Reefton. © Stewart Nimmo

Tohu Whenua: Historic Reefton


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Driving into historic Reefton is like arriving on a Wild West movie set. 

What hits you first are the brightly-painted historic buildings lining both sides of Broadway. Beautifully restored by proud locals, they beckon you to stop and fossick for a quirky keepsake. Before you know it you’ll be panning for gold with the very bearded Bearded Miners and asking why the art gallery has a painted-over hole in the floor. 

Just down the road the Reefton Distilling Company entices you to try their Little Biddy boutique gin, which pays homage to a four-foot-tall, hard-as-nails female prospector. 

Quartzopolis is what they used to call this quartz gold mining boom town, and that name still seems to fit. 

Gold is not Reefton’s only claim to fame. There’s also the light. 

In 1888 Reefton became the first place in the southern hemisphere to have commercial electric lighting, beating posh suburbs in New York and London. The forty-minute Bottled Lighting Powerhouse walk takes you past the remains of where the electricity was generated, especially handy if you need to walk off one of the town’s legendary pub meals. 

And if you’re into mountain biking, there’s days worth of history up in the hills to explore.  

No surprise then that Reefton’s been recognised as a Tohu Whenua – one of Aotearoa’s best and most authentic heritage experiences. 

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