Elisabeth Easther strikes gold for visitors to the West Coast's former mining town.

Origin of name:

Believed to be a corruption of the Maori words "kohe mara" meaning the blossom of tataramoa, AKA bush lawyer.

Say it like you mean it: Locals pronounce this little hamlet's name with the stress on the middle syllable, not the first as we do with the root vegetable, making it Ku-MAR-a. Just so you know.

Population: 309, which is quite a dip from the 1877 population of 4220.


Town mascot: Goldfields Sam is the school's mascot, an iconic old gold miner who also graces the town's entrance signs.

Back in the day: Kumara was one of the last West Coast towns to experience a gold rush. In 1874, two miners decided to set up an illicit whiskey still and, while clearing the site they discovered coarse nugget gold in the sandy gravel. Managing to keep their find a secret until 1876, word eventually leaked out and the rush began - or so the story goes. Folklore suggests the discovery was made on the terrace opposite Richard Seddon's place.

Famous locals: Richard John Seddon, an MP from 1879, was elected Premier (Prime Minister) in 1893, a role he held for 13 years. To this day, "King Dick" is New Zealand's longest serving premier.

Cherished local: The town's postie is a much-loved identity who helps keep the community running, not just by delivering the post. This gem of a woman even lends a hand maintaining the walkways with her mower and weed whacker.

Don't forget: When you see Kumara locals out wandering, be sure to stop for a chat as you'll be almost guaranteed a good yarn.

Best website: kumarawestcoast.org. Source of pride: The Kumara Residents' Trust won the Supreme Award at the Trustpower Westland Community Awards last year for the outstanding work they've done around the town, including historic panels, walkways, street gardens and the Lions' playground upgrade.

Kumara kudos: The Theatre Royal Hotel is one of the finest, most magnificent and quirkiest hotels I have ever stayed in. Not just a hotel, this former theatre used to be a house of ill repute - so much character.

Event #1: The Kumara Races are an annual event, and this coming January they'll celebrate 130 years of giddy-up frivolity. Hosted by the Kumara Racing Club, the feature race is the Kumara Gold Nuggets - along with prizemoney, the winning owners receive genuine gold nuggets.

Event #2: The annual Kumara Gala Day, held every November - it's on the 21st this year - is hosted by the Kumara Residents Trust, bringing the people together to celebrate, have fun and fundraise for community projects. Featuring stalls, scenic helicopter rides, an auction, and a classic bicycle race - fruity fun.

The Kumara Racing Club has been hosting the annual Kumara Races for coming up 130 years. Photo / NZME
The Kumara Racing Club has been hosting the annual Kumara Races for coming up 130 years. Photo / NZME

Best park:

The sports ground has changing rooms, toilets, even a kitchen and plenty of space to run around. This is where Kumara ignites its Guy Fawkes event.

Best playground: The Lions' Park has an appealing playground with things for jumping, climbing, swinging and sliding and even tunnels. Be sure to check out the beautiful riverstone drinking fountain.

Best walks: There are a fair few short walks around these parts. One particular favourite is Londonderry Rock: this huge boulder couldn't be moved during the goldrush and today it's a sight to behold. The walk starts on the outskirts of Kumara heading west - turn off at the Trustpower water race. Or take the short walk to the historic swimming baths; if you're really quiet you can almost hear the squeals of kids from days gone by.

Best view: Walk up Taylors Hill, climb for 10 minutes then gaze out over Taramakau River on one side, and Kumara township on the other. Breathtaking.

Best place to pull over: The Theatre Royal Hotel is a show-stopper. This stunning hotel has been restored to her former glory. It's like being transported to another era, but super comfortable and ornate at the same time. You'll be as snug as a bug there on a rainy West Coast night.

Best swim: Grab your togs and head for the sheltered Kapitea Reservoir.

Top shop: Kumara General Store and Café have been providing this harmonious community with groceries, a postal service, fabulous coffee, pies and ice cream for over 100 years. A haven for locals and travellers alike.

Best fishing: Taramakau River is a favourite with locals and holidaymakers - fly fish for trout or from a boat.

Cream of the coffee: The Honey Bee Cafe at Kumara Junction, 7km from Kumara towards the beach is a real buzz. They have an actual live hive on one wall, plus they let motor homes park free in their carpark. They do a monthly market there too.

Baked goods: The local bakers come out to play on Gala Day at the Kumara Memorial Hall, good old-fashioned baking at its yummiest.

Best food: At the Theatre Royal Hotel, enjoy a pinot by the fire, venison pie, seafood chowder and locally caught whitebait when they're running - you'll never want to leave.

Best town cycling: The Eight Mile Block Circuit is a lovely loop around the township and not too demanding.

Best adventure: The new West Coast Cycle Trail is outstanding and follows rugged shores, rivers, lakes, and passes through forests of towering trees. Recommended as a four-day ride if you want to do it from end to end.

Nice arts: Visit Carey Dillon's art gallery; this wood-turner turned photographer shoots beautiful bush scenes.

Watch for wildlife: If you're a hunter, you can put deer and pigs in your sights. If you prefer to watch, the bush and township are bustling with weka (don't leave your lunch lying around). And be sure to check out the glow-worm dell behind the Theatre Royal Hotel - illuminating.

Safety warnings: Mind the main road, it is a state highway and unfortunately some drivers don't slow down.

The verdict: Plenty of life in the old town yet.

Thanks to the combined efforts of some especially delightful Kumara residents.