The charming West Coast town of Reefton is an often-overlooked destination, but it shouldn't be. With plenty of history - it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere with a public supply of electricity - great outdoor activities, gold mining heritage, and a distillery, there's plenty to do on a post-lockdown getaway.
Friday: Drive in
Reefton is best accessed by driving in from Christchurch, a three-hour road trip through stunning mountain passes and forests. Stop for dinner along the way at Brew Moon, Amberley's brewpub, which dishes up delicious pizzas. An unmissable sight, Reefton's historic storefronts and hotels light up at night. You'll immediately notice the town is proud of its historic gold-mining history, evident in the mining relics scattered throughout the town.
Saturday: Outdoor exploration
Start your day with a visit to The Future Dough Co, Reefton's historic tea rooms, for a hearty feed and coffee. This institution has been feeding hungry miners since 1874, so you should have no trouble finding something that'll suit your rumbling tummy.
Fuelled up, you'll be ready to spend the day hitting the many trails in Reefton. From 15-minute loops to six-hour return tramps, it has much to offer those inclined to the outdoors. Many walks pass through gold mining relics, such as the Alborns Coal Mine Track, which takes walkers right past an old Leyland truck.
If you're looking for a quick way to cover more ground, try your hand at Reefton's many mountain bike tracks, with options ranging from Grade 2 (beginner) to Grade 5 (expert). The tougher tracks cross bridges, pass batteries, and can be linked to backcountry huts for longer stays.
For a true welcome into Reefton, book a table at the Dawson's Hotel, a restaurant and bar with a local atmosphere. With a hearty menu of pub classics, desserts, and even a few vegetarian dishes, everyone will be satisfied. After your meal, move into the bar, cosy up next to the fire, and watch a game of pool unfold in front of you over a cold pint.
Sunday: Discover an abandoned mining town
Sunday's agenda calls for a little road trip to the abandoned mining town of Waiuta. A 40-minute drive south finds you smack dab in the middle of the once self-sufficient gold and quartz mining town. The first mineshaft opened in 1908 and the isolated town quickly boomed to 600 people, with plenty of infrastructure to serve the population. In 1951 the mine collapsed and was deemed uneconomical to fix, forcing the residents to abandon the town.
Today, visitors can explore Waiuta on a self-guided tour of both the town and a few of the mines. The walks feature eerie reminders of just how bustling the town was, with abandoned swimming pools, barbershops, and bathhouses. The Snowy Battery Track leads keen trampers to a massive gold extraction plant, a 5.1km trip.
Once you've had your fix of history and the outdoors, head back into Reefton for a tasting at the Reefton Distillery. This modern distillery celebrates Reefton's rich history, its people, and the bounty that grows in the hills and mountains just outside town. Try gins, vodkas, and liqueurs made in-house, and learn about the history of the distillery. It has big plans to move to a roomier site soon, as well as to continue to invest in tourist attractions in the town's centre.
Monday: Shop like the locals
On your last day, be sure to leave time to meander through the second-hand shops, antique stores, and art galleries. You'll notice quickly that Reefton is full of friendly locals, quick to ask where you're visiting from and point you to their favourite places, walks, and restaurants.
When you're ready to head back to Christchurch, be sure to save a little time for pit stops along the way. The Lewis Pass offers stunning views and picnic spots, perfect for a quick leg stretch. Just before Christchurch, it's advisable to stop in at some of Waipara's wineries for a quick taste and an opportunity to extend your holiday vibe. The Bone Line is a fan favourite and offers a stunning outdoor space to enjoy a tasting. After trying their wide variety of wines, you can take yourself on a self-guided stroll around the vineyard, a final chance to stretch your legs before your weekend ends.
With its rich history, gorgeous surroundings, and modern attractions, Reefton makes for a perfect long weekend destination.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz