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Your guide to Reefton
All About Reefton
Reefton, a small town near the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is known for its gold mining history. The town sits at the foothills of the mountainous Victoria Forest Park in the Inangahua River valley. Its main street is lined with colorful 19th-century buildings with wood facades and covered awnings, now home to shops, tearooms, distilleries, and antiques stores selling furniture and old posters. A few streets south of downtown, you can learn about Reefton’s roots at the Bearded Mining Co., which features a mix of replica mining huts and old mining tools.
The 20-mile-long Inangahua River flows through Reefton and is popular among anglers looking to fish for brown trout. As you move outside the town center, Grey River/Māwheranui is a hotspot for whitewater rafting. Victoria Forest Park, just a few miles west of town, is threaded with hiking trails showcasing the area’s nature and history. On the Alborns Coal Mine Walk, you’ll pass thick stands of beech, moss-covered flora, abandoned coal-mining trucks, and rusted machinery.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Reefton
Reefton has consistently mild, humid weather throughout the year; note that its seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Summers, December through February, are warm and comfortable, with little sign of sweltering heat. The river water warms up this time of year, making it ideal for whitewater rafting adventures. The winter months, June to August, are cool and cloudy. You can search out nearby hot springs and natural thermal pools such as the Maruia Springs for an escape from the cold.
The spring months of October and November are usually the rainiest, where you can see waterfalls flowing at their maximum in Paparoa National Park, 90 minutes east of Reefton. The park’s one-mile Truman Track leads to a secluded beach with a dramatic waterfall that cascades into the open ocean. The fall season runs from March through May, with pleasant weather and less rain than the rest of the year.
Top things to do in Reefton
Murray Creek Track
The Murray Creek Track is a looped trail at the foot of Victoria Forest Park, just a few minutes south of Reefton. Along the six-mile trek, you will hike under a canopy of beech trees amid bright green ferns, passing through the former gold-rush towns of Inglewood and Axel. You can stop in each town to see rusted artifacts, like mine shafts and stamp batteries, that blend in with the terrain.
Waiuta is a ghost town 30 minutes south of Reefton where you can walk among the abandoned homes of a once-thriving mining town that shut down in the 1950s. Look for pictures and plaques near the buildings that show how Waiuta looked at the height of the gold rush.
Bottled Lightning Powerhouse Walk
Near downtown Reefton, the 1.2-mile Bottled Lightning Powerhouse Walk runs alongside the Inangahua River at the town’s original power station. You can follow the trail to see old hydroelectric equipment and signage that explain how the historic station kick-started Reefton’s electric system in 1888 — the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to have public street lighting.