The West Coast Heritage Tour

Heritage West Coast

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.





349 mi / 562 km



Day One: 2 hours 44 mins, 209 km


About the day

Reefton is the northern gateway from Christchurch or Nelson, the Town of First Light - first public electricity supply in Southern Hemisphere. 

The Reefton Goldrush in the 1860s created much of the character, charm and history you see in the township and surrounding areas today. 

The town itself became established about 1870 and with mining came technology and innovation.

Have a brew of billy tea with The Bearded Miners. Join Around the Globe Gold Mine Tour. Visit Blacks Point Museum and Waiuta - NZ’s richest gold mine ghost town.


Day Two: 1 hour 1 min, 78.8 km

Reefton to Westport

About the day

Westport – (via the stunning Buller Gorge) Don’t miss Coal Town Museum, take the Denniston Experience underground mine trip and explore the Denniston Incline and Plateau’s coal mining ghost towns. 

Take some extra time while in Westport and enjoy a day on the Stockton open cast coalmine or in the Awakari Valley backcountry on Johnny’s Journey with Outwest Tours.

Special Optional Extra: take two or three days and visit Karamea. Call in on the Northern Buller Museum at Granity, the old coal mining town of Millerton and walk the Charming Creek track along a former coal and milling railway line. In Karamea visit the Museum, Estuary Walk depicting river and port history and Oparara Basin with spectacular limestone arches and caves. 

Stay: Westport or Greymouth


Day Three: 1 hour 26 mins, 101 km

Westport to Greymouth

About the day

Greymouth (via Great Coast Road). Stop in at Mitchells’ Gully Gold Mine, take a wander around the old gold town and port of Charleston, view the Rūnanga Miners Hall (under restoration), Greymouth’s Left Bank Art Gallery National Contemporary Pounamu Collection, History House, Miners’ Memorials, Flood Wall Walkway, Coal River Park, Port Cranes and Breakwaters.


Day Four: 1 min, 1 m


About the day

From Greymouth visit the Brunner Coal Mine and Industrial Site – site of New Zealand’s worst mine disaster, Blackball and the Museum of Working Class history, Shantytown Heritage Park, Kumara Premier King Dick Seddon’s Gold Town, restored Theatre Royal Hotel and on around the 1865 Gold Trail through gold rush ghost towns of Goldsborough and Stafford (mine tunnels, walks and historic cemetery).


Day Five: 33 mins, 39.2 km

Greymouth to Hokitika

About the day

Hokitika Goldfields Capital and Port, Museum, Guided Town Walk, heritage quayside, streets and buildings, Westland Industrial Heritage Park, first New Zealand airline memorial, and artisans working gold, pounamu, precious stones, wood, metals and glass. Discover the pounamu (greenstone) story with Arahura Greenstone Tours.


Day Six: 1 hour 41 mins, 134 km

Hokitika to Glacier Country

About the day

To Franz Josef / Fox Glacier. Visit Rimu / Woodstock Hill Goldfields Lookout and Heritage Site, at Ross pan for gold and walk the Goldfields, take a break at Hari Hari’s First Trans-Tasman Flight Memorial, at Whataroa join Alpine Fault Tours, stand between the continental plates and see how the Southern Alps were formed, visit the peaceful Okarito goldrush town and port with lagoon and heritage tours, historic wharf shed, Donovans gold rush era store, coastal pack track and stunning views of the Southern Alps and glacial landscape formations from the trig station.

Then on to the Glaciers.

Return to Christchurch via Hokitika and Otira / Arthur’s Pass Alpine Highway or travel on to Wanaka via Haast stopping at Ship Creek historic area and Haast Visitor Centre (settlement and highway heritage displays) and venturing south to Jackson Bay (historic cemetery, wharf and walks).

To explore more, pick any location above, go to our Heritage & History page and view all the attractions these towns have to offer.


Itinerary Map

About the author

Heritage West Coast, Organisation

There are over forty heritage groups on the West Coast. Heritage West Coast was formed after a number of informal heritage forums, which brought together the people and associated groups involved in projects in the region to share knowledge and experiences. Heritage West Coast is a legally Incorporated Society. The efforts of its members are voluntary.

Heritage West Coast has established a steering committee which comprises people from heritage groups, projects, Tangata Whenua / indigenous first peoples representatives, central Government agencies including, Department of Conservation, the West Coast Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the three West Coast District Councils.