The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history. It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect. So much history it practically oozes from her very being.
Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York. Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.
There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit. We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out. With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.
There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike. Yes we may have stopped here a few times……
You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.
The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.
Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz. In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.
The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.
The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track. We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley. Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly. Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us. We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).
The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line. Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine. I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more. Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.
There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks. After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track. It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way. I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.
The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton. You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road. There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton. Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.
Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back. I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.
After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality. Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!
If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.