Denniston to Karamea

Denniston to Karamea


Just 15 minutes from downtown Westport is the village of Waimangaroa – the gateway to the historic settlement of Denniston, located 600 metres above sea level with sweeping vistas of Westport and the surrounding landscape.

Denniston was established in the 1800s by coal miners working on the Burnett’s Face, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale mines. Originally, the only access up ‘the Hill’ was the steep Bridle Path, or a heart-stopping ride in a coal wagon up the Incline. This meant that many of the early settlers came down from ‘The Hill’ as they called it only once a year – and some, particularly women, not for a decade or more.

It was this brutally hard life scratched out in mist and snow for months on end, on a high plateau with no soil which inspired the best-selling Denniston novels of Jenny Pattrick – Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal.

Today an excellent road winds up to the Incline viewing areas and walkways, and shingle roads linking the original settlements provide vehicle access across the plateau. The remnant relics, mine sites, rope roads and townships remain as an evocative reminder of one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments in which to live. The plunge from the head of the incline is a view not to be missed.

Enjoy an interactive tour in to the Banbury Mine with ‘The Denniston Experience‘.

As well as its incredible history, Denniston offers a wide range of walking tracks from a few minutes to a full day.

For those looking to pit their skill and endurance against the remarkable terrain, the Department of Conservation and local recreation groups have developed a number of mountain biking and four-wheel driving tracks.

Granity, Ngakawau & Hector

Nestled between the mountains and the sea these three villages are not to be missed. Walk the stunning Charming Creek Walkway to the beautiful Mangatini Falls; take a dip at the Hector swimming pool; take a step back in history at Granity Museum or tap your feet at the Hector Country Music Museum. Look around the shops and  local artist galleries. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the cafes, or have a quiet drink at a tavern. Watch a magnificent sunset from one of our wonderful beaches before returning to your choice of varied accommodation where the sound of the surf will lull you into a peaceful sleep.

Mokihinui & Gentle Annie

Situated either side of the Mokihinui River mouth these two settlements offer beauty, peace and tranquillity and make a great base for exploring the many beautiful mountain biking and walking tracks in the area. Fish for snapper in the sea and kahawhai, trout and whitebait (in season) in the river. Delicious food is available at the café or tavern and rest your head while listening to the ocean at a beach-front camping ground or seaside holiday home.


Visit this beauful hidden valley, gateway to the north end of the Charming Creek Walkway and the amazing Old Ghost Road. Chat to the friendly locals and see the glow worms after dark at Chasm Creek.

Karamea, NZ


Karamea has a relaxed ‘off the beaten track’ feel. The area is a natural wonderland, with the beginning or end of the famous Heaphy, Wangapeka & Karamea-Leslie Tracks and the Oparara Basin with the Honeycomb Hill Caves & Limestone Arches in the Kahurangi National Park.

Karamea is a secluded haven, situated between the mountains and the sea, on the river flats of the Karamea River and the coastal plains. Snuggled into the warm northwest corner of the South Island, it caters for the tramper and caver, birdwatcher and botanist, geologist and mountain biker, hunter and fisherman, the more adventurous kayaker and rafter… or simply those seeking a family holiday ‘away from it all.’

Karamea is the gateway to the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and also the Wangapeka and Karamea-Leslie Tracks for the more adventurous. The scenery here is simply spectacular, from the lush rainforest bristling with tall nikau palms to the largest limestone arches in the Southern Hemisphere. You could be tempted to raft an exhilarating Grade 4/5 wild river or check out a heritage cave littered with the fossilized remains of extinct birds.

History of Karamea

When R.C.Reid, a West Coast goldminer, journalist & politician passed through Karamea in the early 1880’s, he felt that the settlers had “turned the corner of their troubles” and that it would “scarce be possible to find in all New Zealand a more productive district.” Maori occupation in this area appears to have been mainly coastal. The first Europeans were early goldminers in the 1860’s. The first true settlement of the area took place in 1874 when the (then) fine harbour and sea provided the only means of contact with the outside world. The original “special settlement” was on the South Terrace, but poor soil forced the settlers down to the river valley. One side of the river (Umere) was known as the ‘Land of Promise’, the other side (Arapito) as the ‘Promised Land’.

Farming was to become a major industry, but timber, flax and gold also provided a means of living. The Murchison earthquake in 1929 caused the silting up of the harbour and cut the community’s road link for about two years.

Dairying remains a major industry in Karamea. Horticultural enterprises and a growing tourism industry also provide income, while the service industry employs approximately a quarter of the workforce.

More information can be found on the Karamea tourism website.


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