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Gold Rush History, West Coast, New Zealand


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NZ Freephone:

0800 742 689


+64 3 762 6634


Rutherglen Road
New Zealand

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Shantytown Shantytown old-time photo Shantytown sawmill Shantytown wedding church Shantytown bridge

Shantytown Logo Shantytown, Gold Rush History

Shantytown Introduction

While the South Island's West Coast is well known for its magnificent scenery and glaciers, no visit to the area is complete without experiencing Shantytown.

The discovery of gold in 1864 led to a population "explosion" – from around 300 to almost 30,000 residents. Isolation, rugged terrain and extreme weather conditions produced stories of fortitude and ingenuity.

Shantytown tells these stories of New Zealand gold mining history through a fascinating mix of experience and displays. Ride the Steam Train along an original tramway through native rainforest, stop for a photo and watch out for the wekas! Our friendly loco drivers are happy to show you the cab.

Experience the sights and sounds of a working sawmill, watch the mighty sluice gun in action. Follow the races and flumes to the Gold Claim where our Gold Miner will tutor you to pan for your own gold – a strike is guaranteed – you might want to trade your gold in the village.

Beautiful short bushwalks make the rainforest easy to get into and experience at your leisure. The Village, borne of the gold rush offers delicious refreshments from Everybodys Tearooms, while the kids can enjoy the flying fox, or try their hand at the Gold-Rush Treasure Hunt. Explore the 30 shops and buildings that show a slice of life from the early days.

Stop a while and browse the Curio for gifts or send a postcard stamped with the Shantytown's own Post Mark. For a memento of your visit to Shantytown nothing is better than to grab a costume and get an old time photo. There is so much to see and do at Shantytown while learning about gold mining in New Zealand.

Highlights of our Gold Rush History Heritage Park

First conceived 40 years ago, the local community built and continues to be heavily involved in Shantytown Heritage Park. The Park is run by a Trust and all profits go back into the business. Highlights include:

  • Steam Train rides through native rainforest
  • Pan for your own gold
  • Watch the mighty sluice gun blast gold bearing rock and soil from a cliff face
  • Experience the sights and sounds of a working sawmill
  • Explore Chinatown
  • Short tracks through native rainforest to experience the 'bush' up close
  • Fantastic childrens' playground with flying fox

Weddings, Conferences and Corporate Events

Our restored 1865 interdenominational church is a popular choice for wedding services, along with outdoor and indoor venues around the village. While firmly rooted in the gold-rush era, Shantytown's conference and corporate events facilities are well and truly 21st century.

Shantytown offers a complete package that includes:

  • Full catering facilities
  • 300 seat capacity, ability to make the space smaller for intimate events
  • Fully licenced bar
  • Free WiFi
  • Breakout rooms
  • Team building exercises available on site

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Panning and Gold Mining in New Zealand

Shantytown panning for gold Shantytown train Shantytown train

At the peak of the Gold Rush in the 1860's the area in and around Shantytown was home to some 5,000 prospectors and their families.

The gaunt heaps of stones that miners called tailings are now kindly masked by the encroaching native rain forest. At one time, though, the area was alive with Chinese diggers and wild colonial boys tearing into the land, to prize the glittering rewards with their gold dredges and sluicing claims.

Whether you choose to arrive at the Shantytown claim by steam or via a short walk up an exquisite bush pathway, this is a must do experience!

Our gold mining team will guide you through the entire process where you'll be assured of winning a small 'colour' at our old town for gold mining in New Zealand.

Gold Rush History by Steam

Steam power was at the heart of the West Coast's early development. Our gold rush history preserves the experience for new generations of travellers via a short trip (20 minutes) by Steam Train.

All entrances to Shantytown include a ride on one of our vintage Steam Trains. Open from 8:30 am, our first train departs at 9:45 and then at regular intervals throughout the day until 4 pm. On either the 1877 'L' class improved 1896 'F' class Kaitangata, you will take a short trip through lush native rain-forest along a line which follows an original sawmill tram track of the 1800's.

On the return leg our train will stop at the Infants Creek Sawmill where you will disembark and take a short walk to the mighty sluice gun demonstration. This giant water gun blasts gold bearing rock and soil off a cliff face, you then follow the flumes and races down to the gold claim. When you have panned your gold (a strike is guaranteed)! Another short bush-clad walk will have you back in the heart of our recreated village.

With over 30 shops and buildings to explore in the village, you'll find so much to see and do at Shantytown.

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