Bookme is an online tourism site advertising activities and attractions at discounted prices. We checked out the West Coast deals and booked Shantytown, $10pp (usually $31.50pp); and a Monteith’s Brewery tour $10pp (usually $20pp).
Shantytown Heritage Park, 10km from Greymouth
Shantytown is a recreation of a gold rush town and has 30 shops and buildings. A ride on a steam train is included in the admission fee. Pay $7 extra to pan for gold, Mike brought home a few flakes. You may be able to have an old time photo taken in Golden Nugget Hotel (see our Shantytown tip below). If the hotel’s open you can have a drink in the saloon, hot beverages and food are sold in King Dick’s Cafe.
I’m especially interested in social history and spent time reading about the experience of Chinese gold miners at the recreated Chinese mining settlement. Most miners couldn’t afford to bring their wives with them and in 1878 there were 9 Chinese women in the country, and only 89 by 1900. There were 500-1000 Chinese men on the West Coast during this time, potentially a lot of lonely men folk.
The Chinese miners were often viewed with suspicion and many worked sites Europeans had abandoned. Some brought opium addictions with them, and most came from poor families who were relying on them to make money for the survival of extended family back home. Successful miners often returned to China after saving £100, this would take the thrifty miner around five years to achieve. Despite their hardships the Chinese miners earned the reputation of being hardworking, skillful engineers, and peaceful men.
The miners who remained in New Zealand by choice or because of lack of funds were unable to claim the Old Age Pension until 1936, it was introduced in 1898. In 2002 Prime Minister Helen Clark gave the Chinese community an official apology for the discrimination Chinese people encountered in New Zealand during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The discrimination included a poll tax that was imposed on Chinese immigrants, a tax that was not imposed on any other ethnic group.
The life of the ‘well educated young lady’ in the late 1800’s wasn’t necessarily easy either. A situation vacant ad from the time lists duties as: rise at 5am, bath and dress five children, clean boots, take the woman of the house breakfast in bed, help children with lessons, and so on, until bed time at about 11.30pm. A thorough house cleaning was “only” required once a week, but then there’s washing, ironing, preparing supper ….. Salary – 6 shillings a week (about $120 today). Forget annual leave – one half Sunday off per month.
Also industrious during this time was Robert Hannah, he opened his first Hannah’s shoe store in Charleston in 1868, there’s a recreation of the store at Shantytown. The Hannah’s brand is still in existence today, although it’s now part of Hellaby Holdings and no longer family owned.
Our one disappointment at Shantytown was the lack of industry in the Golden Nugget Hotel – the bar wasn’t serving and old time photographs weren’t being taken. This translates to our Shantytown tip – If you want an old time photo taken, phone or email in advance to make sure the photographer is working.
Shantytown is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas day), from 8.30am until 5pm. Usual entry fee $31.50 adults, includes steam train ride, extra charge for old time photos and gold panning. Check Bookme for a bargain entry.
Monteiths Brewing Co, 60 Herbert Street, Greymouth
Our brewery tour was short, friendly and more than worth its weight in beer given the $10pp charge. We got to pour our own beer at the end of the tour, our Monteith’s passport gave us three more to drink in the bar, plus the passport gives a free Monteith’s Original Ale at one of a few selected bars on the West Coast. After our 6pm tour we matched our Monteith’s Pilsner with some beer battered wedges. (The bar/cafe closes around 7pm so it’s not the place for late night drinking and dining).
The bulk of Monteith’s beer is brewed down the road in Timaru. The newly renovated brewery in Greymouth brews specialty beer – a craft brewery as they advertise it. Dedicated craft beer drinkers might challenge that description, but they may not put Monteith’s on their beer trail in the first place.
We had a drink with the regulars and read about Monteith’s history. Apparently Stewart Monteith spent six weeks in jail instead of paying a three pound fine for illegal brewing, that’s someone dedicated to his craft (or broke), and we’re happy to soak up a little bit of his history.
Monteith’s Brewing Co is open 7 days (except Christmas day and Good Friday; on ANZAC day it opens at 1pm). Usual hours 10am until 7pm, book a tour direct on the website or check Bookme for a bargain. You don’t need to do a tour to visit, the bar/cafe is open to the public, a tasting tray of six Monteith’s brews is $18.