Tramping on tracks around Big River and Waiuta is a unique experience. The area is like a huge outdoor museum, with many historic sites to explore. There is also a great swimming hole at the Inangahua Swingbridge.
Most of these tracks can be ridden by mountain bike – see the Reefton mountain biking for more details.
Waiuta to Big River
From the historic Waiuta Township this track takes you though the beech forest to Big River’s tussock lands. Stay overnight at the Big River Hut that overlooks the old mine and relics.
Time: 4 hr
Distance: 11 km
Accommodation: Waiuta Lodge (Sleeps 30), Big River Hut (Sleeps 20)
Waiuta and view of boiler chimney
What a wonderful place to wander for a half day or more. Waiuta, that was once a town, is an explorer’s playground full of rich memories and history of gold. Tick off the Ball Mill gold safe and the town swimming pool and ponder over the immensity of the 879m deep Prohibition Mine shaft.
Once you have had your fill of gold history find the lovely and well graded trail winding its way through luxuriant beech forest to the comfortable Big River Hut. The track is signposted from “Pro Road” Waiuta. It follows an old, benched pack track.
Waiuta is a great outdoor area for children and families to explore. It has a well equipped lodge and numerous accessible short walks.
History: Once upon a time the Waiuta town of old was a town of gold. The Waiuta mines were known as the ‘richest mines of the South’ until they were more or less abandoned in the 1930s. The miners are gone, however the richness of memories and history remain. Many mining relics and a few original buildings in the town still remain in the dramatic mountain backed setting. Visit the Waiuta website for a more detailed history.
Big River Hut
Facilities: 20 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Big River – Inangahua Suspension Bridge
Follow this adventurous route down to Deep Creek past a fantastic collection of remains including the fully restored Golden Lead Battery. There is also the option to travel out via the historic Big River dray road.
Time: 7 hr
Distance: 10 km
Accommodation: Big River Hut (Sleeps 20)
Big River is at the heart of the "Quartzopolis Goldfields". You can easily spend a full day exploring the old township and mine site, including the restored poppet head, steam winding engine and boiler plant. It is also worth going to as a little further afield is the old dam site and old sawmill.
Big River engine house
The journey out via tracks linking with the Golden Lead Battery Track and Inangahua Swingbridge Picnic area is more difficult, particularly in wet weather. However rewards include fine views and forest changes plus historic relics including coal mine trams, sawmills, hut sites and quartz battery.
Big River poppet head detail
Reefton - Big River 4WD Road
Time: 3-4 hr driving / 7-8 hr walking (one way)
Distance: 25 km one way from Reefton-Big River
The 4WD Big River, historic dray road includes sections of gravel road and rougher rocky sections plus stream crossings. In heavy rain these streams will be flooded. Your reward when you arrive at Big River is a museum in the wilderness. The original winding engine covered under a big red shed, the poppet head (fully restored), tramlines, dams, boilers, sawmills shrouded in forest, so much to see.
Enjoy lunch or an overnight stay at Big River Hut. Drive out the way you came in. The road can also be used as a walking or mountain biking track.
Longer walks and overnight tramps call for something extra in terms of stamina, equipment, experience and provisions.
Weather conditions can change rapidly, particularly on the tops. Rain can quickly make even small streams treacherous to cross. Before starting out it is best to check with Reefton Visitor Centre for the latest weather and track information.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.