Visiting Reefton Motor Camp

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm

MCD visits the Reefton Motor Camp on the West Coast

Arriving in Reefton, the first building of note on the main street was a renovated heritage shop called the Reefton Coffin Co. We were not looking for eternal rest; we just wanted somewhere to park up for a night or two while we explored the only sizeable inland town on the West Coast.

Reefton -motor -camp

We found it at the Reefton campground. Here, there were plenty of facilities, older in style but clean and in good order, and wide grassy areas on which to park. The camp is bordered by tall pine trees and yellowing poplars, separating it from the Inangahua River that charges past the town towards a meeting with the much greater Buller River. No fences divide the camp from the street or the adjacent tree-shaded domain. It was rather like staying in a town park.

At night, I loved the sounds of the river and the wind fiddling around in the trees. The camp’s serene, unhurried character is like the town itself. Any rush in Reefton (the gold rush was in the 1860s) is long gone. It’s now a dozing sort of place, which only adds to its charm. Although the camp is close to the action, any action tends to be subdued.

When we stayed, it was the autumn edge of winter, and in the mornings, the valley was wrapped in light fog. As it burned off, the appeal of this old mining town was revealed in a glow, as if the sun were shining through golden syrup.

Reefton --cafes

The town’s citizens are working diligently to haul the old-world charms into the present. We wandered the streets and discovered the renovated frontier-style buildings, the little art-house cinema, cafes, antique shops, and at least two hotels. And tucked away on Broadway was a replica of an 1860’s-style hut where three local ‘old timers’, aka The Bearded Miners, regale visitors with yarns and billy tea as they colour in the area’s lively history.

Once also known as Quartzville and lately ‘The Town of Light’, Reefton and its restful camping ground is worth more than a blink when you are heading to the coast.

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