Gillespies Beach walking tracks
There are five walks at Gillespies Beach which allow visitors to explore the area no matter how much time they have available.
Miners Cemetery Walking Track
Time: 5 min/270 m return
Just before the signposted turnoff to the Gillespies Beach campsite and car park there is a short walk to the historic miners cemetery. The cemetery is a reminder of the harsh environment the early gold prospectors lived and worked in.
Historic Gillespies suction dredge
Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk
Time: 15 min/400 m return
The Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk is a short loop track starting from the main Gillespies Beach car park. Wander past historical remains of the suction dredge used by the miners in the late 19th century. Interpretation panels take you back to when Gillespies Beach was a bustling gold mining town.
Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk
Time: 30 min /1.6 km return
Follow the Miners Tunnel Track from the main Gillespies Beach car park and camping area through gorse-covered dredge tailings to the remains of an old 1930s gold dredge. On a clear day the mountain tops will peak above the gorse. Continue to the Miners Tunnel or Galway Beach or, return the way you came or via the beach.
Miners Tunnel Track
Time: 1 hr 40 min / 3.6 km return
Continue past the bucket dredge and out onto the beach. Walk north along the beach until you reach Gillespies Lagoon. The lagoon is crossed by a bridge 5 minutes inland. Enjoy spectacular views from here on a fine day.
From the lagoon the track follows the line of a gold miners’ pack track, climbing up an old glacier moraine before entering a tunnel built to provide an all-tide access route for miners. The track emerges to a viewing point above the beach – there is no access to the beach from this point.
Galway Beach Tramping Track
Time: 3 hr 30 min/ 6.8 km return
Follow the Miners Tunnel Track from Gillespies Beach car park and campsite. Turn off at the Galway Beach sign, just before the miners tunnel. The track weaves through rimu forest and leads to a remote beach. The seal colony at Galway Beach is a haul-out (resting) colony for seals in the winter.
Take care not to disturb the seals and never get between the seals and the sea. Do not try and walk through the colony to Gillespies Lagoon – you must return to the car park via the track.
Gillespies Beach is a 21 kilometre drive from Fox Glacier Weheka. Head west along Cook Flat Road, passing the turn off to Lake Matheson and the Peak Viewpoint along the way. Half of the journey is on a narrow, unsealed road – keep left, and keep your speed to a minimum. The road is not suitable for towing vehicles.
Places to stay
There are a number of accommodation options in Fox Glacier Weheka.
About the area
A visit to Gillespies Beach offers a scenic drive, lovely views of the Southern Alps Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, an historic cemetery and coastal walks. In 1865 a prospector named Gillespie discovered gold here. Soon, a settlement of several hundred people established.
By the 1920s, Gillespies was a ghost town, briefly revived from 1933 to 1946 when a large bucket-dredge mined the beach sands and the old town site.
Plan and prepare
- Check the current track conditions and weather forecasts at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre and i-SITE before starting your trip.
- Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
- Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.
- Dogs are not permitted on this track.
Guides and commercial tourism providers