Paparoa Track Famil
With the Paparoa Track opening soon, we decided to spend the weekend on the West Coast to become familiar with the locations surrounding the new track. The journey from Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass didn’t disappoint. The snow capped Southern Alps in the evening sunlight were truly memorising. You know you’ve arrived on the West Coast when the landscape changes to a beautiful native forest, lush and green. We arrived in rain, but it cleared as we arrived to our first destination. The locals welcomed us with open arms.
In Blackball, we visited a mixture of accommodation types from brand new tiny houses, an old cottage, the Blackball Hilton and the Blackball’s Inn. All of the accommodation is standard, warm and comfortable, all you need before or after you walk or ride the Paparoa Track.
The hospitality was second to none. Pat and Jane from the newly opened Blackballs Inn were truly fascinating. An integral part of local history – Pat set up Blackball Salami many years ago and Jane opened the Blackball Hilton. Now running the brand new Blackball’s Inn, their passion and knowledge about all things Blackball and the West Coast really will enhance any stay here. Pat is very proud of his bar, I recommend you try the locally distilled Reefton Gin – I did, served with fresh apple, it was lovely! Jane’s home cooked dinner and Bruce the dog added the homely atmosphere.
Bruce the dog wouldn’t look at the camera.
After dinner we retired to the pool table and then ventured out to see what else Blackball had to offer! The Blackball Hilton was closing up as the chef had decided to hold a party, which we were invited to! We decided to try our luck at the Working Man’s Club instead. Again, we were made to feel very welcome and were even tempted to stay the following night so we could try our hand at the popular sport of slug racing!
After a great sleep and delicious breakfast we explored the local area. We took a ride out to the abandoned Blackball coal mine. Steeped with industrial archaeology, we certainly got the feel of how hard the miners life must have been to work in such remote and challenging conditions. We checked out the road to Smoke-ho car park, which is currently closed as it’s being upgraded. The scenery even down here was spectacular; one can only imagine how awesome the Paparoa track is going to be.
Back to Blackball township were we visited the Blackball Museum of Working Class History. We learnt about the 1908 strike, which saw the local miners lead the country into a new political era. Also home to a moving Pike Commemoration, it’s a really emotional place to visit.
The general store sells an amazing range of goods, including home knitted gloves and of course Blackball sweets. Don’t forget to stock up Blackball Salami a local delicacy, famous throughout New Zealand. If you venture a little bit further along from the Salami shop you can treat yourself to amazing homemade pies washed down with Turkish coffee!! Blackball is simply awesome, full of the unexpected!
The following day we jumped on the Paparoa shuttle and went for a wonderful walk starting at the Waikori Road car park, where the mountain bikers will either start or finish their journey. We climbed up through lush rainforest with glades of Nikau palms. Then we followed the track beside the Pororari River through the lower gorge. A very enjoyable 2 hour tramp immersed in amazing West Coast scenery. Any one who has booked their Paparoa Great Walk or bike ride is in for a real treat!
To top the day off we visited the Pancake Rocks. Timed perfectly for high tide, the blow holes where blowing. The sun was setting in the West, a truly magical sight. Yet another reason to book the Paparoa Track and spend some extra time is this really beautiful and unique part of New Zealand.
We will highly recommend you stay the night in Blackball either at the beginning or the end of their Paparoa track adventure. It’s quirky, unique and steeped in New Zealand history.