Category Archives: West Coast

The Pass

We woke up at Franz Josef to find we had no power left. A combination of too much TV, no sunshine on the panels and sitting in one spot for too long. The electronic controller in Rafe turns things off if it looks like it’ll damage the batteries so nothing died!Β  So lesson.. less power consumption unless we can generate more by moving or some sunshine. This is our first time in a winter South Island so its all about learning that the sun doesn’t work as well on solar panels in winter.Β  πŸ™‚

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After using the superb dump station and topping up with water, we set off for Haast and the pass. It was just drizzling when we left but by the time we got to Haast, it was pouring. After having lunch in Rafe with some locally sourced fresh bread, we set off through the Haast. It looks great and as many said, its an easy drive, even when its raining!

The walk to Thunder Creek

We stopped briefly to have a look at the Thunder Creek Falls which look amazing. The 5 minute bush walk to get to the falls is stunning.

Thunder Creek falls

There was one guy there who thought by hopping on rocks he’d get a better shot. The problem was his kids followed him! The shot would’ve been the same from the side of the river πŸ™‚
We left there and a little bit further on, we stopped off at another called the Fantail Falls where various visitors to the falls had made little stacks of river stones by the falls.

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Another nice spot and easy parking but it was still raining !

Fantail falls

The plan was originally to stop at the Makarora Tourist centre but when we got there, it all looked a bit farm paddock like and Rafe being quite low is a bit allergic to lumpy paddocks to park in so we kept going and decided on Lake Hawea Holiday park by the lake and give Rafe’s batteries a good tweak.

Rafe in the trees at Hawea. Nice park

Its a neat Campground and they’re very welcoming. We parked down by the lake despite the fact that there was a good wind coming off the lake but it was due to drop off. We also managed to fluke a TV signal first pop through the trees which pleased Fiona πŸ™‚

Lake Hawea when we arrived.. a bit windy

I went for a walk along the lake and had a good look around. Nice bathrooms and a Laundry and a good sized Kitchen too.

Lake Hawea in the morning

We’re looking at going back there in a few weeks.

Rafe’s track through to Hawea

Waterfalls and the Glacier

We liked Ross so much, we seriously thought about staying another night but thought, we’d better push on.

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The NZMCA park at Franz Josef

We found the NZMCA park in Franz Josef really easily. Rafe’s GPS took us right to the front door !

A great setup with water, the dump station and the check in hut.

Its a really nice park. Looking in Google Earth, it looks like a square of brown cut out of the bush and sitting in it, its magic with all the ferns and Westland bush all around. The dump station works a treat too. Very easy.

Looking back to Franz Josef

After checking it all out, we headed off to town for some bits and bobs from the 4 Square and then went and did a recce of the Glacier car park to see what we were going to be dealing with the next day when the weather was supposed to clear up a bit.

The Franz Josef Bridge

The next day started out with blue sky but very quickly greyed over and was typical west coast drizzly close weather. We were heading to the Glacier anyway so took Rafe to the car park.

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Just as I got the umbrella out and stuck it under my arm, the sky lifted and there were big patches of blue and the drizzle petered out to nothing.

Fiona with the Glacier behind

It was a 90 minute return trip according to the Doc signs and it was an easy walk. At the Glacier, it was amazing just sitting there watching the succession of Helicopters dropping people and guides off on the Glacier.. every few minutes there was another one.

The Glacier. Spot the chopper.

If you look at the closer Glacier images, you should be able to spot the odd helicopter. There were heaps of people on the track in both directions and it was nice to see so many people enjoying the walk. It was like being in Europe hearing all the different languages as they walked past you.

At the top with the Glacier and a waterfall.

We stopped at the Glacier for 20 minutes or so before heading back and as it would happen, the weather closed in again just as we got back to Rafe πŸ™‚

The Glacier.. spot the chopper

A fun day out walking by the river up to the Glacier and well done to the local NZMCA people there for setting up such a great park. Very cool and close to town too.

Rafe’s track to Franz Josef

Sunday Roast at the Empire

The fire was blazing, the bar looked fantastic and owners Paulette and Mark couldn’t have been more welcoming. I ordered a Chardonnay and paid the $10 for Rafe’s park with power and we had a look around this amazing pub in Ross.

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Fiona with the fire
The Bar. Amazing working cash register

Paulette informed us that as it was Sunday, they had 30 odd people coming for tea and that we should join in. For $20 each for Roast Pork or Beef and $5 for Pavlova and Steamed Pudding, it was a no brainer and we wanted to be at the front of the queue πŸ™‚

The Empire

We went for a walk up the street and checked out the Gold Mining area.Β  It is all really well set out and well signposted with explanations of what happened during the late 1800’s with lots of photos and some of the original buildings still there.

The Museum up the road

Unfortunately we missed the Museum and seeing a replica of the biggest Nugget found there but we got to see Raymond the friendly Goat over the road from the Empire along with a lots of historical bits and bobs.

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When I went for a haircut in Greymouth, the ladyΒ  absolutely raved about the food at the Empire Hotel when she heard we were going there, so the word is out. The food is fantastic!

Rafe parked at the Empire

We thought about staying another night as it was so good but decided we’d move on to Franz Josef and continue on towards the Haast while the weather was good.

Rafes Track to the Empire

The Famous Cheese Pub

We couldn’t leave Greymouth without going down to the Breakwater to check out the entrance to the port. I’ve see pictures of some of the fishing boats coming in over the bar and it is not for the faint hearted. These guys are amazing with this harbour.

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People collecting Driftwood down by the Greymouth Breakwater

Today the water was very settled and there were a few people out gathering driftwood with the Mountains behind bathed in sunshine. You could tell from the water how ugly it could be though on a bad day.

Looking back to Greymouth from the Breakwater
Looking back at Greymouth

As we travelled south, we had to stop at the Mahinapua Hotel and get some piccies there before checking out the Lake.

Looking back at the Mountains in the sunshine over Lake Mahinapua

There is a Doc park right opposite the Hotel where you can stay which has a kitchen and toilets right next to the lake. Its a lovely spot.

The Coal Trolley in front of the Mahinapua Hotel

Back out of the main road, there is a reminder of the history of the area with a coal trolley from a mine in front of the Hotel.

Fiona outside the Famous Mahinapua Hotel

The lakefront park is a neat spot to stop for a cup of tea or lunch.

Bone Idle 2

Early in the morning, Keith and Lyn rocked up in their 5th Wheeler and with minimal fuss, backed it into a nice big park in the Central RV park in Greymouth.

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Lyn and Keith on the back of their Izuzu

I met them later in the day and we enjoyed a cold drink leaning over the tray of their Izuzu 4wd while we told a few tall stories and had a few laughs 😎


Their 2005 Canadian Okanagan called Bone Idle 2 is just a thing of beauty and altough it needed a lot of tidying up, when they first got it 3.5 years ago, they have done all the work themselves and done it well. Keith was telling me how they had resealed the roof, completely repainted inside, redone the floor and generally tidied it up. They have even replaced some of the wood that was a bit suspect under the bed, above the hitch on the outside with checker plate. That won’t rot!

The galley and Living area
Nice and Bright

It looks fantastic and now they’re out and about enjoying the fruits of their labour !

Lots of room
The sleeping area.

Coming originally from Nelson they’re now well and truly part of the Westport community.Β  Lyn was telling me that one of their favorite spots was at the Anatori river.

Lovely trailer and neat people.

The Brewery

We couldn’t come to Greymouth and not visit the famous Monteiths Brewery where Fiona’s favorite Cider comes from πŸ™‚

The Central Motorhome Park

The tours are on three times a day and are $50 for two which includes some tasting and some complimentary drinks and discounts on West Coast Tourist attractions and some Monteiths clothing.
The coupons all come in a nicely packaged West Coast passport for each person on the tour.

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We checked in at the only central Motorhome Park, Central Motorhome Park and it is behind a Challenge service station almost across the road from Monteiths. Very handy!

An interesting wall hanging at Monteiths

The park is very reasonable at $20 a Motorhome but includes showers, free wifi and has water and a dump station. It is walking distance to everywhere so is VERY handy.

Fiona with her Passport

Monteiths is across the road and down a side street, less than 5 minutes walk and was very easy to find.

Our guide Nick with some of the product range

We arrived there right on time for our mid afternoon tour and soon after our guide Nick introduced himself and after donning some hi vis vests, we were shown given a quick background on how it all came about in the mid 1800’s. Originally the Brewery was in Reefton and wasn’t moved to Greymouth until the founders son moved it in early 1900’s. Fascinating history and I understand that after being owned by DB, it is now owned by Heinekin. Another good beer.

Nick showing us around.

After the history run down, we were shown the process on a giant board and then shown the different Stainless Steel Vats that are used to process the Beers. Very modern and it all looks amazingly efficient. After this we were shown the bottling plant and then the original safe with some historic books with the original shareholders etc. They also still have all the original processing equipment there that was used before all the high volume products were moved to DB.

Fiona on the tour

Afterwards, we were given lessons on how to pour a beer correctly and then we got to taste some .. Yum. Fiona and I had a couple of drinks each with some chips before we ambled back over the road to Rafe. All in all, a really interesting, fun afternoon and also not in any danger of dehyration πŸ™‚

Central Motorhome Park behind the service station.

Seriously though.. well worth doing if you’re in the area.

The Bearded Miners

The sun welcomed us into Reefton and after driving down the main street, we parked by the river and went for a walk.

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The river behind Reefton

The I site is amazing as it has a fully set up mine in there. You can hardly see your hand in front of your face but after your eyes adjust, you can see the trolley with a chap behind it. It is all setup to look like the real thing.

Dusk looking down Reeftons main street with the old lights lighting the street.

There was also a good background on how Reefton got to be the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have a full power supply.
In 1886, Walter Prince from Dunedin with a generator in tow and showed what could be done, totally dazzling the population of Reefton. Within a few years, they had the whole town up and running.

Plenty of parking

After wandering around looking at the shops and checking out the river, we came across a Miners Hut and all the related equipment. It was setup by 4 guys (all bearded of course) as volunteers and they take tours through all the bits they have there but they are a wealth of knowledge.

The Miners Hut

They weren’t there at the time but we found out we could see them the next morning so we parked Rafe at the local motorcamp by the river in the middle of town.

At the Reefton Camping ground. Toilets and showers behind

The weather was supposed to really pack a sad with a front coming through so we were pleased to be on gravel. In the end, it never really got much worse than drizzle.

The Hut
The Miners Hut

In the morning, we headed back to the miners hut to meet three of the bearded miners. Gavin, Peter and Mark. Unfortunately, there was a fourth miner involved in setting this up too but he recently passed away. They were full of knowledge and very happily lit a lantern or two so I could photograph the inside of the hut. .. magic stuff.

The Bearded Miners. Gavin, Peter and Mark

They were waiting on a busload of tourists to arrive when we were there. Lovely to catch up with them and have a good natter and really nice guys who volunteer their time in their retirement to show off the history of Reefton.

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The town just reeks of history and the locals are just charming. Its a town that is often by passed but is well worth checking out.

Rafe’s track to Reefton