The picturesque town of Reefton, located in New Zealand’s West Coast region has all the rustic charm and historic small-town appeal that one could ask for. Little wonder it attracted one of its most notable residents, Dress-Smart co-founder and arguably New Zealand’s most travelled man, John Bougen.
Bougen, a Kiwi businessman who made his fortune founding Dress-Smart, the South Island’s sole outlet centre, has invested his time, energy and financial resources into the former gold mining frontier town of Reefton. A man with a mission, Bougen has bought the town’s old school, art gallery and sportsground, as well as a storefront. Not only that, he is also converting the old state mines office into holiday accommodation as well as a New York-style loft in an effort to boost tourism.
What makes a man who has travelled the span of the globe want to call this small West Coast town home, you may ask?
Drawn to the Light
Reefton has a tremendous amount of historic charm and is affectionately referred to as “The Town of Light” because it was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to light up their streets with a public supply of electricity. There’s something undeniably captivating about the place, considering a man such as Bougen who once travelled to 191 countries in a single journey has decided to make it home.
Boasting a history as rich as the town’s gold-bearing quartz reefs that were first discovered in the late 1860’s, Reefton is a great destination for those who are looking for a getaway that’s flush with local heritage and captivating natural scenery.
The Man behind Reefton’s Makeover
Despite the gold rush having come and gone, the town has retained its glittering charm with its beautifully restored heritage buildings, much with the help of John Bougen.
Described as a one-man-whirlwind by Buller mayor, Gary Howard, John Bougen has seen and done more than most. A notable entrepreneur, photographer, author and avid philanthropist, Bougen is a man of many talents and interests. After his marriage to Castle Hill station owner, Christine Fernyhough ended, Bougen moved to Reefton after becoming besotted with the town’s charming historic appeal and friendly residents.
Not one to shy away from getting his hands dirty, Bougen has been instrumental in breathing new life into this old gold mining town by restoring heritage buildings, beautifying common-use areas and putting up flags on the main street. He’s even been known to mow resident’s lawns with his very own ride-on mower.
Reefton’s Glittering Appeal
Although the town’s rich history is certainly one of its unique selling points that make it a destination with a difference, this quaint West Coast hamlet has so much more to offer.
Outdoor enthusiasts are spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of hiking and mountain biking trails that can be enjoyed in the Victoria Conservation Park which surrounds Reefton. The area is also known for its excellent freshwater fishing, a particular favourite amongst trout fishermen.
Those who want to immerse themselves in days gone by can take a fascinating walk along the heritage trail which showcases a few of the town’s historic buildings, shedding light on its colourful mining history.
Whether you’re trying your hand at gold panning, enjoying a cup of tea with the Bearded Miners or donning your waders to catch some trout- the charm and quaint allure of Reefton is bound to leave a lasting impression with you.