My town: Reefton

Reefton’s main street, Broadway. PHOTOS: STEWART NIMMO
Reefton’s main street, Broadway. PHOTOS: STEWART NIMMO
As we are making great strides to see more of our own backyards, we asked people from around the South to tell us about their favourite places. After all, there is nothing like getting travel advice from a local. RNZ reporter Lois Williams returns to her favourite spot, Reefton.

What I love most about Reefton is the sun on the hills, the clean silver river, the bush walks, the beautiful old wooden buildings and the good-hearted people. There is a lot to love. It’s New Zealand the way we were.

What most people don’t know about Reefton ...

Talent abounds in this town. It’s a brilliant mix of old West Coast families and newcomers from around New Zealand and the world. In local parlance, “from away”. It’s a great dynamic. It’s a town capable of pulling together at a moment’s notice to see off a foreign rubbish company; raise funds for a sick child, or hold a hilarious mock court in a colonial courthouse to buy costumes for the local repertory.

 Hunt for antiques at the Reefton Coffin Co.
Hunt for antiques at the Reefton Coffin Co.
A great place to stay is ...

Reefton. There is an excellent camping ground, old pubs and motels. There are also some wonderful little Airbnbs, including cottages at Blacks Point on the banks of the Inangahua River. You can walk down to swim or catch a trout.

The best way to start the day is ...

Walk around the historic Powerhouse track by the river then get coffee and breakfast at the Reefton tearooms or Reef Cottage. Then amble up the main street to check out the funky second-hand and antique shops and art gallery. And maybe get a cuppa and selfie with the legendary bearded miners in their shanty on the corner.

Try a dram at Reefton Distilling Co.
Try a dram at Reefton Distilling Co.
For a great night out ...

Go to any of the local pubs and strike up a conversation. Have a game of pool or darts and a meal. Dawsons do amazing fish and chips and posher stuff, too, if that’s what you’re after. Or you could catch a film at the Community Centre Cinema. You can walk everywhere — no need to drive. On a wet day, visit the Blacks Point Museum.

Top place to walk run, cycle, tramp, exercise ...

Reefton is surrounded by historic mining trails that wind through native bush and beech forest — brilliant for mountain-biking and walking. Murray Creek is a good place to start: grab a map from the visitor information centre and you will be spoiled for choice. Serious trampers might want to do a trip to Lake Christabel in nearby Victoria Forest Park. The town has possibly the best roller park in New Zealand.

A Reefton Distilling van.
A Reefton Distilling van.
Top experience not to miss ...

Take a guided tour with the Mackay twins for the Reefton Distilling Co — best gin in the universe — and their Tayberry liqueur is to die for.

Experience you always wanted to give a go but haven’t got around to ...

Tubing or kayaking down the Inangahua into town in summer from Deep Creek swing bridge — or Blacks Point.

Best-kept secret ...

A toss-up between the swimming hole at Whirlpool Corner and the Tayberry liqueur.


  • Category: Off the beaten track but you can still get great coffee. Restful retreat but still lots to do and see.
  • Drive times: Christchurch 3hrs, Greymouth 1hr.
  • Population: 1000 permanent residents. Average temperatures (summer/ winter): 16degC/6.8degC.
  • Did you know: In 1888, Reefton was the first town in the southern hemisphere to receive electricity.

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