|Trip Length:||4 days, 3 nights|
|Finish:||Christchurch (via Haast Pass)|
|Best time to visit:||Spring to Autumn.
Winter, expect some activities to be closed, warm layers necessary.
|Weather in Westport:||Westport Weather Forecast and Observations|
Nelson to Westport, distance, 222 km, 3 ½ hours
Blenheim to Westport, distance, 260 km 3 ½ hours
You have got into the West Coast spirit with the drive Nelson to Murchison. After settling into your accommodation for the next four nights, you are off to visit Westport Coal Museum to obtain an overview of the coal industry and its importance to the West Coast. As well pick up information tips for your trip to Denniston Plateau tomorrow. Heritage & Arts around Westport – Official Tourism Website Coaltown Museum is an interactive heritage museum that appeals to all age groups.
The West Coast’s identity is forged in a mine. Mining, pounamu (greenstone jade), gold, coal or timber, the West Coast’s economy is based on extradition. Original mining machinery can be kick started into life with a push of a button, there is an authentic full sized replica of a mining tunnel evocatively recreating life underground and numerous personal stories of life as a miner or miners family on the Deniston Plateau.
Check into the holiday park Westport Kiwi Holiday Park | Westport Accommodation with choices from ensuite motel units to unpowered camping sites. The accommodation is clean, well appointed visitor office with information and support for any tours you have decided to join at the last minute. A good location, only five minutes from the centre of town with space for families to kick a ball.
The plateau is a must do visit where you will discover the narrative of what it was like to be a miner on the Denniston Plateau. The extraordinary uplifted plateau is a drive into another world where coal was king. The Denniston Plateau is home to one of the richest, high quality coal seams in New Zealand. For decades it was the country’s largest producing coal mine, with an estimated 12 million ton carried down the incline during its operation from October 1879 to August 1967. Denniston was created by coal and existed only to produce coal. With the mine’s closure, Denniston closed.
Granity, Denniston Heritage site, Ngakawau, Hector, Waimangaroa, Millerton and Stockton Mine
Follow in the footsteps of prospectors, a heritage gold and coal mining trail. Today you will be on the trail of a nineteenth century gold miner and twentieth century coal miner. You will be travelling north viewing Denniston Plateau to your right as you travel between the mountains and sea delving into the past in Hector, Granity foreshore and Granity Museum, Ngakawau, Millerton, and Stockton. Hector is the home to the Country Music Museum. Visit Granity and witness the action of climate change on a small settlement.
The terminus for the Stockton aerial ropeway which transports the coal in buckets from the current operational mine on the Stockton plateau to be loaded onto rail for export through the Port of Westport and the Port of Lyttelton on the east coast. Ngakawau is located on the southern side of the Ngakawau River which flows out to sea at Hector.
The ropeway has eliminated the dangerous inclines of Denniston and Millerton to transport coal to rail hubs. The coal is largely exported via ship to steel makers in Japan, India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Parcels of coal are barged from Westport to Port Kembla, New South Wales in Australia. It is a massive industrial operation with coal dust, coal debris in large slag heaps and is a visible reminder of the historic and current importance of coal economically for the West Coast.
Viewing areas: walk around public access to coal loading facilities.
Unable to find on instagram and I am cross with myself for not photographing when there!
Granity is a must do visit stop for everyone interested in climate change. You stand on the constructed stoney embankments and watch the sea relentlessly working away at the foundations. And the nearest houses are very close. There is a notice and plaque showing where the community hall once stood. It is sobering watching the rising sea rewrite land boundaries.
Granity is home to the Granity Museum located on the site of historical coke ovens built 1909-1910. Buildings and sites belong to the Northern Buller Museum Trust. It also owns the Millerton Incline behind the Museum. Work is underway to get the Incline reinstated as a Walking Track. At Ngakawau and Granity you can do short walks to the coal bins, Watson and Mumms Mill to view coal mining abandoned relics. You cannot miss the museum as the enormous mining shovel can be viewed from the main road.
Open 1 pm – 3pm Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 1pm – 3pm Saturday & Sunday Other hours call 782 8653 and, if home someone will come down to open up.
Admission Donations welcome, the museum is managed by volunteers.
Call in at the local pub in Ngakawau for local colour. Perhaps have a bite to eat. At Ngakawau take a walk through the local campgrounds to the beach to view the rugged coast and Tasman Sea pounding the beach. You will have already visited Granity and observed the impact of climate change.
Waimangaroa and Britannia
You can try your hand at gold panning. See what your fortunes bring for the day. Be prepared to be disappointed. North of Waimangaroa is O’Connor Road leading to a car park, The walking track is the original bullock track and is wide and easy to navigate. Entrance is located in the carpark. Follow signs to the gold fossicking area. Hand tools are allowed and no permit is required. The designated area is from the abandoned gold mine to the beginning of the farmland downstream. The second signposted track leads to the Republic battery site. Continuing up the valley, several tracks lead off. The first drops down to the Republic Battery site. A few scattered remnants remain here. The second side track leads quickly to an old adit, full of cave weta. The main track becomes rougher and crosses a few hillside streams before turning off the bullock track (which runs out soon anyway) and dropping to the Britannia Battery site.
Dropping through native bush is the Britannia battery. The quartz crusher battery reduces the rocks to small pebbles to assist with the dissolving of the gold in a cyanide water solution. The battery dates from 1925 built by Price of Thames whose buildings are still used for steel manufacturing. It is very impressive, an industrial piece of machinery in the middle of what is now quiet forest. The Britannia Mining Company 1896 and ceased in 1910. The area was restarted in 1925 and the 5-head stamper battery was brought to site then. There were various mines dating back to 1875 to 1937 in the area. The site has plaques describing the site’s relics which include pelton wheel and cyanide tanks.
Mining Legacy Millerton
Take the high road and explore the coal mining, now largely abandoned Millerton settlement. It has the air of a ghost town with a number of empty buildings and infrastructure. Despite its elevation of 300 m being considerably lower than that of Denniston (494 m), the grade between the coastline and Millerton still meant that the coal was difficult to get down to the railway. The Westport Coal Company built the Millerton Incline in 1891 and the Millerton Mine began production in 1896. Mining at Millerton ended in the late 1960s, similar again to Denniston.
The Millerton Incline, 1891 was a narrow gaug bush tram econsisting of two parallel tracks on which the coal tubs ran, being hauled by rope. The incline dropped 260 metres to the coast. Remnants of tracks, trucks, bath houses and other installations are still visible. The Millerton Incline was in its day quite a feat of engineering and the remains of this incline and its infrastructure are more accessible then those of the more famous Denniston incline. The Millerton Incline was used to convey tubs of coal from the mines around the Millerton area to the Bins at Granity, which in their day were the largest coal loading bins of wooden construction in NZ. The Bins are long gone, but the incline remains and is well worth a look.
The informal information centre is in what is effectively an abandoned house, there are dusty maps and photographs, furniture thta is showing the effects of weather and time. The settlement is a snapshot of archeological ruins in the making. Nature is busy making a comeback and reclaiming houses and public areas. It is fascinating to think while there about two hotels, shops, churches, sports grounds and library now dissolving back into the bush.
It is a narrow, steep winding road setting the scene for a visit to a part of New Zealand that has very few visitors. The road to Millerton has spectacular views across the coast and the rain forest.
open cast mine tour
Perhaps you would like a tour of Stockton’s current mining operations at the nearby Cascade mine, New Zealand’s largest opencast mining operation in Stockton. Tours of Cascade are only through an authorised tour operator,
Departs Westport Vistor Information Centre
Duration 6 hours for the tour.
Booking Online or Vistor Information Centre, 24 hours notice necessary minimum numbers required. The tour operator can arrange private tours. Contact directly to discuss details.
Charming Creek Walk
Walking fans rejoice, one of New Zealand’s great walks is part of this weekend itinerary planner. Charming Creek Walkway: Charming Creek area, West Coast region all day starts in Seddonville, originally a mining settlement. The track follows an abandoned historic bush tramway to transport coal. There are remnants of saw milling where native timbers provided shoring for mines and material to construct houses. Walkers pass through railway tunnels, bridges and the 20 metre drop Mangatini waterfalls. The sheer cliffs of Nagakawau Gorge and the immense river boulders of the Nagkawau River form a dramatic burst for the final section as the track nears the seaside town of Hector.
The Seddonville carpark to Mangatini Falls is approximately a 4 hour round walking trip. Track highlights are:
NOTE: there is a swing bridge which is narrow. Patience might be needed to wait for people to cross the bridge.
Charming Creek walk: Getting there
This track can be walked in either direction, follow SH67 from Westport for the starting points. South end: Follow the signposts at Ngakawau. North end: From Seddonville follow Charming Creek Road to the abandoned mine site. Seddonville is the more popular start as you are walking downhill.
NOTE: You will need to arrange transport to collect you unless you intend to return on the same track.
Need to know:
Shortened walk to Mangantini Waterfalls
Wanting to view the Mangantini waterfalls and get a glimpse of the Charming Creek walk yet short on time here is an alternative route. For a shorter option start at the Hector end and hike for about one hour to Mangatini Falls.
Overnight Westport accommodation. This is your final night in Westport. If you have time, Westport has a number of art galleries and the main street is worth a wander to check out the art deco architecture.
One of New Zealand’s best short walks as it embraces spectacular coastal scenery, wildlife, a lighthouse and weka sightings. A one hour walk that is no problem to walk back as you get view scenery you missed the first time. Cape Foulwind Walkway: Cape Foulwind area, West Coast region.
Westport to Cape Foulwind to Reefton
Tauranga Bay seal colony
Shorter option: Tauranga Bay carpark to seal colony viewpoint. This is wheelchair accessible with spectacular views of the coast and seal colony. At first the seals are indistinguishable from the rocks. Wait a while, let your eyes adjust to the shades of the rocks and the seals will pop into your line of sight. Look to the waterline to observe seals as they emerge from the sea onto the rocks.
Cape Foulwind short walk takes you from Tauranga Bay along a rocky headland to a viewpoint overlooking a New Zealand fur seal breeding colony.
Panels along the track tell stories of Māori history, sea voyages and early explorers.
to Christchurch via Reefton
Cape Foulwind to Inangahua, Reefton and Christchurch.
NOTE: Inangahua is the junction between the route to Nelson or continue on State Highway 7 to Christchurch. State Highway is crossing the Southern Alps at the Lewis Pass. 359 km 5 hours.
Reefton is a whistle stop opportunity to check out the town with its own gold mining past. The town of light where electricity was first town with a public supply of electricity. Reefton is nestled in the paparoa and Victoria ranges. Inland, the town’s destiny was shaped by the Paparoa and Victoria ranges. The untamed Inangahua River and Victoria Conservation Park provide ample opportunities for mountain bike exploration and tramping among the historic gold mining sites. There are numerous heritage sites both within and in the vicinity of Reefton. A favourite place to visit and part of the extended West Coast awesome itinerary.
This weekend break has not included Karamea, Greymouth, Hokitika or Glacier territory. To fully immerse yourself in what the West Coast 14 days will give you a taste of what the region has to offer. There is the jade or pounamu trail, gold trails, the birth of the unionist political movements in Ross and elsewhere, accessible glaciers to marvel at and the west coast spirit to revel in. Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks and kayaking the Pororari River are scenery highlights threaded together on perhaps New Zealand’s prettiest scenic drives between mountains, sea and wild rivers.
The West Coast offers adventure tourism with Buller River white water rafting, caving at Charleston and tramping trails, the thundering surf of the west coasts beaches to challenge. All of these sensory experiences will be on your bucket list.