History & Heritage on 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.

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

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.
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.

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


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.


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.

Granity Heritage Sites


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.


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.


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


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.

Denniston Heritage Sites


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.

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.

Charleston Area Heritage Sites


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


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


Restored, complete with the original union slogans.

Greymouth Area Heritage Sites


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.

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