ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand
New Zealand New Zealand Stories

Welcome to Waiuta – a ghost town of the West Coast

May 25, 2018

Do you know what I love the most about being a full-time traveler versus just traveling for a few weeks holiday? It’s the ability to take time and enjoy the little things, which you might be forced to skip when having a tight schedule. Waiuta may not be an obvious holiday destination in New Zealand but it is one of those places you love to explore, especially if you have time to spare without risks of missing out on one of the ‘ultimate must visits’. And since we are here (New Zealand) for one year, it is safe to say we could allow ourselves to spend a rainy afternoon exploring the mysterious ghost town of Waiuta.

Ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

An informative board will help you get around the site

Ghost towns or what remains of once booming industries

Waiuta might be one of the better-known ghost towns but it is just one of many in New Zealand. West Coast is even known as the capital of the ghost towns since it is a home to nearly 70 of them – remnants of once booming gold, coal and timber industries left to decay after the riches ran out.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

This was a girls cottage currently under renovation by volunteers

We chose to visit Waiuta by a chance I guess. First of all, we both love the urban exploration and discovering abandoned places (hence my favorite type of computer games – searching and looting in post-apocalyptic/fantasy setting), so visiting some ghost towns was always on our list. As it happened, we were faced with a bit of rainy weather that day and in no way, we would have reached a sunny destination, so googling what’s on the way we’ve come across Waiuta – the abandoned gold miners’ town. Since it was already on our way (well around 20 km sideways), it didn’t hurt to check out. After all, if the weather turned really bad, we were traveling with our home on wheels. And quite frankly, we couldn’t be any happier with our decision, since a) we had the town to explore all to ourselves; b) a little bit of drizzle and the fog just gave that extra notch to the experience of ghost town exploration.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

What remains of those who left

Getting lost in ‘post-apocalyptic’ universe

Even though not much of the town remains, there are still quite a few buildings preserved that you can enter and wander around. I’m sure my fellow scavenging and mysteries’ enthusiasts will appreciate it. Looking through all of that is left behind to decay made me feel like a character trying to put the pieces together and solve the case of what had happened: old dishes in a sink, issues of the ‘BusinessWeek’ and newspapers from 1960s’ lying on the ground, some playing cards scattered on the counter, a hidden shed door disappearing behind the leafy vines, beds and their broken mattresses’ springs, some rat poison and a bunch of science books – all telling stories of the people from a different time.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Al reading an old Business Week issue

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Just one of the rooms remaining

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Seems that Teenage Ninja Turtles got here as well

The human footprints are slowly fading away as mother nature is reclaiming back what once was hers again. At least that is what you are left thinking with each house you visit and each vine you notice growing inside. Anyways, if you’re anything like me in terms of loving the post-apocalyptic world theme, this definitely can give you a perspective of a scavenger coming by an old house, let’s say in ‘The Walking Dead’ universe (yes, I know I may have been watching too many tv shows and playing too many games in the past).

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

The shed door can easily be missed between those vines

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Never know when you’re gonna find something good to read

The secret tunnel

For those outdoorsy type, even if Waiuta might not have the most spectacular scenery, there’s still a bunch of walks around the town’s streets and forest to the nearby battery, powerhouse and mine sites. We’ve started our visit at the gold discovery site ‘Blackwater shaft’, though, if you have any hopes of getting inside the mine, let me disappoint you as the grounds are too unstable and all the shafts are sealed off.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

There are many bedrooms to choose from if you’re brave enough to spend the night (not sure if that would be legal though)

After visiting what’s left of the old police station we took a stroll to the swimming pool and on our way back to the post office site we were pleasantly surprised by an unexpected discovery. Now, if you ever there, try not to walk past it but as you’re walking from the swimming pool back towards the post office, you may spot a small tunnel opening under the tree on your right. If there’s a hole it must lead somewhere, right? Well, how could we resist finding out where it would take us. I do not wish to spoil it for you, but if you ever there, try and go through the tunnel all the way (it is short). Even though it was quite small, being an unexpected discovery gave us such a rush of excitement as we felt like Indiana Jones on his adventure.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Notice – Trespassers will be prosecuted

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Al the scavenger

The Snowy battery walk

The tunnel was not the only adventure that day since we decided to go for a 1-hour return walk to the Snowy Battery, where back in a day quartz was crushed to free the gold. Even though it was supposed to be a rather short walk, it may have taken a bit longer, as the 30 min to the site was downhill and easy, however, going all the way back uphill and having no water with us might not have been the smartest decision ever. However, the walk to the site is really nice, it takes you through the woods all the way down to the river and gives an opportunity to enjoy the view of the valley below. Unfortunately, it was soon getting dark and since we had no drinking water with us we have decided to skip on another 2-hour loop walk to the powerhouse by the river and took the same root back to the town.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

The path to the Snowy battery takes you through the woods

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Yes, I was also there (proof)

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Almost there, just a few more steps to the battery

Prohibition mine and mill

After wandering through the remaining buildings in town, we’ve decided to make the last stop before leaving Waiuta behind – the Prohibition mine and the mill. Prohibition mine was once the deepest mineshaft in all of New Zealand stretching 879 meters straight down, of which the last 300 meters were below the sea level. On a clear day, the Prohibition mine is said to be a place from where the Southern Alps and Mt. Cook could be admired, however, I can’t either deny, nor verify the statement since our visit was on a foggy afternoon.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Rusty remains

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

The site of the Prohibition mine and mill

Waiuta’s history

Waiuta once was one of the richest gold mines in the West Coast. It grew from the last great gold discovery in the region back in 1905. Unfortunately, the WWII took its’ toll on the mine as many men left to war never coming back, what led to miner numbers reducing from 240 to 113. The amount of gold has eventually reduced as well, which made it difficult finding new workers. Eventually, the mine was closed officially in 1951 after the collapse of the Blackwater shaft flooding the mine. Having no alternative employment options, villagers had no choice but to eventually abandon Waiuta, leaving little behind. Majority of the buildings were taken apart so to use the materials in new settlements. Only a few stayed behind leaving more visible human footprints, which are now already fading away.

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Fancy a bath?

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

She’s watching you

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

Al taking on some crafting

ghost town in West Coast, New Zealand - travel blog New Zealand

What’s for dinner tonight? Rat poison?


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Ruta & Algirdas

We're Ruta & Algirdas - storytellers, world travelers, photography and filmmaking enthusiasts. Our best days are spent admiring planet Earth - exploring, tasting, breathing in all it has to offer. Now, after a year spent living van life in New Zealand, we're enjoying the hustle and bustle of Vietnam. Packing bags and embarking on an adventure is easier than it may seem - just have the courage.

  • Back in November we did the Tongariro Norther Circuit track and it was nothing less than glorious and felt exactly like stepping right into the #MiddleEarth. 
All those dark rocks and wastelands, steaming mountain slopes, the smell of sulfur in the air and just that feel of something bigger than you. 
Even though, we got some rain, cold winds and annoying sandfly attacks (at the first campsite by the stream), the track was mesmerizing and magical every step of the way. As beside the latter, it also offered the most beautiful night sky I've ever witnessed and the most breathtaking views. Though sadly, for all its beauty, the mountain also claimed the sacrifice of beloved #rayban sunnies. 😎

We did the track anticlockwise and if I had to choose I would do so all over again. Mostly because I prefer the solitude in our hikes and this option allowed us to enjoy it for most of the way during the 3 days on a track. Though this spot at Emerald lakes was exactly the place where we had to pass the crowds of day walkers doing the Tongariro crossing. While I have nothing against it, it is much more enjoyable wandering the mountains all by yourself (well, maybe sharing with few others) rather than walking in a crowd of hundreds  of other people (who are always always somewhere in your shot). Lucky for us, we only shared the track with others for an hour or so while passing through the crowd at the Red Crater. The crowd finally passed and we got back to our solitude of enjoying the view of Emerald Lakes, Red Crater and mountain peaks which were followed by the way down the Devil Stairs and incredible sunset with a stunning view of Taranaki at a distance. 
Anyway, I guess what I wanna say is - if you ever have a chance, go and do the Northern Circuit!
  • When I get the feeling that something's going wrong, I just take a stroll through my photos and they immediatly bring me back to those special moments when everything in the universe lined out just as it was supposed to and nothing could ever ruin it! And that's enough to just grab and hold on to that happiness that will forever be mine.
  • Well here's one more photo of this amazing lady and her heart-warming smile! I sure miss those evening strolls by the river in Hoi An where life never stops.
  • How really relative is time? 
Seems like over the past year and a half of travelling I've lived more than a decade. Yet it has been nearly 3 months since we got back home, settled in new home and started new jobs. Even though time flies by, life seems stuck at one place, like living the same day over and over again. It is hard to get over traveling and facing the steady life reality - like getting over an addiction for new exciting experiences when you itch for a new 'dose'. Yet can't deny that stability has its own perks. 
Still, funny when you think how relative time really is. Sometimes a month can fit experiences of a year and another month can fly by in an instance and you realuze that nothing really happened. Anyway, I've been gone for the past few months but I guess it was part of dealing with my post-travel blues settling in a new steady routine. 
How have you been lately?
  • Wandering those beautiful ancient streets of Hoi An, I couldn't take my eyes away from the beautiful old ladies selling water lanterns. So many stories they could tell, so many people they've met, so many troubles they've endured and yet they greet you with a wide smile from ear to ear offering to buy a wish in a form of a river lantern costing just a few cents. No matter what, every night you'll find them in their usual spot - day after day, year after year just trying to make a living. It amazes me how after all their troubles and worries, and all the rude passers by  encountered, they still manage to smile at you with all their kindness offering to buy that one lantern for a wish which eventually will help their family wishes come true, or at least will let them put a meal on a table. Even if you don't buy, don't forget to treat one another with a kindness and a smile.
  • So this one finalize my series of the camping shots I took back while doing the Tongariro Northern Circuit. 
Funny story: while I spent the night outside shooting stars, a guy came out of a nearby tent. I silently said "isn't the sky just incredible?" He got startled as appearantly didn't notice me before. Then he took a look up and said 'yeah, it really is'. After a few minutes just staring at the sky he went to the outhouse toilet and back to sleep. 
Only in the morning I heard him telling a story to his friends how he woke in the middle of the night wishing to quickly take a piss just outside the tent as was too lazy to go to the toilet. But it was when a girl out of nowhere interrupted him and made him look up at the stars. Eventually he ended up having to go to the toilet in the middle of the night but if it wasn't for me, he said he may have never seen the beauty of that incredible sky.

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