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Category Archives: NZ History

Grey District, Heart of the West Coast - 5 short walks

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 04, 2020

The Grey District is known as the Heart of the West Coast.  An easy 2 hour drive south to the glacier region and to the north we have Buller with The Great Coast Road, numerous beaches and gorgeous bush walks.

Possibly the best thing about getting out and doing a bush walk is they are free, all you need is time.  Remember the golden rule though – take only photographs, leave only footprints.

This little blog is to showcase some of our bush walks and we’ve put together a little piece of five of our favourite.  Now these are in no particular order.  Each time we visit these areas we say “this is our favourite walk” – until we visit the next spot again and then  it is our favourite walk. They all have something different to offer be it just beautiful scenery, peace and tranquility, birdlife or history.

So first up:

Brunner Mine Site

Located on the banks of the Grey River accessible from either side – Dobson or Taylorville. Brunner Mine site is a most fascinating piece of not just West Coast history but New Zealand history.  It is the site of NZ’s worst industrial disaster, back in 1886 when 65 men/boys tragically lost their lives in a coal mine explosion.

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Virtual Mystery Tour West Coast - Grey District, Heart of the West Coast

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 10, 2020

Well it seems an apt time to showcase our own Grey District – heart of the West Coast.  A great place to base yourself to explore north and south – east and west, no not west, you’ll be in Australia.  Come on!

I can vouch for it being a great place to base yourself for exploring the West Coast – well yes mainly because we live here but we do all our exploring from here so just goes to show how easy it is….. no bias in that statement at all.

The Grey District has everything – it is the gateway to the Great Coast Road, named one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet and worth a visit on its own.  

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Virtual Mystery Tour West Coast - Murchison Reefton Loop

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 03, 2020

On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again.  Seriously cannot wait to get on the road again, but until we can go further afield ourselves we’ll head out on another virtual tour.  This time a gorgeous loop we did last Winter.

First up to Reefton – probably our favourite little West Coast town.  If you’re a long time follower of our blog you’ll know I’ve sung Reefton’s praises on many an occasion.  This time we were just passing through, then through the gorgeous Rahau Saddle, one of my favourite drives as it is cut through Victoria forest and is always so lush and green – I digress, on to Springs Junction to head north through the Maruia Valley in search of Maruia Falls.

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Virtual Mystery Tour West Coast - Oparara Basin, West Coast

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 27, 2020

I know I haven’t been around much in the blogging world of late – for some time actually.  Thought given the turmoils of the world lately it was a good time to pop back in and say hi.  Going to share our love of the West Coast of New Zealand and take you all on a virtual tour from the top to the bottom – West Coast, Best Coast of New Zealand.  Hope you enjoy the ride.

Oparara Basin is at the top end of the West Coast – end of the road so to speak or better said the beginning……  It is full of natural wonderment and great world class caving systems including Honeycomb Caves – only accessible to the general public with a registered guide.

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Sharing our Backyard - 10 mile Valley

Posted by Jan Roberts on January 18, 2019

One of the little pleasures of running Breakers Boutique Accommodation is meeting people from all over the world and having the opportunity of sharing our little slice of paradise and our backyard.

Lately we had a lovely couple from Sweden, Lena and Lars staying four nights.  Staying longer than one night gives us the chance to showcase more of the region and get a little off the beaten "touristy" track - as lovely as some of those spots are.

A personal favourite of ours to take some time out is up 10 mile valley.  It seemed the perfect place to share with Lena and Lars for an afternoon outing.

The 10 mile valley is a gorgeous valley of contrasts and diversity with towering cliffs, lush green vegetation and the meandering creek.  The first section of the trail gently winds it way up the valley following the creek before it then heads sharply up hill giving outstanding views back down the valley below.

The 10 mile valley is not only stunning scenery but packed with coal mining history as well.  Lately Stephen has been doing some off track exploring and discovered more of the mining history including long abandoned mine entrances and old rail-line relics.  It is fun to be able to share some of the history of the area with our guests first hand and it gave Lena and Lars a real sense of the history that the West Coast was founded on.

To top off the afternoon Lena and Stephen - and their trusty guide Ansel had a lovely swim in the refreshing water of the creek.  A great way to end their explorations up the 10 mile valley. Thanks Lena and Lars for giving us the opportunity of sharing this unique part of backyard with you.


Auckland Highlights

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 05, 2018

Auckland Highlights

Auckland is the main gateway to NZ and the start of many of our guests holiday. It is New Zealand’s largest city and known as the City of Sails.

We’ve just had a few days visiting the big smoke for business and while for the most part were busy with our appointments we did take the opportunity to have a bit of a look around the city centre. It is great for people watching and for architecture. We are spoilt with our landscape and scenery at our back door but we did really enjoy the contrast of the city and all the buildings – was great for photography with the different lines and light.

Our accommodation was in Parnell (Quality Inn Parnell) perched on the hillside and affording fabulous views out over the city and harbour. Some friends who live in Auckland said it is also known as the City of Light and thanks to the views from our hotel room we soon discovered why. Many of the buildings light up at night in vibrant colours – even the odd crane or two.

Auckland often gets a bad rap for the traffic but at the end of the day it is a major city with a large population and with that you are always going to have traffic issues. We negated the traffic issues for the most part by ensuring our appointments were outside of peak traffic times – worked a treat although I’d be lying if I said we still weren’t a little anxious that we might not make our appointments on time but I think that was possibly more a matter of finding our way – which Rosanne (our GPS unit) ensured wasn’t a problem at all (well for the most part…..).

There are lots of things to see and do when visiting Auckland and with our limited free time we just took in a couple of highlights. The Viaduct and Wynyard Precinct is a great place to get a real feel for downtown Auckland and the harbour. It is very pedestrian friendly with a huge array of cafes, restaurants and bars making it a great place to visit during the day and in the evening. It is a great opportunity to check out the habour scene and views.  We even had a huge and I mean huge cruise ship in – saw it come in to dock from our hotel room. For us, we also enjoyed our evening walks down Parnell Road to find somewhere for dinner. There were plenty of choices from Indian, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, burger bars and steak house – something for everyone.

Our final day we spent the morning at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. What a wonderful asset for the city – and for New Zealand. A couple of hours wasn’t enough to do it justice so we only really just touched the surface. There was a Butterfly Exhibition on which was popular with the children and school holidays but for us it was the War memorabilia and the Pacific Arts and Culture that featured as our highlight. Highly recommend any visitor to Auckland dedicate a few hours to checking out this museum – and the views and spectacular location are an added bonus.

All too soon it was time to put Rosanne back into action and make our way out to the airport to catch our flights back home. But one final mention before signing off would have to be the friendliness of the people. Stephen and I both mentioned on numerous occasions that we could see why it was voted one of the friendliest cities in the world (after scoffing at that fact when we first saw it). We had cars stop to let us cross the road, drivers let us out of tricky intersections, into or out of parks, change lanes unexpectantly (remember country folk in the city…..) and people walking down the street say hello. It was very refreshing and left us feeling really good about our visit to the city – so thank you Auckland and thank you Aucklanders.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They are true Kiwis and love the region they live and enjoy visiting other areas.

 


Striking Gold in Ross

Posted by Jan Roberts on September 06, 2017

Ross is a historic gold town just south of Hokitika on the Glacier Highway.

Gold was first found in the area in the 1860s and thus the town of Ross was established. With a population of around 300 people it is hard to believe it was once more like 4000 in the height of the gold rush days.

Recently we had a couple of nights staying in Ross – at the Totara Bridge Station holiday park nestled at the end of Ross Beach Road.  What a location!  Literally right on the beach you’ll discover this almost hidden oasis.  With accommodation options suiting every budget – we were in our caravan, so there are powered and unpowered sites, dorm bunk rooms, double rooms or self catering units.  Now I say rooms and units but these are more like pods.  They are actually recycled shipping containers that have been converted and to say they are cool well that would be an under-statement, even down to the communal kitchen and ablution block – really tastefully done.

Ross is possibly more known of late as being either the finish or the start of the West Coast Wilderness Trail – part of the NZ Cycle Trial system around New Zealand.  The West Coast Wilderness Trail goes from Greymouth to Ross – some 139kms through some of the most stunning West Coast scenery on offer.  The Totara Bridge Station is a great accommodation option for people using the cycleway.

We weren’t here to do any biking (I know – what!) but with two days up our sleeves we had plenty of time to explore the offerings of Ross.  Compulsory would be a walk on the beach.  Predominately a sandy beach, from the Ross Beach road you can head off in either direction – literally for miles.  Nico and I didn’t venture too far but did enjoy just meandering with the sand between our toes and relaxing in the sunshine.  Stephen and Ziggy headed off to the south – out towards the point.  There is a seal colony out here so you often get seals anywhere along the beach lazing in the sunshine.

One thing I never get sick of are West Coast sunsets.  I know we live by the sea and get to see them all the time  but I just can’t help myself – they draw you in and each one is different and special in its own right – no matter what beach you are on.  I’m obviously not alone in my thinking as some of the locals came down both nights we were here, pulled up, watched the sunset and then headed back home for the night.

For us after we’d seen the sunset,  we headed into Ross for dinner at the Historic Empire Hotel.  Talk about your traditional Kiwi country pub.  This place rocked!  So much atmosphere and history – you could almost feel it oozing from the walls.  The bar was filled with locals and visitors alike.  Quite a few workmen in the area at the moment – for gold mining and tree planting apparently.  Everyone was friendly and eager with a smile.  Maria behind the bar and Christine out in the kitchen were all smiles and the bistro buffet was just what the doctor ordered.  After a cold beer or two by the roaring fire and with satiated tummies it was time to head back to base and hit the hay for the night.

My only regret during our stay was not getting out to take some night photos.  The star lit skies would have to have been some of the best I’ve seen for a very long time.  We get some awesome star lit skies at home but the two nights we had in Ross they were quite out of this world – and you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

Next day after another compulsory short walk on the beach, we headed into Ross to the Goldfields Museum and Information Centre.  While Stephen did a walk about town, I chatted with the lovely lady in the Information Centre who was super friendly and helpful.  Nico and I then went back to base to make a picnic lunch while Stephen and Ziggy headed off to check out the historic Gold Heritage Trail.

This is a lovely walk in the back of Ross, following the water race as it wound its way up the hillside.  There are lots of relics and information boards with a cool old miners hut at the top of the trail before the trail joins with the historic Ross cemetery.

It was here that Nico and I joined Stephen and Ziggy for our lunch.  Something about sitting in among the graves and headstones – we find it very peaceful and therapeutic.  Not bad views from up here either! Peek-a-boo I see you……

Now to give you an indication of how Ross was once a thriving metropolis (remember earlier I mentioned a population of 300 now v 4000 back in the late 1800s) well Ross has two historic cemeteries.  Knowing how we love cemeteries an investigation of the second cemetery was compulsory – aaahh I think we’re in heaven – excuse the pun.  What we did wonder is if perhaps one cemetery was Catholic and the other Protestant – they both certainly seemed of similar age historically.  The latter of our cemetery visits though is also the current use cemetery and again what a location – what a view.  Sitting atop a hill with views in all directions.  Think we’ve found our lunch stop when we next need a place to stop on route to – well anywhere…..

Our afternoon excursion saw us taking a drive further south from Ross (about 15kms or so), turning down Beach Road off SH6 just before the Waitaha River bridge, passing through the little settlement of Kakapotahi and coming out at the river mouth of the Waitaha River.  The beach was strewn with driftwood – as far as the eye could see.  It would be a driftwood sculpture’s idea of heaven – talk about untamed natural wilderness.  The boys and I were content to find a nice log and sit and relax and enjoy the views while Stephen took some (more tee hee) photographs.  Watching the surf pound in against the shoreline is rather mesmerizing to say the least.

Back to base to feed the boys and catch another stunning sunset.  Once again some of the locals turned up – like us they just sat and watched and then headed off again.  I could watch a sunset every night of the week and it was great to see I wasn’t alone in that thinking.  The sun setting into the sea should not be taken for granted, not every one is so lucky. This one set the sky on fire – so much so it made it look like the holiday park accommodation was on fire with the reflections in their windows.  Rest assured a call to the local fire brigade was not necessary.

With the boys tummies satiated – yep our turn and it was back to the Empire Hotel for a traditional country pub feed.  Something else I could do every night of the week – but then I’d be the size of a house so while watching a sunset whenever you like is allowable – and even advised, eating pub food too often is definitely not.  We enjoyed it while we could though and then back to check the boys and settle in for the night.

On a more heartbreaking note – we want to dedicate this blog posting to our beautiful boy Nico who recently passed away.  Our family chain has broken and our hearts are broken with it.  He was one super special dog – our big fella, our gentle giant, so full of love and joy.  So glad to have had this final road trip with him – he loved coming on our adventures, loved meeting new people and exploring new places.  Rest easy our beautiful boy – you will remain forever in our hearts. xo

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their much-loved faithful companions Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and exploring the region they’ve been lucky enough to call home – The Untamed Natural Wilderness West Coast.


Point Elizabeth Track - A little bit of Untamed Wilderness

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 25, 2017

The Point Elizabeth track would have to be Greymouth’s premier walking track.  Running from the shores of North Beach… north of Cobden and finishing at Rapahoe Beach just off State Highway 6 at the gateway to the Great Coast Road.

The trail meanders along the cliff-tops through semi subtropical rain forest and often offers great coastal views.  The Cobden end has information boards for many of the trees and shrubs which we always find useful.  The DOC website describes the bush as one of the finest remaining tracts of mixed coastal forest in New Zealand.  Even I’ve learned something new today……

While it is Greymouth’s premier walking track it is probably the most under-rated.  We often recommend this trail to our guests and they come back blown away by its natural beauty.

The trail follows an old water race that gold miners used to sluice their gold claims so is a great trail of history but without any remaining relics to oooh and aahhh over.  That’s ok though the bush gives plenty of reason for that.

Approximately half way you have the “Point Elizabeth lookout” – a great viewpoint of the gorgeous coastline as it winds its way north.  If you could see below you’d know there is a seal colony below you.  With the sea slowly eroding the limestone cliffs though you can’t see below only out so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  A walk along the Rapahoe beach though and all would be revealed.  What you can often see are Dolphins playing in the surf out off the rock stacks – now that is a seriously cool sight indeed.  No luck on this walk though – more of a summer sight than during a winter walk.

The second half of the walk I would describe more as untamed wilderness.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a formed track but the bush just seems a little more wild and unruly, the naughty kids sitting at the back of the classroom.

This weekend we had our good friends Bernie and Gerard visiting from Franz Josef – fellow b&b operators who own the beautiful Holly Homestead.  Always a good excuse to head out and showcase some of the local attractions.  The Point Elizabeth track can be walked in either direction if you arrange for a pick up at the other end or organise a car shuttle or alternatively you can walk in and out or just to the “point” and back out – whew, confused – basically there is something for everyone depending on your organisation and time.

Stephen and Bernie headed out for an early morning walk of the track – Cobden to Rapahoe.  A gorgeous way to start the day and with the views of the Great Coast Road and Rapahoe to end with, a nice way to end a meander through some natural untamed wilderness on the West Coast.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders this region has to offer and sharing and showcasing to anyone interested.

 


Runanga Workingman's Club - History in the Heartland

Posted by Jan Roberts on July 16, 2017

Workingmen's Club are a type of private social club first established in industrial areas of the UK in the early 19th century providing recreation and education for working class men and women.  In NZ they are an integral part of small communities.  There isn't so much emphasis on education more on recreation so communities can socialise, play pool, snooker, darts or watch sport on big screen TVs.  Many also provide food and entertainment through quizz nights, live music etc.

Runanga Workingman's Club Wall Art

The Runanga Workingman's Club is a living education through its Historic Sports Wall of Fame, a photographic showcase of the numerous achievements of many from the community be it Rugby League, basketball, tennis, boxing, cross-country running and marathon running - just to name a few.  One example from the commemorate wall is Dave McKenzie.  Dave won the Boston Marathon 50 years ago and was invited back to Boston this year to join in their 50th year celebrations - a wonderful achievement for a young man back in 1967 from small town New Zealand.

Runanga Workingman's Club mural

Most recently the Club building has had a facelift on the outside thanks to two very talented local artists Mark Haldane and Les Holmes, showcasing some of the industrial history, political and sporting heroes from this small community.

Runanga Workingmans Club wall art

Runanga Workingmans club mural

These guys have done a most amazing job and driving past now you can't help but have a smile on your face.

Runanga workingman's club wall art

If you're visiting the Grey District make sure you allow some time to visit Runanga and call in at the Workingman's Club for a history lesson with the Sports Wall of Fame and the great art work on the exterior of the building helping tell the story.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Runanga Workingman's Club is in the small village of Runanga 7kms north of Greymouth on State Highway 6.

 


Historic Reefton - the Little Big Town

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 16, 2017

The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history.  It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect.  So much history it practically oozes from her very being.

Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York.  Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.

There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit.  We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out.  With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.  Yes we may have stopped here a few times……

You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.

The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.

Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz.  In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.

The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.

The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track.  We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley.  Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly.  Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us.  We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).

The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line.  Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine.  I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more.  Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.

There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks.  After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track.  It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way.  I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton.  You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road.  There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton.  Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.

Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back.  I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.

After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality.  Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!

If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.