Some small out-of-the-way small towns are just plain interesting if you take to time to explore.
Wander around the streets of Reefton including Broadway, the town's main street with its pioneer and the verandah house look. It may not be New York but it’s fun. Take in the history, explore the historic buildings and imagine what it was like back in the 1870s when the promise of gold and lasting prosperity built the town. The many buildings dating back to the beginning help you recreate Reefton's past - the Surveyors House (1871), the 'Top of the Town' shops and Forsyth & Masters Store (1870s), the Courthouse (1872), the Oddfellows Hall (1872), Bank of New Zealand (1873), National Bank (1873), Catholic Church (1877), St Stephens Anglican Church (1878), Reefton School of Mines (1886), St Xavier's Convent (1897) and the Band Hall (1901).
Reefton is also rich in rail heritage with the world's only Single 'R' Class Fairlie locomotive in its original form sitting right in the heart of town. Just out of town on SH 69 towards Westport, the Reefton railway precinct retains its 19th Century railway station (1892) and the country's only remaining single row two-stall steam engine shed (1892), both former Midland Railway Company buildings.
The Old Miners Hut
Bringing history further to life are the bearded miners at the Miners Hut. This replica hut depicting 1860s style housing is made of native cedar slabs and set amongst native plantings right in the heart of town on Broadway.
Gavin, Peter and Geoff are 'in residence' all year, and welcome visitors in to learn how a miner lived in the 19th century when the promise of gold lured thousands of prospectors to the area.
You can sit in front of the fire, enjoy a cup of tea, watch pieces of iron and steel being shaped on the blacksmith forge or try your hand at gold panning where flakes of gold may be found.
Reefton School of Mines
Opened in 1886 it was the school where miners learnt their trade and where at times local school children came to learn about chemistry as part of their schooling. The simple gabled building holds an extensive technical book collection, a wonderful mineral collection sourced from places around the world, and out the back in the assay room crucibles wait on the shelves for their next charge of gold.
Entry is by arrangement through the Reefton Visitor Centre. Entry is $2.00/adult; children are free.
Bev's Doll & Toy Museum
A wonderful collection of antique dolls, toys, prams and teddy bears - there's just thousands and thousands living in Bev and Lionel's house. A fascinating visit for those who wish to take a walk down memory lane and remember their childhood years.
Visits are by arrangement through the Reefton Visitor Centre or by contacting Bev Donaldson, 03 732 8597. Entry is a gold coin donation.
Heritage Reefton & Blacks Point Tours
The Reefton Historic Trust Board offers historic tours around Reefton and nearby Blacks Point. Take the opportunity to wander around the town's historic area with entertaining and informative guides, delve into the history and hear some of the stories from the ancestors of today's Reefton residents. Starting with a tour of the Reefton visitor and interpretive centre, you can visit many of Reefton’s historic public buildings including the School of Mines, Oddfellows Hall, Reefton Courthouse and St Xaviers Anglican Church, browse in some of the 1870s shops that have been carefully adapted for today's use, and enjoy a cup of billy tea and girdle scones with the Bearded Miners.
The tour can extend to the Cornish settlement of Blacks Point just 2 km east of Reefton. In Blacks Point you can visit the Blacks Point Museum, the Gold Stamper Battery which was used to process the ore containing the gold, wander past some of the lovely miners cottage and cottage gardens, and along the 15 minute Golden Fleece Walk through beautiful beech forest accompanied by tui and bellbird.
Specific tours can be developed to meet your interest or time available. The route and tour time for the Heritage Reefton / Heritage Reefton & Blacks Point tour can range from half an hour through to two and a half hours for the full Reefton and Blacks Point experience.
Tours include morning or afternoon tea with the Bearded Miners. Catering for morning and afternoon tea, lunch, etc is also available.
Enquiries and bookings can be made by contacting Ronnie Buckman or Paul Thomas
03 732 8633 or 0274 424 777, email firstname.lastname@example.org or the Reefton Visitor Centre.
A 'Historic Reefton' walking brochure is available from the Reefton Visitor Centre which allows visitors to walk independently around Reefton guided by the brochure route guide.
So don’t rush on through the small community of Reefton located in the heartland of the South Island on the crossroads of route 7 and route 69…