Ramshackle Blackball is a shadow of its mining glory days, but this spirited town offers more than meets the eye. Around 25km upriver of Greymouth, Blackball was established in 1866 to service gold diggers; coal mining kicked in between 1890 and 1964. The National Federation of Labour (a trade union) was conceived here, born from influential strikes in 1908 and 1913.
Blackball remains fiercely proud of its trade union history – just check out the old posters in Formerly the Blackball Hilton. This century-old hotel is a major talking point: it changed its name to avoid a legal battle with a certain hotel chain. Another claim to fame is Blackball Salami Co, whose smoky meats are renowned up and down the West Coast.
Sleepy Blackball is likely to be stirred up by the opening of the Pike29 Memorial Track (probably in 2019), which will bring a new influx of trampers.