Stretching 600 kilometres along the western edge of the South Island, the West Coast is a rugged, primeval region of contrasting features - high snow-capped mountains, towering rainforests, lowland river valleys, dramatic coastlines, bizarre limestone landscapes, grinding glaciers, surging rivers and brooding lakes.
Human development dates back at least 800 years, when Maori tribes are thought to have arrived in search of Pounamu (greenstone/jade). In the 1860s, gold rush fever brought the first Europeans, and many towns still exude that friendly pioneering spirit. The places of historic interest on the West Coast are associated with the exploitation, for centuries past, of the region’s natural resources.
Coal production flourished in the late 19th century at the Brunner Industrial Site, established in 1864 on the South Island’s West Coast. One of New Zealand’s pre-eminent industrial heritage sites, interpretative panels explaining what structures remain make for a fascinating visit to the site where in 1896 65 workers were tragically killed following an explosion.