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.

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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 Nature, NZ flora and fauna, NZ history, outdoors, photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

  1. Pat says:

    I’ve just been revisiting the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. I am so amazed at the scenery they filmed in those movies. The mining country may have been a little difficult for them to film in, but I’m pretty sure they filmed some of it in your wonderful mountains. I would love to visit your mining country. I love the lushness of the vegetation. You must be competing with Ireland on shades of green! 🙂

    • coastingnz says:

      Pat you really should come sometime – you’ll be in heaven. Seeing all the places from your favourite movies – and more. it is certainly something I never get sick of the shades of green when doing a bush walk.

  2. Mama says:

    Never tire of seeing these fabulous places right at your ‘back door’ 💞

  3. Pat says:

    You’ve been in my thoughts. Hope the cyclone isn’t causing you any major problems.

    • coastingnz says:

      Thanks Pat – rain has arrived but I think we’ve been forgotten about with all the media, they were focusing on the North Island but boy did we get some rain overnight. Our room is just starting to flood a little but hopefully won’t be too bad. Rain supposed to ease today….. fingers crossed.

  4. I have a question and hope you can help me. My husband and I are finally starting to plan a trip to New Zealand in 2018. We are having an argument about when is the best time to travel there (South Island). We don’t want it to be too hot or too cold. I know we’re asking a lot but we are hoping you can give us some advice. Thanks. maralee808@mac.com

    • coastingnz says:

      Whoop whoop – that is great news. Happy to help out. Will email you direct – probably in the next day or two. (friends visiting at the moment on top of normal guests 🙂 ) Cheers Jan

  5. Loving those massive ferns

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