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Reefton: West Coasts Historical Haven

Posted at June 15th, 2024 | Categorised in New Zealand Travel
Reefton: West Coasts Historical Haven

Reefton west coast – Nestled amidst the West Coast’s untamed wilderness, Reefton emerges as a living testament to New Zealand’s rich gold mining heritage, offering a captivating blend of history, nature, and community spirit that beckons travelers and locals alike.

From its humble beginnings as a bustling mining town to its present-day status as a thriving tourist destination, Reefton’s journey has been marked by resilience, innovation, and a deep appreciation for its past.

Reefton History

Reefton is a town in the West Coast region of New Zealand’s South Island. It is situated on the banks of the Inangahua River, approximately 60 kilometers south of Westport.

The history of Reefton dates back to the 1860s, when gold was discovered in the area. The town was established in 1871 as a gold mining settlement and quickly became one of the most important gold mining centers in New Zealand.

Gold Mining Era

The gold mining industry had a significant impact on the development of Reefton. The town grew rapidly during the 1870s and 1880s, and a number of businesses and industries were established to support the mining industry.

The gold mining industry in Reefton declined in the early 20th century, but the town continued to grow as a service center for the surrounding farming and forestry industries.

Present-Day Reefton

Today, Reefton is a small town with a population of around 900 people. The town is home to a number of historical buildings and landmarks, including the Reefton Museum, which tells the story of the town’s gold mining past.

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Reefton is also a popular tourist destination, and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including gold panning, hiking, and fishing.

Reefton Geography and Climate

Reefton west coast

Reefton, nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, boasts a picturesque natural setting. Its geography is characterized by rolling hills, lush forests, and meandering rivers, creating a captivating landscape.

Reefton’s climate is temperate, influenced by its proximity to the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. Summers are generally warm and dry, with average temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C. Winters are mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5°C. Rainfall is moderate throughout the year, with an average annual precipitation of around 1,000 mm.

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Surrounding Natural Attractions

  • Paparoa National Park:Located just north of Reefton, Paparoa National Park is a breathtaking expanse of rugged coastline, lush rainforests, and towering limestone cliffs.
  • Inangahua River:The Inangahua River flows through Reefton, providing opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and scenic walks along its banks.
  • Victoria Forest Park:Situated to the east of Reefton, Victoria Forest Park encompasses vast tracts of native forest, hiking trails, and hidden waterfalls.
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Influence of Surrounding Mountains and Forests

The surrounding mountains and forests play a significant role in shaping Reefton’s climate and ecosystem. The mountains act as a barrier to cold southerly winds, creating a warmer microclimate within the Reefton basin. The forests contribute to high levels of humidity, which supports a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Reefton Economy and Infrastructure

Reefton west coast

Reefton’s economy is primarily driven by tourism, agriculture, and a range of other industries. The town’s infrastructure, including transportation, utilities, and communication networks, provides the foundation for economic growth and development.


Reefton’s rich history and natural beauty attract a significant number of tourists each year. The town is home to several historical sites, including the Reefton Museum and the Prohibition Mine, which offer visitors a glimpse into the town’s past. The surrounding area is also home to stunning natural attractions, such as the Paparoa National Park and the Inangahua River, which provide opportunities for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities.


Agriculture is another important industry in Reefton. The town is surrounded by fertile farmland, which is used for grazing livestock and growing a variety of crops. Reefton is also home to several food processing plants, which provide employment for local residents and contribute to the town’s economy.

Other Industries

In addition to tourism and agriculture, Reefton is home to a number of other industries, including mining, forestry, and manufacturing. The town’s diverse economy helps to ensure that it is not overly reliant on any one sector, which makes it more resilient to economic downturns.

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Reefton’s infrastructure is relatively well-developed, with a good network of roads, utilities, and communication networks. The town is accessible by car, bus, and train, and it is also home to a small airport. Reefton has a reliable supply of electricity, water, and telecommunications services, which are essential for economic growth and development.

Challenges and Opportunities

Reefton faces a number of challenges to its economic growth and development. One challenge is the town’s remote location, which can make it difficult to attract new businesses and residents. Another challenge is the town’s aging population, which can lead to a shortage of skilled workers.

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However, Reefton also has a number of opportunities for economic growth. The town’s rich history and natural beauty make it an attractive destination for tourists, and the town’s diverse economy helps to ensure that it is not overly reliant on any one sector.

Reefton Culture and Community

Reefton is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, which is deeply rooted in its mining past. The town’s unique traditions and events, such as the annual Reefton Golden Mile Heritage Festival, celebrate its history and the resilience of its people.

The festival features a parade, live music, and exhibitions showcasing the town’s mining heritage.

Arts and Culture

The arts play a vital role in Reefton’s cultural identity. The town is home to several art galleries and studios, which showcase the work of local and visiting artists. The Reefton Art Group organizes regular exhibitions and workshops, providing opportunities for artists to connect and share their work with the community.


Music is an integral part of Reefton’s cultural fabric. The town hosts several live music events throughout the year, including the Reefton Buskers Festival and the Golden Mile Music Festival. These events bring together local and national musicians, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere in the town.

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Local Businesses

Local businesses are the backbone of Reefton’s economy and play a significant role in shaping the town’s cultural identity. Many of these businesses are family-owned and operated, contributing to the town’s sense of community and continuity. They offer a range of products and services that cater to the needs of the local population and visitors alike.

Community Spirit

Reefton is known for its strong sense of community spirit. Residents are actively involved in local organizations and initiatives, such as the Reefton Community House and the Reefton Historical Society. These organizations provide opportunities for people to connect, share ideas, and work together to improve the town.

Reefton Tourism and Recreation: Reefton West Coast


Nestled amidst the stunning natural beauty of the West Coast, Reefton beckons travelers with a rich tapestry of historical, scenic, and outdoor experiences. From exploring its gold mining heritage to embarking on exhilarating adventures, Reefton offers a captivating blend of tourism and recreation.

Historical Sites

Reefton’s rich history is palpable in its preserved historical sites. The town’s iconic quartz crushing battery, once the heart of its mining industry, now serves as a testament to its golden past. The Reefton Museum showcases fascinating artifacts and exhibits that delve into the town’s captivating history.

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Scenic Attractions

Beyond its historical allure, Reefton boasts breathtaking natural wonders. The picturesque Inangahua River meanders through the town, offering serene vistas and opportunities for kayaking and fishing. The Paparoa National Park, just a short drive away, captivates with its rugged mountains, lush rainforests, and cascading waterfalls.

Outdoor Activities

Reefton is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The Old Ghost Road, renowned as one of New Zealand’s Great Rides, beckons mountain bikers and hikers with its challenging terrain and breathtaking scenery. The town also offers ample opportunities for fishing, hunting, and white-water rafting.

Sustainable Tourism

Reefton is committed to promoting sustainable tourism practices. The town has implemented various initiatives to protect its natural environment, including waste reduction programs, the preservation of historic buildings, and the promotion of eco-friendly accommodation.

Best Time to Visit, Reefton west coast

Reefton is a year-round destination, but the shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) offer the most pleasant weather for outdoor activities. During summer (December-February), temperatures can soar, while winter (June-August) brings chilly nights and potential rainfall.

Accommodation and Dining

Reefton offers a range of accommodation options, from charming guesthouses to comfortable motels. The town also boasts several excellent restaurants, serving everything from traditional pub fare to gourmet cuisine.


Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique and authentic New Zealand experience, Reefton’s allure lies in its ability to transport visitors to a bygone era while simultaneously embracing the present.

With its warm hospitality, stunning surroundings, and countless opportunities for exploration, Reefton invites you to discover the heart and soul of the West Coast.

FAQ Compilation

What is Reefton best known for?

Reefton is renowned for its rich gold mining history, which played a pivotal role in the development of the West Coast region.

What are some must-visit attractions in Reefton?

The Reefton Goldfields Heritage Centre, Victoria Battery, and the historic town center offer a glimpse into Reefton’s mining past. For nature enthusiasts, the nearby Paparoa National Park and Denniston Plateau provide stunning hiking and biking trails.

What is the best time to visit Reefton?

Reefton is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is during the summer months (December to February) when the weather is warm and ideal for outdoor activities.

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