History lovers must visit the town that refused to die
The hotel, “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” is famous for its dispute with the international chain Hilton Hotels and being the place the labour party was formed over a pint of beer. The town is synonymous with the longest running miner’s strike that happened here in 1913. The town feels authentic with its slightly offbeat charm of shabby gentility. The town lost most of its inhabitants when the Roa Mine closed. The town though has refused to die and is the only mine town to survive the closure of the mine. The Blackball spirit is stoic and definitely reflects the soul that supported the struggle for workers to enjoy a half hour lunch break. The town is in New Zealand history books.
WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS
- Purchase a salami from the Blackball Salami Company, a thriving specialist meat producer
- Have a drink at the Formerly Blackball Hilton and find Michael Joseph Savage, first Labour Prime Minister’s photo on the wall
- Fish in the Grey river for brown trout
- Explore the Roa Mine heritage site
- Tramp to the Croesus track from Blackball to Barrytown
The award-winning salami of Blackball Salami are created from locally sourced ingredients. The vendor’s tips for sausages, low in fat, low in water as bacon should not swim in water.
The Blackball Hilton’s branding is now adjusted to Formerly The Blackball Hilton and the pub is going strong. The pub meals are classic kiwi tucker with chicken breasts, steak and pies. There are dress up boxes for kids (and adults), quirky toilets with amusing messages and local history books on tables for guests to pursue.
Talented local shape wood (kauri and rimu unusually recycled materials) into beautiful objects from clocks, ornamental boxes, mirrors and decorative objects. His shop is adjacent to the workshop.
MAHI TUPUNA, MUSEUM OF WORKING CLASS HISTORY
The converted containers and outdoor setting showcases the town’s history as the place that took on a foreign owned mining company and won. Pat Hickey, miner had not finished his lunch when the whistle blew fifteen minutes into the break. Pat’s defiance sparked the 1908 Blackball Strike which lasted three months. The Blackball Museum is run by volunteers and funded by trade unions, with support from grants.
The Blackball Memorial Wheel stands behind the main museum. It has 29 panels, 29 tiles, for the 29 men lost in the 2010 Pike River disaster. Blackball is the start for the Pike29 Memorial Track, a walking route from Blackball to Punakaiki with a track to the now-closed mine site. The walk is part of the Paparoa Great Walk. See travel pack section for more details. NOTE public access to the section Pike29Memorial Track is still being accessed.
Fish for brown trout and salmon in the Grey River and its tributaries, or popular Lake Brunner, 62 km or 45 minutes
Exploring the old mines: It is possible to take a guided or self-guided journey through old tunnels around the town. Ask a hotel for a local guide.
WHERE TO TAKE THE BEST SELFIE
- Opposite the Blackball Hilton
- Next to the Blackball Memorial Wheel
WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS
- Walk around town introducing them to a slice of lived in history
- Ginger beer at the Formerly Blackball Hilton hotel
- Writer and historian Stevan Eldred-Grigg returned to Blackball as the inaugural recipient of the Blackball Writer’s Residency (2021). The town, named after the Blackball Shipping Line, was established in the 1890s, a “classic West Coast coal-mining society”, says Eldred-Grigg, with a resilience that came to shape the New Zealand union movement.
- The centre of the universe
This site includes relics from the area’s coal mining days. The Croesus track – Blackball
The Croesus track is a miners’ track that takes you from the town of Blackball, through the Paparoa rangers and through to Barrytown. The well maintained miner’s track follows the footsteps of thousands in search of riches.
- Did the Blackball Hilton, originally known as the Dominion get its name from the nearby Hilton street or after the owners named the hotel after the notorious Bangkok Hilton. Your answer, from the publican will depend on what he / she thinks you want to hear.
- 278 (2018)
- Personality plus west coast town
25 km, 30 minutes from Greymouth
The Taylorville-Blackball road is well signposted with the turnoff to Blackball. Blackball itself is a no exit road. The Taylorville-Blackball road has a name change to Atarau and eventually rejoins SH7 crossing the Grey River at Ikamatua.
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- Blackball Community Centre was formerly Blackball Mine’s Manager’s house. The impressive three-storey building with a turret was completed in 1910. Search the List | Blackball Community Centre. The building is listed as a category II.
- Formerly The Blackball Hilton is a category II listed building