Historic Reefton – the Little Big Town

Reefton - town of light on an autumn day

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.

Reefton - town of light at night

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.

Jan and Stephens caravan

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……

Reefton - bottled powerhouse walk with river views

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.

Reefton - historic railway house

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.

Reefton - Larry's creek track green green green

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).

Reefton - Larry's creek track and historic Robbie Engine

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.

Reefton - Murrays Creek track

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.

Reefton - Murrays Creek track for biking and hikingReefton - Murrays Creek track for hiking and biking

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.

Reefton - relaxing with the caravan and dogs

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.

Posted in cycling, Mountain biking New Zealand, Nature, NZ history, outdoors, photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Motukiekie Beach and Rocks – Photography Heaven

Motukiekie Beach and Rocks seems to be becoming world-renowned.  It used to be a little secret only known by dedicated West Coasters and their friends – and maybe their family, and maybe some of their friends – and maybe some of their family…… you see where I’m heading with this.  Word is out!

Ziggy and Dean at Motukiekie beach out on the rocks

Stephen headed down recently with a photographer friend of ours.  Tides were perfect and Dean hadn’t been down on sunset before to see what all the fuss was about.

starfish on the rocks at Motukiekie beach Great Coast Road

rocky shoreline and cliffs motukiekie beach

Well there is a lot of fuss.  The Motukiekie Beach has to be one of the premiere spots to catch the sunset.  Made famous internationally thanks to an award-winning photo in National Geographic, everyone and anyone now seems to want to head on down and chance their arm at getting that very same photo.  Personally I don’t understand the concept of wanting the same photo when there is so much opportunity to capture your own unique take on the scenery.  It’s not like the light is going to be exactly the same or the sun in exactly the same spot or the tide be out exactly the same distance – is it, or is that just me……

photographers at Motukiekie beach on sunset

Anyway I digress as I often tend to do.  This latest excursion for Stephen was no exception regarding the number of people down on the beach.  Here on the West Coast we are more used to having either the beach to ourselves or just sharing with the odd couple.  Not Motukiekie though, not in the busy tourist season anyway.

photographers out on the rocks at sunset motukiekie beach

In all fairness it is nice to see people enjoying our beautiful West Coast scenery and wanting to capture it and not just take selfies – oh what’s with that phenomenon?!!

photographers photographing photographer at motukiekie beach and rocks on sunset

The majority of the visitors on the beach seemed to be from Asia and they were having a ball.  Most of all though I think they enjoyed watching Stephen and Dean.  They seemed to find what they were doing most fascinating.  Stephen got many a photo of them all taking their beach and sunset photos but also the odd photo or two of them taking photos of Stephen and Dean – very humorous.

motukiekie beach on sunsetMotukiekie beach and rocks as the tide comes in

Once the sun went down the beach was soon deserted again.  Every one seems to know  the “golden hour”  of the sunset but the same can’t be said of the “blue hour” – the hour after the sun has actually gone down.  That can be when you can get your best photos and tonight was no exception.  It was worth staying on and waiting it out.  The boys were well rewarded – but then did have to make a run for it with the incoming tide.  All in all though a successful couple of hours at the Motukiekie beach for sunset.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  A paradise for photographers Breakers is a great place to spend a few days and make the most of the location.

 

 

Posted in beaches, dogs, German Shorthaired Pointer, Nature, outdoors, photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

Growing up as a kid down in Southland was all about farming – rolling green hills dotted with sheep.  In the winter our homes were generally heated with wood and coal.  Never gave a thought to where that coal came from until I moved to the West Coast.

Nine Mile Valley coal relics

The history to be found on coal mining is in abundance on the West Coast – much of it hidden deep in the bush slowly but inevitably being reclaimed by nature.  Some of New Zealand’s first coal mines were established on the West Coast.

guests in a sea of green in the Nine Mile valley of coal

We are lucky to have access to some of this history right across the road from Breakers.  To say there is a track in the bush might be pushing it a bit – certainly not a normal well-formed DOC track.  Is is more of a trail through the bush, under the bush and over the bush leading you through some magnificent ancient native forest including our own Nikau Palm trees and loads of towering Rimu trees meandering up high into the tree line following a little creek before coming to some coal mining relics slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.

guests walking the Nine Mile valley of coal

Guests exploring Nine Mile Valley of Coal with Ziggy

Recently we had some lovely German guests Claus and Monika, staying with us that were interested in history so what better place to share with them.  With Stephen and Ziggy as  their guides they headed off to be immersed in a sea of green and gold.

entrance history coal mine nine mile valley walk

Nine Mile valley coal mines

The Nine Mile Valley hides a wealth of coal history including the school of mines – about three small mines we think were used as a training ground for miners back in the early 1900s.  You can still see the main drives and their return in the sides of the mountain among the undergrowth.  They definitely have an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding them.

negotiating river of gold nine mile valley walk

emerced in a sea of green nine mile valley walk

After some delicate foot placement and wonderful balancing acts on the part of Claus and Monika the history lesson for the day is over and the intrepid explorers return back down to civilisation as we know it.

Sea of gold in the Nine Mile valley of coal

It is always a pleasure to share our backyard with our guests and share the beauty and the history of this region that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by day in and day out.  To see the smile on their faces upon their return and hear their enthusiasm as they relived their explorations was a pure delight.

Discovering our history – not just West Coast but New Zealand history is exciting and rewarding but even more rewarding is having the opportunity of sharing it with our guests.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring their “backyard” – nature’s playground.

Posted in Nature, NZ flora and fauna, NZ history, outdoors, photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Dreams Come True – Surfing Nine Mile, West Coast

surf break nine mile beach great coast road greymouth

Recently we had some guests stay – Bo and Harriett from South Carolina in the USA.  Bo’s dream had always been to surf in New Zealand.  Happy to say that on their recent stay with us that dream became a reality.

surfs up nine mile beach great coast road greymouth

Bo and I had correspondence before their stay so he could find out the possibility of hiring a surfboard in Greymouth.  Living in a small town you are never really sure of the facilities but after a bit of investigation we were pleased to discover our little town of Greymouth could come to the party in the form of Westside Surf & Street – our local surf shop.  Hours of opening were perfect as Bo was able to pick up a board at 8am in the morning and not have to return it until late the following morning as they departed for their next destination.  This gave Bo the whole day to monitor the surf conditions and head out to catch a wave or two.

surfing the waves at Nine Mile beach West Coast

surfing the Nine Mile surf break Great Coast Road West Coast

Catch a wave or two is exactly what he did.  It wasn’t the best surfing conditions but when you have a dream you have to take what you can get.  Bo made the most of the opportunity.

surfing Nine Mile Great Coast Road West Coast

Best thing was seeing Bo when he came back up off the beach – with a grin from ear to ear.  His life-long dream to surf in New Zealand had become a reality.

Personally this would have to be a highlight for me too – so rewarding seeing the joy on our guests faces – usually that is just down to our beachfront location and sea views but in this instance it was seeing Bo and Harriett so happy spending a day watching and playing in the NZ surf.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  Beachfront property affording uninterrupted sea views and of course plenty of West Coast hospitality.

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Mountain Magic Atop Mt George

Whenever we do this hike there are two songs that jump straight into my head

hiking the rockface to top of Mt George with sea viewsKnocking on heavens door and sitting on top of the world.

enjoying the views Mt Geoge to Motukeikei Rocks and Tasman SeaSeriously the views from Mt George are boarding on ridiculous.  With some light whispering clouds off on the horizon we can see in all directions.  Friends asked if we could see Australia from up there – if it wasn’t for the haze on the horizon I’d just about say yes – ok so it is a little further away than that but seriously.  I could have sat here all day and soaked it up.

admiring the views from Mt George hike out to Tasman Sea I have to admit there was a lot of huffing and puffing on this expedition – mmm so expedition might be pushing it, but given my current lack of fitness it felt like an expedition.  Turned out we were hiking quite quickly – thank you husband for those kind words of encouragement……

descending the rockface of Mt George with sea viewsThe good thing about hiking with my lovely hubby (obviously there are many good things but this one is important!) is that it involves lots of photo stops.  Well I’d like to think that is the reason we are stopping so often.  Actually it is imperative you stop on the way up to look back and capture the views.  Well not even look back – look all around – we are completely surrounded by ridiculous views.

great coast road views from mt georgeStephen is trying out a new camera lens and it is great as we can zoom in and really capture the essence of the hike for you all to see with us.  Perhaps we should approach the camper van company on this one – they could use it for their marketing. Mt cook views from Mt GeorgeThe Great Coast Road has been named one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.  When you’re climbing Mt George it is not hard to see why, glorious coastline on one side, rugged native bush on the other and then there are those views to Mt Cook.   Insane on a day like today.  Actually it is a spectacular drive no matter what the weather but sitting atop Mt George in the sunshine with little or no wind we really do feel like we’re sitting on top of the world and knocking on heavens door.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the many wonders of the West Coast and sharing their adventures and discoveries.

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Carters Beach to Cape Foulwind – Westport

Hello blogging my old friend, I’ve come back to write again,

Share the story of our adventures, the sights we see – the discoveries.

Because sharing, enables you to enjoy the adventure too

That’s why we’re here, so here’s to the end

of the sound of silence……..

Jan and the dogs enjoying the views and sunshine Carters Beach Westport

Hopefully you all figured where I was heading with that and got the tune going in your head thanks to Simon and Garfunkel.  My blogging has been very remiss of late and I could bore you with the excuses but instead I’ll share  one of our recent walks, the stunning Carters Beach.

Carters Beach is just on the outskirts of Westport.  Little seaside suburb with possibly the most under-rated beach in New Zealand.  Miles and miles of sandy beach practically for as far as the eye can see.  We had a lovely low tide so decided to walk south towards Cape Foulwind.

Carters beach with Holcim Cement works in the background

The now disused Holcim Cement works factory loomed in the distance and we knew the cliffs of Cape Foulwind were just beyond.

We had a near perfect summer’s day – which like my blogging had been very lacking this summer.  There was no excuse not to go for a nice long walk.  Nice long walk is exactly what it is.  Not sure on the distance but we’re guessing it was about 10kms each way.

Boys enjoying a walk along Carters Beach, Westport

This was one flat sandy beach that seemed like it just went on and on.  The boys were loving it, flitting along the edge of the water line helping keep themselves cool.  I think just like us they enjoyed the feel of the sand under their paws rather than the usual stoney beaches from home.

Rocks and cliffs Cape Foulwind end Carters Beach Westport

We walked and walked and walked until finally we reached the Cape Foulwind end and our flat sandy beach was drawfed by towering cliffs and round boulders covered in carpets of green moss scattering the shoreline.

Jan and the dogs enjoying lunch on a log Carters Beach Westport

As much as we would have liked to have continued we still had to walk all the way back.  Thankfully we had packed a lunch and after a quick share….. yes I did share, we made our way back to where it all began.

Ziggy running along sand at Carters Beach Westport

Stephen treated himself to a quick dip in the sea and then the boys were racing to see who would get back to the car first – no guessing to who had the most energy, despite just having walked (and run) for three hours straight.  I can categorically confirm we all slept like babies.

If you’re ever up Westport way – even just passing through, make sure you stop and check out Carters Beach – it is nothing short of beautiful.

We’re moving our blog soon under a new format direct to our website and via MailChimp.  Hope you’ll all come along for ride.  Watch this space, more info to follow – hopefully soon.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They love nothing more than getting out and exploring this beautiful region they are lucky enough to call home.

Posted in beaches, Dalmatian, dogs, German Shorthaired Pointer, Nature, outdoors, photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

West Coast Wilderness Trail – Greymouth to Taramakau River

Possibly one of the greatest recent additions and assets for Greymouth and the Grey District would have to be the West Coast Wilderness Trail.  The trail starts in Greymouth and goes right through to Ross in the south – some 136odd kms.

biking-taramakau-road-rail-bridge-west-coast-wilderness-trail

An easy day trip is Greymouth through to the road/rail bridge at Taramakau River,  our very own little “golden gate” bridge.  Not quite the same grandeur but we love it just the same and it is as iconic to this area as the Golden Gate bridge is to San Francisco.

Part of me had been dreading getting back on the bike – it had been about 5 weeks since my last outing and the longer I left it – well you know how it goes.  Anyway start to the day was stunning – there was heavy rain overnight and it was supposed to continue for at least another day but, unusually the weatherman got the forecast for us wrong (unusually yeah right!) and I said to Stephen let’s go for a ride – bike from Greymouth out to the bridge and back and get some photos.  He said sure thing, so we loaded up and headed into town.

biking-greymouth-floodwall

The trail starts opposite the I-Site on the floodwall overlooking the Grey River.  Mawhera is the original name of the Grey River – our Maori name meaning bright running waters and wide open river mouth.  It was changed to Grey River and the town to Greymouth in honor of Sir George Grey then Governor of New Zealand in the 1800s.  Little history lesson there for you – being called Greymouth has NOTHING to do with the weather……

biking-floodwall-past-miners-memorial-greymouth

The trail follows the river along the floodwall, past the beautiful Miners memorial in commemoration of the many miners that have lost their lives on the West Coast.

biking-along-fishermans-wharf-greymouth

biking-along-greymouth-lagoon

Continuing on we ride through the fisherman’s wharf, passing the lineup of fishing boats settled in safely to wait out the last of the stormy weather, and carry on along the lagoon edge to meet the sea.

biking-west-coast-wilderness-trail-sea-edge

biking-sea-front-of-greymouth-west-coast-wilderness-trail

We now follow the coast line for about 9kms, meandering along behind the sand dunes.  You can hear the roar of the sea – it was nearly high tide with a good swell so although we couldn’t always see the sea, we could certainly always hear it.

biking-along-playground-greymouth

biking-along-edge-tasman-sea-west-coast-wilderness-trail

This section – right through to Paroa is ever-changing, skirting not just the sea edge but also the little subdivisions of Greymouth so you get a real birds-eye look at just how pretty the town is and the facilities available to the community – playgrounds, rugby fields etc – not to mention our huge airport…… – that’s the runway I’m biking beside lol.

enjoying-views-tasman-sea-west-coast-wilderness-trail

Did I mention Greymouth is right by the sea!  How’s this for a view.  We had a good day but on a super clear day you can see the expanse of the Southern Alps, all the way down including Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.

biking-through-the-native-forest-greymouth-west-coast-wilderness-trail

Once we reach Paroa the trail moves away from the sea and edges between the main highway and the Saltwater Lagoon and New River on the other side.  It passes through a couple of native bush sections and the bird song is almost as loud as the roaring sea was.  I guess after the rain there are lots of worms and insects for the birds to feed on – that and all the new spring growth on the trees and flowers and with the sun shining – yep they had plenty of reasons to be chirping away.

enjoying-the-views-taramakau-river-west-coast-wilderness-trail

Eventually we make it to the bridge – standing proud over the Taramakau River.  We take a minute to have a nibble and soak up the views before it is time to turn around and head back to town. All in all a great couple of hours on the bike – 36 kms in all so not a bad effort and my legs aren’t complaining either….. yet…… probably nothing that a big slab of chocolate cake or the such like wouldn’t fix……

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out walking and biking and seeing the sights of the Grey District.

 

 

 

Posted in Mountain biking New Zealand, Nature, outdoors, photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments