At Mitchell’s Gully Goldmine, 20 minutes south of Westport, I received the most concise description of gold extraction I’ve heard yet, it was worth visiting just to hear it.
Mitchell’s Gully is a family owned mine, a sign says it was last worked in 1914, I didn’t get the chance to ask whether the family still chip away at it, I’d be tempted if it was in my backyard.
You can walk around the mine site at your leisure and enter the shafts and tunnels, you also get to hold a heavy handful of gold. Take a torch if you’ve got one, mind your head and don’t think about accidents waiting to happen.
There’s a tourism design award hanging at the entrance from 1978, so the mine has been welcoming visitors for years. The bush is taking the opportunity to reclaim its territory and it makes the site that much more visually appealing.
Entry to Mitchell’s Gully Goldmine is $10 adults, children free. Allow at least 20 minutes to explore. The cute tree house in the car park is free for kids big and small.
The drive 38km south to Punakaiki is stunning – a forest dotted with Nikau palms follows you on one side, on the other the Tasman Sea hammers into rocky bays.
You’ll find a table with a view along the way. Weka are a common sight in the area, Mike befriended one when we made a photo stop.
Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks and Blowholes
The Pancake Rocks are reason enough to put the brakes on in Punakaiki. The view is the most dramatic at high tide, the Information Centre opposite has high tide details. The noise of the sea and rocks meeting sounds like a pack of Harley’s thundering through Buller Gorge, and looks just as impressive.
I recently wrote that the person who identified the formations at The Labyrinth in Takaka must have been high on something other than life. They get the last laugh, I found a side view of Homer Simpson in a rock formation. Mike’s the Simpson’s fan and he can’t see him, can you? (see below). If you can’t find Homer you can still get a sea spray shower, spot the blow holes and enjoy the rainbows. Allow at least 30 minutes to walk the exceptionally well maintained track around the rocks.
There’s reason to linger in Punakaiki, if you have the time we recommend the Truman Track. It’s a short 15 minute walk through a forest of Nikau palms, Rata and Matai trees. It opens out to reveal a beach, from a distance the beach looks sandy but it’s actually made up of millions of tiny pebbles. Like the beaches all along this coast it’s not safe for swimming, but if you visit a couple of hours either side of dawn or dusk you might see little blue penguins.
Food and accommodation
Food options and grocery supplies are limited in Punakaiki and what there is you may find over priced and average, I recommend taking supplies with you. We were happy campers on a grassy site at Punakaiki Beach Camp, more accommodation options. The next post will give you a tour of an unusual accommodation option – Te Nikau Retreat.