of these historic places have information boards to remind us of what these areas used to look like in their hayday.
Following are a selection of areas suitable for exploring.
Approximately 5kms south of Breakers. Heading up Mt Davey road – this is Rewanui Incline walk. Gravel road that from 1889 to 1985 was a railroad that would bring coal down from the Paparoa Ranges. Historic area and beautiful valley walk.
Coal Creek Falls Walk
RUNANGA - 8 km from Breakers. A beautiful forest walk with an amazing waterfall at the end. Takes approximately 1 hour return. This is the original track that led to the first commercial coal mine on the Coast.
Brunner Mine Site
Inland from the turn off to Taylorville/Stillwater. Large statue of Sir Thomas Brunner, and early explorer of the West Coast and who first discovered coal in this area in 1848. Site of NZ’s worst mining disaster in 1896 where 65 men perished. An old coal mining area with coke ovens and coal mining relics. Lovely walk into the bush and along the river including historic 1876 suspension bridge. Many information boards explaining the ruins and remains.
30kms inland from Breakers. Birthplace of NZ Labour party and Trade Union movement in NZ. Several walks in and around Blackball exploring gold mining tunnels, tailraces, water races and relics.
Croesus Track 1km past Blackball, turn right and follow road to top of Paparoa Ranges. Trek across Range, following gold trails passing old hotel sites, batteries and other relics. Gold founded in the area in 1864. Allow 30 minutes to 4hours if heading to the top. Can be done as a full day trip one way crossing over and down to Barrytown on the Coast Road.
On the outskirts of Greymouth, out past historic Shantytown village. Woods creek is a fantastic short walk through a former goldfield featuring tunnels dug by miners and passes through tailraces, tunnels and dams. Information panels along the way. Approximately 45minute loop track. Take a flashlight and dare yourself to walk in some of the tunnels like the old gold miners at the turn of the century!!
Old historic gold mining area. inland towards Reefton. Head up the valley to Blacks Water to visit the historic school house and then 7kms through beech forest to top of mountains (Southern Alps!) and little historic settlement of Waiuta – allow 1 hour driving time. Settled in 1905 through to 1951, there are numerous gold mining relics, points of history. Waiuta boosts the deepest mine shaft in NZ at 879 metres (Prohibition mine). Take a walk around the old township, walk to Snowy River battery – beautiful loop track, easy walk down through beech forest and then battery relics and information boards, to hillside walk back to top. Take a picnic lunch and a book and sit back, relax and read for a while in total peace and tranquillity. Beautiful area. Great place to spend the day or half a day. Use the information boards to get a feel of what was and let your imagination do the rest.
Inland from Greymouth on SH7. Gold first discovered in the area in 1860s and township settled in 1870. Great cafes, fantastic information centre and great walks. Murrays Creek walks starts on outskirts of Reefton on drive to Christchurch at Blacks Point. Fantastic museum to explain the area first, with historic stamping battery behind the museum. Park at the museum – walk for 1 hour or 3 hours – up to you. Historic gold mining area with many relics and ruins. Reefton was also the first place in NZ and the Southern Hemisphere to have public electricity – some even say it beat London and New York.
Approximately 25kms north of Westport - including a 9km hillclimb to reach the Denniston Incline and Brake head. Historic coal mining area with the incline widely regarded in its time as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Loads of walks around the ghost town, bowling green, Friends of the Hill Museum, Burnetts Face and much more. Fabulous interactive area at the historic incline and brake head with interpretation panels, relics, restored coal wagons and great views. Also the opportunity for a bit of adventure with the Denniston Experience
- a chance to go inside and see what it was like to work in a coal mine. A guided journey underground reliving the lives of old-time Denniston miners.
Inland between Hokitika and Greymouth. This is one of the oldest goldmining areas on the West Coast and includes old miner’s tunnels, information boards and other relics. Pan for gold in the creeks. Explore the historic Stafford cemetery – the oldest cemetery on the West Coast.
Mitchells Gully Goldmine
Located just north of Charleston on SH6 between Punakaiki and Westport. This is a fantastic example of gold mining from yester-year. - an historical old working mine that has been lovingly restored. The entrance doesn't look particularly inviting but don't let that put you off as the experience is well worth it. Walk into the old shed with loads of relics, mining tools, information regarding mining techniques and the geology of the area. Walk through the other side and walk the loop track with loads of tunnels - take a flashlight so you can explore a couple and see the amazing conditions the miners worked in. Beautiful bush walk, stamping battery and relics. This is a real treasure and easily accessible to all.
On Yer Bike and Middle Earth
Home of Little Earth – model village of “Waiuta”, historic gold mining town. Also model village of Reefton - town of light.
Share in the history of the Coast with an interactive visit to Shantytown. Historic buildings relocated to form replica gold mining town – you can even have a go at gold panning and ride the steam train up into the native bush.
Back Country Exploration
There are also numerous old coal mining areas that are now closed but still easily accessible. Jan and Stephen are happy to point you in the right direction for some true adventures and less well known areas.