Charming Creek Walkway

Charming Creek walkway and historic coal mining relics, West Coast, NZ

The West Coast region of New Zealand is absolutely oozing in history.  The main economies of the late 1800s and early 1900s were coal mining, gold mining and sawmilling and the remnants of these are left in our bush for future generations to discover and hopefully appreciate – I know we certainly do.

Charming Creek walkway with historic coal mining relics, West Coast, NZ

Today we are off to explore the Charming Creek Walkway in the Northern Buller region of the West Coast.  The sun is out, temperatures are warming up for the day and finally after 4 weeks (yes four!!) Stephen and I have said our farewells to the flu, our energy levels are back up and we’re ready to make the most of it.

The Charming Creek Walkway is a historic tram track running from Seddonville back to the south to Ngakawau about 35kms north of Westport.  This is a 3 hour walk each way – but we’re taking the easy way today or at least the shorter way and doing it by mountain bike – and yes, in case you are wondering, it is called a walkway but mountain biking is permitted!

Historic features Charming Creek Walkway, West Coast, NZ

Fantastic scenery and history come together on this old railway formation.   There are heaps of reminders along the way of the past mining and milling operations from the early 1900’s.  The trail has an abundance of historic features including tunnels, sawmill and coal mine remains.  It is a combination of a historian and geologists dream!

Following the creek, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

West Coast native bush, Charming Creek walkway, NZ

West Coast native bush or is it Jurasic Park – Charming Creek walkway, NZ

At Seddonville we leave the coastal drive and head inland along a gravel road that winds it way up the valley for around 8kms before arriving at the start of the track.  We are straight into history with building foundations, a mine entrance and other relics.  For most of the ride we will be bumping along over the timber sleepers from the railway and even some of the actual railway lines.  While I say an easy ride is in store we do have to be careful of any railway tracks as they can be very slippery and it is easy to go for a slide – your bike going one way and you going the opposite!  There are also gaping holes between some of the sleepers where they have rotted away over time so care is still needed.

Our ride starts with a short rocky downhill – a diversion from a tunnel that has become too unsafe to pass through.  It is only a short detour and soon we are back on the main track and following the tram line.  We’re doing this as an in and an out the same way so it is a very slight downhill to the Ngakawau end before coming back with a slight incline.

Historic sawmill site, Charming Creek Walkway, West Coast ,NZ

History in the bush, Charming creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

We’re following along the bank of the Charming creek before passing through an old cut over and farm paddocks.  There is a sawmill steam engine and other relics under cover at the mill site, with trolleys and a steam log hauler nearby.  Interpretation panels are also undercover explaining the history of this part of the trail and photos so you can appreciate the scale of the operation in its day.

Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

crossing the swing bridge, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

The track continues on through bush lined corridors, past rapids foaming with water in the Ngakawau Gorge, and over the historic railway formations.  As mentioned there are sharp and rusty metal remnants along the track so there is the odd occasion where we have to dismount to navigate a safer passage.  The bush is so beautiful in here – heaps of new growth with rimu trees and miro and loads of beech trees. There is a swing bridge across the creek that we can ride over and the track continues through the Ngakawau Gorge and passes under crags and eventually through a tunnel.  This is quite freaky – when you’re trying to ride it anyway.  Even the dogs are taking their time – quite an uncanny feeling not being able to see where you are going.

tram-line, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

Out of the tunnel, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

Eventually you pop out the other side – none the worse for wear thankfully!  Across the gorge is the magnificent Mangatini Falls and the view is only slightly greater than the sound of the power of the water.  There is a suspension bridge to cross and a sign to advise dismounting is recommended for cyclists – think we’ll follow that little tip this time.

Beauty that is Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

bridge over rockfall, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

The trail then continues on the other side of the creek, still gorge like, so narrow track hard against the sheet rock with the raging waters below.  There are a couple more bridges over rockfall/waterfalls before we get to our turnaround point as the trail soon heads down a number of stairs to the start/finish of the track at Ngakawau.  We decide not to head down here – we’d have to carry out bikes down only to have to carry them back up again!

enjoying the scenery, Charming Creek Walkway, West Coast, NZ

West Coast history, Charming Creek walkway, West Coast, NZ

The only way out for us is the same way we came in…….now just to remind you, ever so slightly downhill coming south so slight incline to get out……. that is my excuse for why the trip out was so much slower than the trip in!  It isn’t hard though just very pedally – but that’s what happens when you ride a bike I suppose, you pedal.  Actually it isn’t too bad, it has been four weeks since I was last on my bike though so my legs are feeling the workout.  The scenery more than makes up for it – it is very much worthwhile.  So peaceful in the bush – hard to believe it used to be such a hive of activity.  I love the West Coast, I love how all this history is just sitting here, waiting for us all to come and explore.

If you’ve biked or walked the Charming Creek walkway before it is now heaps better.  DOC with the help of volunteers from MBC have been working on the track, laying gravel and making some of the hike a bike sections more rideable so go and check it out.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Punakaiki Coastline and are, as often as possible, out exploring.  Check out their website for other rides and walks on the West Coast.


About coastingnz

Jan and Stephen live on the Punakaiki coastline, north of Greymouth on the West Coast, NZ and run Breakers Boutique Accommodation. They both enjoy the outdoors and are passionate about things to see and do on the West Coast and would like to share their experiences with you.
This entry was posted in cycling, dogs, Mountain biking New Zealand, Nature, NZ flora and fauna, NZ history, outdoors, photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Charming Creek Walkway

  1. Thats a nice post.we will come back again’s a Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it. post.

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