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Upper South Island loop road trip, Kaikoura, Marlborough returning to Nelson


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Reefton main street Reefton main street

You have arrived in Reefton. Spend a day or two exploring a town that has reinvented itself as a tourist destination. Reefton origins are gold and coal mining. There are a number of historic buildings, such as the School for Mines and the main street facades reflecting the past glory. The many buildings are the Surveyors House (1871), the ‘Top of the Town’ shops and Forsyth & Masters Store (1870s), the Courthouse (1873), the Oddfellows Hall (1872), Bank of New Zealand (1873), National Bank (1873), Catholic Church (1877), St Stephens Anglican Church (1878), Reefton School of Mines (1886) and the Band Hall (1901). The town has a connection with railways as the world’s only Single ‘R’ Class Fairlie locomotive in its original form sitting right in the heart of town.

Reefton flag

Just out of town on SH 69 towards Westport, the Reefton railway precinct retains its 19th Century railway station (1892) and the country’s only remaining single row two-stall steam engine shed (1892), both former Midland Railway Company buildings. The town’s wealth is reflected in the fact that Reefton was the first to switch on an electric street lighting system in the Southern Hemisphere. The town of light.

Choose whether you potter around Reefton exploring the local museum, the art galleries, the distillery, quirky second hand shops and soak up the atmosphere of heritage Reefton. The town lies alongside the white water Inangahua River and is surrounded by the Victoria Conservation Park which at 180,000ha is New Zealand’s largest.

  • Reefton Distilling Co. is a modern distillery at the forefront of spirit production in New Zealand. The distillery is housed in one of Reefton’s original buildings which has been carefully restored to accommodate a working distillery, tasting bar and retail store.
  • While in Reefton try your hand at gold panning. There are two options: one is self guided at Slab Hut Creek or you can head down to the Bearded Miners where flakes of gold are ‘guaranteed’ to be found. If you choose the self guided option pans can be hired at the Reefton i-SITE Visitor Centre. Pick up a gold panning brochure, some local tips, and then head 10km south to the camping area Slab Hut Creek and try your luck
Recycled coal bucket now garden planter, Reefton
The historic Courthouse of Reefton, West Coast
  • Fishing is either guided or self-guided. Within a 40 minute drive from Reefton there are twelve different river systems to choose from. The Inangahua River running along the back of town is easily accessible, it is a medium to large flowing river and has a good population of small to medium wild brown trout. North of Reefton the Waitahu is a low to medium flowing shallow river and Larry’s Creek is known for its trophy brown trout.
  • For more information and inspiration check Reefton iSite for booking and guided tours. The visitor centre is located on Broadway, the main street it is a treasure trove of hard to find paper only local maps and booklets as well as staff who are enthusiastic about their town.
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