The town itself became established about 1870 and immediately became an entrepreneurial and prosperous place.
With mining came technology and innovation, and in August 1888 Reefton became the first place in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere to have a public supply of electricity, even before the fashionable suburbs of London and New York.
Wander around the streets of Reefton including Broadway, the town's main street with its pioneer and verandahed look. Take in the history, explore the historic buildings and imagine what it was like back in the 1870s when the promise of gold and lasting prosperity built the town. The many buildings dating back to the beginning help you recreate Reefton's past - the Surveyors House (1871), the 'Top of the Town' shops and Forsyth & Masters Store (1870s), the Courthouse (1873), the Oddfellows Hall (1872), Bank of New Zealand (1873), National Bank (1873), Catholic Church (1877), St Stephens Anglican Church (1878), Reefton School of Mines (1886) and the Band Hall (1901).
Reefton is also rich in rail heritage with the world's only Single 'R' Class Fairlie locomotive in its original form sitting right in the heart of town. Just out of town on SH 69 towards Westport, the Reefton railway precinct retains its 19th Century railway station (1892) and the country's only remaining single row two-stall steam engine shed (1892), both former Midland Railway Company buildings.
Bringing history further to life are the Bearded Mining Company at the Miners Hut. This replica hut depicting 1860s style housing is made of native cedar slabs and set amongst native plantings right in the heart of town on Broadway.
Gavin, Peter are 'in residence' all year, and welcome visitors in to learn how a miner lived in the 19th century when the promise of gold lured thousands of prospectors to the area.
You can sit in front of the fire, enjoy a cup of billy tea, watch pieces of iron and steel being shaped on the blacksmith forge or try your hand at gold panning where flakes of gold are 'guaranteed' to be found.
Enquiries to the Reefton i-SITE Visitor Centre on 03 732 8391, email [email protected]
Reefton School of Mines
Opened in 1886 it was the school where miners learnt their trade and where at times local school children came to learn about chemistry as part of their schooling. The simple gabled building holds an extensive technical book collection, a wonderful mineral collection sourced from places around the world, and out the back in the assay room crucibles wait on the shelves for their next charge of gold.
If you would like to view the School of Mines please contact the Reefton i-SITE before your arrival in Reefton. Entry is $2.00/adult; children are free.
Black's Point Museum
The museum is situated about 2km from Reefton in the heart of Blacks Point. The museum building is a piece of history in its own right and is one of many in the Reefton area to be lovingly maintained since pioneering times. The building, constructed of pit-sawn timber, was formerly the old Wesleyan Methodist Church and dates back to 1876.
Once you step inside you will find a fascinating collection, housing thousands of exhibits that display the rich and diverse history of an iconic West Coast town. Blacks Point Museum, records the way of life in a mining town and the mural on the left, painted by local resident and well-known cinematographer Alun Bollinger, is a great depiction of this history.
The museum features school records, cemetery records, town directories, historical photos, artefacts, family trees, books and all kinds of mining memorabilia. A must see highlight is to the working gold/quartz water driven stamper battery, that was built and used for mining in 1870′s and continues to bring history to life.
Peter Lawn or Graham Gollan, the museum's enthusiastic curators, are always willing to explain the history of the area to visitors, or to assist the search for information in the museum's extensive archive. The museum has to be the first point of call for anyone interested in family history, genealogy or the way of life of New Zealand’s pioneers.
The Museum is open each year from Labour Weekend until Easter Weekend.