Denniston Plateau

Buller Region

Six hundred metres above sea level, Denniston was once NZ's largest coal town, with 1500 residents in 1911. By 1981 there were eight. Its claim to fame was the fantastically steep Denniston Incline, which hurtled laden wagons down a 45-degree hillside. Display panels bring the plateau’s history to life and trails provide sweeping views and a direct route into the past. The turn-off to Denniston is 16km east of Westport at Waimangaroa; Denniston is a further eight winding kilometres inland.

Look out for DOC's Walks in the Westport Area brochure ($2, or free online) detailing four tracks around the Denniston plateau. The Brakehead Walk (1.1km, 40 minutes) loops past rusting machinery to a viewpoint overlooking the incline, while the Bridal Path (4.2km; allow three hours to get up and 2½ to get back down) sweats its way up to the plateau from Waimangaroa.

The eager can read Jenny Pattrick's evocative novels set in these parts, starting with The Denniston Rose (2012).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Buller Region attractions

1. Coaltown Museum

10.28 MILES

Westport's 'black gold' is paid homage at this remarkably interesting museum, adjoining the i-SITE. A replica mine, well-scripted display panels and an…

2. Mitchells Gully Goldmine

20.12 MILES

For a true taste of the region’s gold-mining past, swing into this former mine, 3km north of Charleston. You'll get a friendly primer on the 1860s mining…

3. Reefton Distilling Co.

26.68 MILES

Every gold-rush town needs a still, and Reefton's got a goodie in the form of this operation that makes use of foraged botanicals and spring water sourced…

4. Bearded Mining Company

26.72 MILES

Looking like a ZZ Top tribute band, the straight-talkin', bearded fellas at this recreated high-street mining hut rollick your socks off with tales tall…

5. Blacks Point Museum

27.65 MILES

Housed in an old church 2km east of Reefton on State Highway 7, this museum is crammed with prospecting paraphernalia.

7. Golden Fleece Battery

27.71 MILES

Up the driveway from Blacks Point Museum is the still-functional Golden Fleece Battery, used for crushing gold-flecked quartz. Ask at the museum for entry.