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.

  • Few days ago I found my teenage years' online diaries and had some fun reading together with . Felt so weird reading those texts and hardly remembering I ever wrote them. Weirdest thing, even though thoughts are funny in they way I presented, I realize the core of questioning one's purpose and existence haven't changed that much since then. I laughed and cried while reading and trying to remember what was it like to be myself as a teenager. 
Have you ever kept a diary? If so, do you ever read those old entries and how does it make you feel?
  • When I sit down to look back on 2018, it was quite a year... the best year ever in our lives to be exact! Let's see about it:
Last year was the year we lived in our van roaming all around New Zealand; it was the year we got engaged at Arthur's Pass, the year we went caving through the enclosed cave river and saw enourmus caves full of glowworms, camped out in secluded beaches and enjoyed many nights under vast sky full of stars; it was the year we jumped butt-naked into waterfalls, hiked through mountains and bushes and it was the year we almost died in the mountains after an unpredicted weather shift but survived to tell an incredible story of the Holdsworth - Jumbo Pass; it was the year we shifted from our office jobs to taking on a challenge of picking kiwifruit for 3 months and so, it was the year I lost 10kg. It definitely was the year we learnt saving money and living on a tight budget but been happiest we've ever been. It was the year we went oyster picking on the beach and fishing for snappers with a boat with most incredible kiwi people (thank you Fran, Bill and Doug). It was the year we missed our families and friends incredibly but found unexpected friendships for life away from home! It was the year we fell in love with all those cute doggies while housesitting and taking care of them - 💚Annie, Dash, Yuki and Bonnie💚 and became obsessed with dogs. It was the year we had to say goodbye to our beloved NZ, visited Sydney (and it was love at first sight) and moved to Vietnam for a few months. Well it sure was a perfect year to say the least. 
Let's see what 2019 has in store for us!

By the way, and I got engaged exactly one year ago!

P.S. stay tuned as Algirdas has finally started putting together our videos from the past year and we'll be launching a YouTube channel soon!
  • I feel a bit burnt out today and all on my mind is just food - as in what can I still eat on our last day in Dalat 🤣 
Anyways, with 2019 approaching, what are your plans for NYE?
  • So it has already been a month since we landed in Vietnam, though I haven't been taking that many photos as I'm still a bit cautious about pulling my camera out in a public as well as taking photos of poeple without asking them (with language barrier it can be quite tricky). This one though was actually one of our first mornings when we got out into district 10 in Saigon for some delicious Bo Ne breakfast. Not only the food was super yummy and cheap but the surrounding streets were really lovely to wander around and get lost. It really is so cool getting out of touristy center and discovering the real life of Saigon.
Do you ever do that in new locations - purposefully getting lost in a city and just wandering without looking at any maps? 
I think it is hands down the best way to feel and see the place. What's your favorite way for discovering new places?

P.S. if you want the name of the place for Bo Ne, DM me and I'll share it with you!
  • Merry Christmas everyone! This year we celebrate Christmas with flowers and colours of Dalat instead of white snow back at home. And as beautiful and lovely as it is here, I can't help but especially miss home today with our families and friends enjoying white Christmas and those delicious deep-fried mushroom pies we call 'ausytes' (little ears) that my mom and sisters made. I think Christmas is pretty much the only day in a year I actually want to have snow and the only day I feel guilty for travelling. Anyway, two Christmas spent away from home is hard enough and for the next one I promise I'll be back home! As for all of you guys, first, I really want to thank you for following our journeys wherever they take us, reading all of my posts (or not), as well as thank you for all the nice wishes you've sent us! Secondly, I wish you all to find some peace in your mind and in your heart and share the happiness with others! Merry holidays 🎅🤶 P.s. Even though it is not a religious celebration in Vietnam, Vietnamese love celebrating Christmas and do so on 24th - Christmas Eve 🤗
  • Who could have thought one can find such beautiful Italian gardens  not just in Italy but in New Zealand as well! Have you visited Hamilton's gardens already?

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