Heritage & History

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 easily found, well marked and in many cases interpreted via information panels, brochures and books. Visitor Information Centres and i-Sites have further details on the history and heritage of the West Coast.

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.

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. 

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

  • Granity Musuem: 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.
  • Millerton: 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.
  • Millerton Bathhouse: 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. 

Waimangaroa heritage sites

  • Britannia Gold Mine.
  • Conns Creek Yards: 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. 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! 

  • Brakehead: 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.
  • Denniston Museum: 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 Denniston's History and Museum.

    • 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.
    • Coalbrookdale Walkway: 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

    • Coaltown Museum.
    • Buller coalfields heritage trail: 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.  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. 

    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.
    • Constant Bay.
    • Pioneer Cemeteries: 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

    • Te Ana O Matuku.
    • Fox River Bridge: A sea cave occupied by travellers from the earliest days. A timber truss bridge gives walking access to a former road tunnel.

    Runanga heritage sites

    • Miner's Hall: Restored, complete with the original union slogans.

    Greymouth area heritage sites 

    • Cobden gun emplacement.
    • Mawhera village site.
    • Town heritage walk.
    • Greymouth Evening Star mural.
    • History House.
    • Coal River Park.
    • Shantytown.
    • Woods Creek: Short climb from Wickes St to World War Two relic with town and river views. Marked by a plaque beside the highway bridge. Links significant buildings and other historic sites. Headlines from local history. Mackay Street. An extraordinary array of photos and relics on town, port etc. 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

    • Railway walkway: A track on the old Nelson-Kawatiri rail formation crosses a bridge and passes through a tunnel.

    Murchison heritage sites

    • Murchison Museum: Displays in the former Post Office recall the devastating 1929 earthquake and other local history (please make a donation).

    Lyell heritage sites

    • Lyell Walkway: Ghost town revived by photographs. Walk links cemetery, alluvial gold workings and stamp battery.

    Reefton heritage sites

    • Reefton Visitor Center: 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 New Zealand's first public electricity supply of 1888.
    • Railway Precinct: Station, locomotive shed and (in town) a Fairlie locomotive.
    • Cemeteries: In town and 3km south, graves of prospectors and miners.
    • Alborns coal mine.

    Big River heritage sites

    • Gold mine, battery, sawmall and coal mines: A remarkable historic complex, accessible via walking tracks.

    Blacks Point heritage sites

    • Black Point Museum.
    • Murray Creek - Lanky Creek tracks.
    • Golden Lead walks: Much mining and domestic memorabilia (please make a donation). Link the reef mines that gave rise to Reefton. 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.
    • Battery and Powerhouse.
    • Prohibition Hill: Relics of the Coast’s last great gold strike. Foundations linked via a raceman’s track. The top of NZ’s deepest mine shaft (879 metres).

    Moonlight heritage sites

    • Sluice Guns.
    • Moonlight Track:  Hydraulic sluicing ‘monitors’ mark the Moonlight Road turn-off. Passes tailing walls, hut sites, water race and battery.

    Blackball heritage sites

    • Blackball town walk.
    • Mine site.
    • Blackball - Roa Railway Line.
    • Croesus Track: Covers the town’s significant remaining buildings and other sites. Chimneys, ventilator and bath house shell adjacent to the road. Includes unusual timber bridges. Crosses the Paparoa range, passing gold workings, miners’ huts and a battery.

    Nelson Creek heritage sites

    • Nelson Creek Walks.
    • Red Jacks Heritage Sites: Locally built logging locomotive. An unusual footbridge crosses to bush tracks through intriguing gold workings.Beside State Highway 7.

    Brunner heritage sites

    • Brunner Industrial Site.
    • Brunner Disaster Grave: Coal mines, brickworks and coke ovens linked by a suspension bridge. 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

    • Moana Rail Precinct.
    • Bain Bay: Greenstone Heritage Sites.
    • Lake Brunner Cemetery.
    • Albert Hunt Plaque: A station, overhead footbridge and station master’s residence (now a café). Bush walk to a former lakeside logging camp and wharf. Scattered graves overlook the site of a vanished gold town. Commemorates the Coast’s first payable gold rush.

    Kumara heritage sites

    • Historic displays.
    • Historic swimming pool.
    • Londonberry Rock.
    • Goldsborough.
    • Stafford Cemetery: 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

    • Arahura Plaque.
    • Hokitika Cemetery.
    • Hokitika Lighthouse.
    • Heritage Area: 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.
    • Carnegie Building: The columned library now serves as the visitor centre, art gallery and museum entrance.
    • Hokitika Museum: 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.
    • Rimu Lookout: A view over one of the country’s great goldfields.
    • Lake Mahinapua: Paddle steamer and timber truss rail bridge.

    Ross heritage sites

    • Ross Information Centre.
    • Walkway.
    • Curio Room: 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

    • Wharf Shed: A reconstructed remnant of gold rush shipping days.
    • Donovan's Store.
    • School.

    Franz Josef heritage sites

    • Henders Gallery.
    • St James Anglican Church.
    • Tatare Track: Restored upon The Strand, the gold rush main street. A century-old building, now restored as a youth hostel. A wrought iron cliff-side structure on Roberts Point track. Famous for glacier views that come and go. Through old gold workings to intriguing tunnels.

    Gillespies Beach heritage sites

    • Cemetery.
    • Gold dredges.
    • Tack Tunnel.
    • Knights Point Lookout: 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.
    • Hapuka Estuary Walk.

    Jackson Bay heritage sites

    • Wharf.
    • Lonely Grave: Covers aspects of history from Maori travellers to modern roadmakers. 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.
    • Information shelter: Interprets history from early Maori to a disastrous Government settlement of the 1870s.

    More information on West Coast history and heritage sites

    For more information on Yichen Hu's 'Going West' project which is addressing his identity exploration in the West Coast, New Zealand and is also a documentary of the historical sites in this region that used to have Chinese communities or workings during the gold rush in the 19th Century please visit: www.goingwestproject.org