Craigieburn Ecological Area and Forest – Mountain Biking Unchartered Territory

aaaahhhh, biking through native forest into plantation forest and back into native forest.  Sun shining high in the sky above the mountain tops. Sometimes our job sucks, working in our outside office, but then someone has to do it I guess……….

Craigieburn Road mtb ride West Coast

Our latest assignment was exploring in the Craigieburn Ecological Area and Forest.  Situated inland from Greymouth on the Eastern side of the Paparora mountain range, heading north towards Reefton.  We’ve talked about doing this – well for years really.  Great to finally make the committment and head off on an adventure on our bikes into some unchartered territory.

Craigieburn Ecological area mtb ride West Coast

We really didn’t know what to expect.  We were hoping we could do a loop and looking at our map it kind of looked possible.  I say kind of as our map was about 8 years old and being that some of this area was forestry roads you can never be sure if the roads still exist or where they’ll actually end up.  Sometimes it can be quite frustrating as you know it is only a matter of a few hundred metres but if the road hasn’t been cut it can be dense forest you have to bash through and you just don’t really know for sure so best to stick to the formed roads.

mtb Craigieburn Ecological Area West Coast

It was a 4 wheel drive road/track the whole way starting out going through some farm land, then into the native forest and finally into plantation forest.  The section through the actual Craigieburn Ecological Area ie the native bush was absolutely beautiful.  With the sun filtering through the canopy of the trees and glistening on the foliage and undergrowth, it looked quite magical.

The track was a gradual climb – a nice gradient that slowly took us higher up into the valley towards the Paparoa Ranges. Leaving the native forest behind we soon entered the plantation pine forest.  There were some side tracks and we were continually consulting our map, fairly sure we were to just keep going up.  Eventually we met a track off to the right and the track we were on became quite overgrown with gorse bush.  After getting poked and prodded just a little too much we left our bikes and walked to see if this was actually going to take us anywhere.  It appeared we were heading back into native forest which did seem right according to the map but this track obviously hadn’t been used by vehicles for some time and not wanting to risk getting too many punctures – if any, we decided to head back the way we came.

mtb craigieburn road west coast

Heading down we spot one of the other tracks to the right (now on our left) and with vehicle tyre marks it looks like a good option for an explore.  Coming out of the trees it soon opens up into previously logged areas and towards the native bush again and closer to the Paparoa Ranges.  I have a good feeling…. I think I know where this is coming out….. yey, back at the top right before we headed into the gorse part of the track.  Now that was a nice little loop – not quite the loop we were looking at on the map but a good workout all the same, gradually climbing up again which means now we get to coast back down.

One more side track – this time to the right as we’re coming down.  Again looking on our map, assuming we’ve got the right track, this should bring us out further down the road closer to the car.  Why not – we’ll have a look anyway, just five minutes, ok five minutes more – surely…….. ok so maybe not.  Starting to run out of time now so better head back to where we at least know we are for sure on the map.  Two little boys are waiting “patiently” at home for their dinner……

forgotten relics craigieburn road West coast

A nice easy coast down, back into the native forest, passing a couple of forgotten relics along the way.  Not your usual forgotten relics – Stephen likes to call them bush art and these guys are huge!  Still they add to the atmosphere of the area and to the interest of the ride.

abandoned truck in the forest

It’s been a great day of exploring some unchartered territory – a great sense of adventure.  We only got lost a couple of times so we’ll deem that as a success! Home time now to feed the puppies and relax while watching the sun go down. Life’s hard living on the wonderful West Coast ……………….

Sunset off Breakers Boutique Accommodation Greymouth

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders of the West Coast of the Southern Alps.  Named one of the top ten regions in the world to visit by Lonely Planet – we certainly know why!






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Happy Birthday Greymouth – 150 years old

biking flood wall Greymouth

Happy birthday to Greymouth – 150 years old.

Birdseye view Greymouth Bar

On 22 July 1864 Reuben Waite, a storekeeper from Collingwood, crossed the Greymouth bar with 70 prospectors in a chartered paddle steamer.

DP1 Cafe Greymouth

He put his supplies ashore and opened the first store on the banks of the Grey River on what was to become the corner of Waite St and Mawhera Quay (this site is now occupied by DP1 Café – Deposit One).

Greymouth over the years has had its ups and down – gold and coal mining has prospered and slumped.

Miners Memorial Greymouth

There have been many hardships – mining tragedies, fishing tragedies, economic boom and bust but it is a resilient town fuelled by a strong community spirit.

Grey river, floodwall and Greymouth West Coast

Grey River and bridges

Often there is much negative talk about Greymouth, some even describing it as ugly – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Surrounded by native bush on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other with the Grey River running down to the sea – it is a picture of beauty.

blaketown tiphead with southern alps view

The Southern Alps loom in the background and on a clear day you can see the might of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman off to the south.

Grey River reflections Greymouth

There are wonderful bush walks, world-class beaches, great surfing, mountain biking trails, gold and coal mining history, rivers for fishing – something for everyone.  Sometimes we just need to open our eyes to see what is right in front of us.

Main Street Greymouth

While the town centre may not have architecturally designed buildings it is an industrial town servicing the region of the West Coast with friendly locals and everything the region needs. Sprinkled amongst the modern-day jungle there are some beautiful art deco gems.

Greymouth night sky

Greymouth – there is no-where else I’d rather be.

Happy birthday Greymouth – we love you.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  The Coastal drive has been named one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet and they named the West Coast as one of the top 10 regions to visit in the world.  Make sure you include a visit in your NZ itinerary, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

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Greymouth Mighty Mud Challenge

Greymouth mighty mud challenge

Mud mud glorious mud nothing quite like it for cooling the blood

what greymouth mud challenge

So follow me, follow, down to the hollow and there let us wallow in glorious mud

girl power greymouth mighty mud challenge

Well if mud cools the blood like “The Hippopotamus by Flanders and Swann’s” song says, then there was plenty of blood being cooled with the Greymouth Mighty Mud Challenge held at On Yer Bike.  Perfect location, perfect conditions.  WET AND MUDDY!

all smiles greymouth mighty mud challenge

in the creek greymouth mud challenge

Much rain had fallen overnight ensuring all the mud holes were nice and muddy and lots of water where water was needed to be.  This was going to be exciting!

starting line greymouth mighty mud challenge

Great turn out of over 160 entrants – most just competing for fun and to help raise money for Breast Cancer Research.  Plenty of fancy dress which added to the hilarity of the morning.

leading man greymouth mud challenge

colourful greymouth mud challenge

Starting gun sounded and everyone was off.  First couple of holes and little hills – they were ok but then the fun began in earnest.  Hidden mud holes, sink holes, deeper than they looked holes – it was brilliant.  Of course we can say that we were spectators.

splash might mud challenge greymouth

muddy good fun Greymouth mighty mud challenge

No-one seemed put off by the obstacles along the way, tarps over water holes to clamber under, tyres to squeeze through to then end up in a water hole, mud slides, water being thrown to make them more wet or more muddy…. the list goes on.

out from the deep greymouth mud challenge

The muddier the better -

in the drink greymouth mud challenge

the wetter the better.

fun on the barrel greymouth mud challenge

There were barrels to clamber over in water holes.  Some looked for tactics to keep them out of the water……..

face planting greymouth mud challenge

others made a meal of it.  Hey why not – you’re already muddy and wet and it is only going to get worse! It was a course filled with continual surprises.

smiles greymouth mud challenge

Thing that stood out the most for me though would be the smiles and the laughter.  This was for a great cause and it looked like great fun.  Nothing better than having an excuse to get down and dirty.

fun greymouth mighty mud challenge

enjoying the Greymouth Mighty Mud Challenge

With the finish line in site, the smiles continued and I’m sure people had never been so pleased to be hosed down.

Huge congratulations to On Yer Bike Greymouth for the venue and to Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park for organising this outstanding event to raise money for Breast Cancer Research.  Biggest congratulations though to all the competitors – muddy good fun!

greymouth might mud challenge fun

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  West Coast has been named one of the top ten regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet.  Make sure you add it to your itinerary – and at 500kms long make sure you take your time to take it all in!




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West Coast Wilderness Trail – Upper Arahura Valley to Kumara

Another magical winter’s day on the West Coast – perfect for our guests Jules from Auckland and her son Max and his girlfriend Lauren from Melbourne.  They are doing a road trip, complete with bikes and skies so lots of adventures along the way – great way to see the country.

Jules, Max and Lauren wcwt

During their stay with us they wanted to experience some of the West Coast Wilderness Trail.  With it not 100% complete and limited time we wanted to ensure they saw the most scenic part without having to do any road riding.

guests leaving theatre royal hotel WCWT bike ride

Our Plan – ride it too!  Take two cars – leave our car at Kumara – Jules, Max and Lauren start their ride while we drive to the other end in the Upper Arahura Valley and leave their car there.  We would pass somewhere on the track and be able to swap keys.  This plan ensured Jules and family rode as much as the track as possible without having to do any doubling back.  Jules was also interested in the gold mining history of the region thanks to reading Eleanor Catton’s Luminaries – so this way they would drive through Kaniere and into Hokitika – lots of gold mining history to soak up.

Lake Kaniere reflections

Dressed for winter riding – it is the first frost for us at home and there is plenty of snow on the mountain tops so we know this ride will be cold.  It is an early start and passing by Lake Kaniere we have a compulsory stop for photographs.  Picture perfect and Stephen couldn’t resist.

mountain biking Upper Arahua Valley

biking Upper Arahua Valley WCWT

cowboy paradise WCWT mountain bike ride

Following Milltown Road to the Upper Arahura Valley car park we’re ready to head off.  It sure is beautiful up this valley.  The trail slowly winds it way up the hill-side heading towards Cowboy Paradise.  The views are magnificent – surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the beautiful blue of the river and gorgeous lush farmland.  This is farmland we’re biking through – and yes there are farm animals – big beautiful healthy looking cows.  Unfortunately can’t quite see them in the photos but they were mighty specimens and totally oblivious to us biking past them.

Mawhera Reserve west coast wilderness trail

MacPherson Creek suspension bridge west coast wilderness trail

On through a small section of forest – the Mawhera Reserve and this is like biking through Jurassic Park.  I love to let me imagination run wild, all the moss coating the trees and ferns hanging down – fantastic.  Then we’re onto the wonderful MacPherson Creek swingbridge – am impressive bridge over a deep ravine or gorge – beautiful what ever it is.  Yes that is frost you can see on the boards of the bridge!

biking along river west coast wilderness trail

We’ve then got quite a bit of 4WD road to follow.  Not a used road or well used road anyway and lovely being surrounded by all the snow-capped mountains.  Eventually we end up back on single track in the Kawhaka forest and following the Kawhaka river.  This is where we meet back up with Jules, Max and Lauren.  They are enjoying their experience and blown away with the trail – loving the amazing scenery and wilderness – perfect, just what we want to hear.

On a bit further and we choose this for our lunch spot.  Again organised today with a packed lunch – but we have a reward waiting for us back at the Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara come the end of our ride…….. (you know you can count on me!)

reflections kawhaka water race west coast wilderness trail

Onwards – can’t stop for too long as it is jolly chilly.  The trail now winds its way following the Kawhaka water race for about 5kms.  Since leaving Cowboy Paradise we’ve had high cloud but now some patches of blue are coming back and pockets of sunshine to help warm us up a bit.  The water race gives some great, moody reflections.

boardwalk west coast wilderness trail

Another 4WD bush section, before we cross a winding boardwalk across the Loopline Road wetland and then we’re riding around the Kapitea reservoir lakes.  Gorgeous around here and with the cloud breaking up we are again afforded some amazing and dramatic winter reflections.

mountain reflections west coast wilderness trail

Not much further to go now – thank goodness as the legs are starting to get rather lethargic, it has been a long day in the saddle – well seems like it anyway and been incredibly cold.  Trust us to pick the coldest day so far this winter to go for a long bike ride!

mountain bikes outside theatre royal hotel kumara

All good though we soon enter the little historic gold mining town of Kumara – making a bee-line for the Theatre Royal Hotel, the end of our ride – hot chocolate and muffin most definitely in order. A near perfect day out in the saddle and great to experience more of the West Coast Wilderness Trail and better still to share it with our guests.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Keen mountain bikers and hikers and with Stephen a photographer, they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast.  The West Coast named one of the top ten regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet – make sure you add it to your list of places to visit and check out the West Coast Wilderness Trail.


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Walking the beaches of Ross

Well as promised in my last blog we headed back down south to Ross in Westland to explore the local beaches. Talk about a super magic day.

mountain views ross beach walk

Waking to a stunning winter West Coast morning we couldn’t have asked for better weather, with clear blue sunny skies and snow-capped mountains. Bit of a chill in the air with all the snow on the mountain tops but if it means a nice day we’ll take it thanks!

views of southern alps ross beach walk

Can’t believe the views here – well actually I can – it is the West Coast after-all.  This region has it all – mountains, native bush, lakes, rivers, sea….. need I say more – is there any more? It is one of the things I love about the West Coast – it’s range of diversity and sometimes all in one area.

ross beach walk with views to southern alps

Waitaha River mouth

Our walk starts at the end of Beach Road, a turn-off just before the Waitaha River, passing through the little settlement of Kakapotahi and coming out at the river mouth of the Waitaha River.  The views from the river mouth are breathtaking – the Southern Alps caked in snow and Mt Cook and Mt Tasman – New Zealand’s two tallest mountains looming to the south.

playtime with nico ross beach walk

playtime with ziggy ross beach walk

The boys are super excited and love the feeling of sand “between their toes”.  To expel some energy from them we play some games before we start our walk proper.  Not sure who was having more fun – or at least who was making the bigger dick of themselves….. no comment really necessary thanks!

jan, nico and ziggy enjoying beach walk with mountain views

The beach heads north back towards Ross and we want to get to the end of the headland.  Stephen thought there was a good surf break around this area and wouldn’t mind checking it out.   The start of the headland is quite a way off in the distance so we drive down the beach 4WD track to get a little bit closer.  Only a little bit, we’ve probably still got a good 3km walk ahead of us each way at least!

views for cows Ross beach

Parked up, I make the comment to Stephen – views for the cows really sucks!

Off we head.  Timed it perfectly for the tides this weekend – currently low tide but even high tide isn’t particularly high so we’ve got plenty of beach to walk on without worrying about incoming tides and getting  caught out.  The sand is lovely to walk on but really soft so is actually quite hard going – a good work out for the legs.  The dogs are happy enough having already had their play, just to walk beside us.

Seal enjoying sunshine Ross beach

It would seem it isn’t just us making the most of the sunshine.  We come across three seals as various stages of the walk enjoying basking in the sun.  I manage to spot at least another two frolicking in the surf and catching the odd wave – maybe this is the surf break Stephen thought of after-all ha-ha.

fossilised rock on ross beach walk

fossilized rock on Ross beach walk

Looming is a wonderful rock formation.  On closer inspection it seems to be fossilized.  Don’t know if that is the right description but it is certainly not a rock formation like I’ve ever seen before.  Almost alive with tentacles and small crevices – I’d say it would be a geologists dream to investigate.  I unfortunately don’t know enough about rock to tell you anything more than it looked seriously cool!

lunch log Ross beach walk

Lunch stop.  Time to refuel – no bakery stop today, I’m super organised and have packed a homemade lunch – darn delicious too if I do say so myself.  This log looks inviting and no a bad place to hang out for a few minutes.

walking ross beach

Off again and we make our way to the end of the headland – can actually see a car parked way off in the distance at the Ross end of the beach.  This is the end of the headland we wanted to access though so this is far enough for us – we still have to walk back yet!  It is lovely to hear the birds chirping away in the bush from the cliffs beside us.

views mt cook and mt tasman ross beach walk

The walk back is probably even better than the walk out – as we come around the side of the headland we are once again afforded the fabulous views of the snow-capped Southern Alps with Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in all their magnificent glory.

My feet are getting a tad sore now though so off with the shoes.  Now it is my turn to enjoy the feeling of sand between my toes.

Tasman Sea and Ross beach

With one final stop to soak up the views – look back to where we’re come and reflect on our afternoon, it is time to head for home.  The drive back out the country farm track is jaw dropping but as lovely as it is I’m already thinking about which ice cream flavour to choose when we pass through Hokitika.  All about priorities!

country road views ross

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Together with their two faithful companions Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and exploring the West Coast.  The West Coast has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten regions in the world to visit.  Come and see why.





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Town born from Gold – Ross

Historic Miners Cottage Ross

Ross is a town born from gold – from the West Coast gold rush of the 1860s. Ross is most famous in NZ for being the home where New Zealand’s largest ever gold nugget was found – known fondly as the “Roddy Nugget”, it weighed a hefty 3.1kgs.

historic water wheel ross goldfields town

sluicing gear ross goldfields town

It was the choice of destination for our latest adventure. South of Greymouth we had about a one hour drive to get there – lovely drive following the coastline. Parking behind the Ross Goldfield Information Centre and Museum we began our walk. Pretty easy one this time round, following the old water race and coming out at the old historic cemetery. Starting at the Historic Ross Goldfields village round past the alluvial lake with some information boards and relics explaining the art of the water wheel and sluicing, the track then climbs gradually up through the native bush meandering up and around with the water race.

Following Ross water race track

viaduct remnants ross water race track

Ross water race track

You can see where the old viaducts used to be. There is minimal signage on this side until you come to the old miners hut in the bush. This is fantastic – possibly an inspiration for some of our original back country huts!

historic miners hut Ross water race track

The trail slowly meanders down and then enters into the historic Ross cemetery – perched high on the hill and affording fantastic views over the township and out to the Tasman Sea. We love visiting old cemeteries – they are both interesting, sad and serene all at the same time.

headstones historic Ross cemetery

views from Ross Cemetery

historic Ross cemetery

Stephen wanders around for quite some time taking photos. I take a seat….. lunch time and am watched with much hope by the dogs.

enjoying lunch historic Ross cemetery

Time to continue back to the car. A bit more bush track before we come out on the back streets of the town of Ross. Some wonderful old buildings back here and then another short bush walk that leads to the Goldfields Historic Village and car park again. Just two buildings here in the village – a beautifully restored miners cottage and a gaol. Great examples of yesteryear both inside and out.

Goldfields village Ross

historic miners cottage interior ross

Before heading home we decide to see if we can find access to the beach. For us Ross is a town we often pass through but don’t often have the opportunity or time to stop. We’ve seen the sign for beach – or at least a road sign “beach road” so assume it heads to the beach. Given that we could see the sea from the cemetery we knew it couldn’t be far away. Turns out it isn’t. Gorgeous beach – really sandy and lots of sand dunes. Reasonably high tide but we still have a short wander and the dogs get to have a decent run free from the confines of our controlled bush walk. I know we’re not supposed to project our thoughts into what our animals might be thinking but in this case I’m sure going by the looks on their faces they would be saying “wahoo, feel that sand in your toes – oooohhh lovely!” – or something like that.

Ross beach

Home time but we’ll be back sometime soon to spend some quality time exploring the beach – we see a headland to the south that definitely requires further investigation…… watch this space…….

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Together with their faithful companions Nico and Ziggy they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the wonders that help make up The West Coast of The Southern Alps. Come join them on their next adventure.

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Riding through History – Denniston Plateau

sssshhhhh – the babies are sleeping. If it was possible I’d be typing this with a silence button although I don’t think it matters as the boys are well and truly out to the count after their adventure today. Actually Ziggy has a right snore on so no-one can hear anything over that! They’ll be dreaming though, twitching in their sleep, remembering all the history lessons of today while out running with us. Ha-ha they better be anyway cos there will be an exam tomorrow.

Denniston plateau mtb ride

With the promise of a reasonably fine day after a much rain of late, we headed north to Westport – compulsory bakery stop first to fuel up pre-ride and then on up to Denniston Plateau – high up in the mountains – today’s mountain bike destination. This place is filled with history – coal mining history. It was a full on working town late 1800s and into the next century through to the mid 1950s.

amongst the rocks denniston plateau

riding the rocks denniston plateau

mountain biking the chute denniston

Thanks to the dedicated local mountain bike community and with the assistance of DOC some great tracks have been carved using existing drilling trails and coal mining tracks. As such there are heaps of relics scattered about to discover as you bike along,, together with old mine entrances, tunnels, plaques and signs explaining some of the history or pointing out points of interest.

fan house track denniston plateau

mining relics denniston

historic fan house denniston

ziggy on the bridge denniston mtb ride

tunnel denniston plateau

It is a good all round ride – lots of climbing, rewarded with lots of fun downhill, technical rocky sections, chutes and drop-offs. Good to test our bag of tricks from our mountain bike skill repertoire.

mountain biking coal scree denniston

Ziggy and Nico running the mountain bike tracks denniston

double bums denniston plateua

The history up here is amazing though. Seeing the terrain and knowing how high up we are, the working and living conditions must have been dire at times. On a good day though it is pretty magical – almost hard to beat. But then we are pretty blessed on the West Coast and have lots of places we can say that about – no bias at all. The trails we’re biking today are on the wrong side to showcase the views but you can get views out over the Tasman Sea – looking south to Westport and north to Karamea. That’s the nice thing about biking up here – there are about 9 trails in total – half on one side of the road and half on the other. You can mix and match or just stay on one side interlinking those ones. Means you can come up time and time again and do something different each time – if you want.

scrub denniston plateau

mountain biking rock face denniston

The dogs are having an absolute blast – they love this country, this is their sort of trail – not too fast and not too slow. They are great trail dogs, hardly ever (ah hmm hardly ever LOL) getting in the way – maybe just photo bombing the odd photo or two much to the chagrin of Stephen.

mountain biking denniston plateau

biking the hills of denniston

Up, down, round, up, down, round and we’re heading back up towards the start. I love this bit as we can see over the back to where we’re been – the hill we climbed and feel ready good about our day’s effort in the saddle.

Stephen on the way down denniston plateau

Back to the car, loaded up and time for home – maybe just maybe a short stop on-route for our reward….. I’ll leave it up to you to see if you can guess what it might be…….

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Together with their two faithful friends Nico and Ziggy, they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast. Check out their other blog posts or their Activities page for suggestions on things to see and do when you visit The West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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