There is nothing like finding hidden treasures in your own backyard. For us this is exploring the wonders of the West Coast and discovering new trails and hidden history.
Rain was forecast for the day but the skies were clearing so we jumped in the car with the dogs and threw our rain coats in just in case and headed towards Goldsborough. First stop was lunch at the Honey Junction Cafe.
Fantastic lunch stop. Such a lovely afternoon so we sat out on the deck in the sunshine and enjoyed corn fritter stacks and a venison burger topped off with a berry smoothie. mmmm, now what were we planning again this afternoon – a nap or a walk…..
Honey Junction cafe is at Kumara Junction – the junction for Christchurch, Hokitika and Greymouth. Goldsborough is in the back of Kumara – back road between Kumara and Hokitika. We decided to head to Kumara and access it from that end. As we headed out of Kumara there was a sign for the Historic Swimming Baths. We have driven past here on numerous occasions and never stopped but thought today would be the day for a look.
This was a fantastic little discovery. The swimming baths were built in the 1930s using the rocks from the gold sluicing and the water came from the Dillmanston water supply. In the 1930s this was the largest swimming complex in NZ. Now all that remains are the rock exterior and there is a little track that takes you around the swimming baths so you can get a feel for what it was like. There is the main pool area that used to even have a diving board and two “wings” that were for the younger children. It is amazing – Stephen and I comment that this is certainly where we would have spent all our time growing up as kids. Unfortunately in the 1940s the pool was closed down when it lost its water supply.
We headed back along the bush track to the car but then commented that neither of us had ever visited the “Londonderry Rock” that was signposted for just a little further down the main highway. We put the dogs on their leads and walked the short road section. From the highway, a shingle road turns right to follow a canal and soon turns off to a car park. From here, an easy track leads us through rich, mossy forest between large piles of tailing stones. This area was mined for gold intensively in the late 1800s.
Hard to believe how “soft” we have become as these tailings were all moved here by hand. I’d be lucky to pick up one!
The rock itself is about 8 metres high and estimated to weigh between 3000 and 4000 tonnes. It is a glacial erratic, carried here by the Taramakau Glacier and deposited when the glacier retreated. The rock was dislodged by sluicing around 1880 and fell with a thud that shook Kumara and stopped the local post office clock. This huge boulder was too large for the miners to move or break.
Onroute we passed another sign for a bush walk back to Kumara so heading back to the car we decided we might as well take the time and explore this track as well. Again we were walking between large piles of tailings – they were everywhere and you could see the huge piles for as far as the eye could see. Much of it was getting well overgrown, nature reclaiming the land, but it is amazing to think how much effort went into moving all this rock. We don’t head far down this trail although it was signposted as only a 20 minute walk to Kumara, it is a bit mucky in places so we decide to head back as Stephen also spotted another trail on the other side of the main highway from the car that he’d like to explore.
Heading back out the way we came in, we come across a family out walking and making the most of the sunshine. Dad and the son are up on top of some of the tailings and there are smiles all round – they are certainly enjoying their afternoon outdoors.
The next trail is back towards Kumara on the other side of the road – a small sign points the way for the Payne track. This looks to be an old tram line and again is now overgrown and surrounded by the native bush. It is a lovely trail and Stephen makes the comment that linking all these tracks together you could make a great little mountain bike loop.
Well we didn’t make it to Goldsborough this time – no need as there was so much to explore in Kumara. Finding these hidden gems of walks is always so rewarding and we headed for home quite content in the knowledge we had spent another afternoon in the sun exploring more of the wonders and history that is the West Coast of New Zealand.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Punakaiki Coastline, 14kms north of Greymouth. For accommodation and activity advice for the West Coast check out their website – you’ll find them only too happy to help.