Day 100: Mountain Biking in Reefton

It’s Day 100 on New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year! Wahoo! Did we succeed to do 100 activities in New Zealand in 100 days? Hell yeah, we did! And the adventure continues in the West Coast region in the historical and mountain biking town of Reefton.

To be honest, we don’t really have much of a plan today, which is a bit sucky of us for Day 100. Nevertheless, after a morning of working in our accommodations, The Old Breadshop Backpackers, our host, Trevor, is keen to show us a few things around Reefton. Even from what he was saying yesterday about this town being the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to distribute electricity to the public, we are really intrigued to learn more about the town.

A walk through the “Wild West”

Reefton is a town frozen in time. Buildings look like they did a hundred years ago. (They did, actually. There’s old photos on display across the town to prove it). We walk past an old fence painted with the “Coke” logo, buildings of many different colours complete with canopies to walk under. It feels a bit like the “Wild West” of the U.S. Aptly, it’s the “Wild West Coast” of New Zealand.

Meeting the locals

Although Trevor originally comes from Australia, his knowledge on each building of the town and the wealth of people he knows shows he is clearly a local. Almost everyone says: “Hi, Trevor” on the street.

He introduces us to some of his friends working in various stores, such as two ladies in a creative-looking haberdashery and a guy called Paul, who owns the Broadway Tearooms & Bakery. Paul invites us in for a coffee and cake! Sweet!

Take a minute to appreciate this hot chocolate Take a minute to appreciate this hot chocolate
Taking the Lookout Road Taking the Lookout Road
Rewarded with epic views! Rewarded with epic views!
We can literally see our campervan from up here We can literally see our campervan from up here

Cafe conversations on Broadway

Here we are, stuffing ourselves with a caramel slice, chocolate cake, flat white and the most decorative hot chocolate we have seen in New Zealand so far (and Robin can confirm that it tastes amazing too). The conversation turns to mountain biking. Yes, Reefton may be the “Town of Light” and full of history, but we are surprised to see just how many mountain biking tracks there are surrounding the town! Paul offers to go mountain biking with us up to the Reefton Lookout then take The Zigzag back down to the town. It looks like we have just made a plan for Day 100, people!

Going for gold

So Paul is going to get his bike and we are crossing the road to the Reefton Sports Centre to hire some mountain bikes.

While we’re gearing up, we notice some gold pans for sale. The shop owner, Rosemary, shows us how they work, where to go gold panning (Slab Hut Creek), and tells us the history of gold mining in the town. Something we can learn more about from The Bearded Miners, which we are definitely going to check out tomorrow before leave Reefton!

Bikes ready, helmets on (it’s the law in New Zealand), gold panning knowledge acquired, local guide obtained: we are ready to go!

We’re just about to take on the zigzag!

Climbing to the lookout

Paul points out to where the lookout is. Of course, it’s on top of a massive hill. How the hell are we going to bike up there?!

The Lookout Track starts after a quick ride out of town until we reach a 4×4 track, well sign-posted and easy to follow. At first it navigates through a forested area until it reaches an exotic forest and a steady uphill climb. Although we have to work to get uphill, the gradient is not too dramatic. We’re exerting ourselves, but not overdoing it, and the viewpoints along the way are a great example of how high we’re climbing!

“I can see my house from up here!”

About those views, they are pretty epic by the way! There is so much more mountainous landscape surrounding Reefton than meets the eye from within the town. Mountains and mountains covered in forest overlap in the distance, with the Inangahua River braiding its way towards them.

After about 30-45 minutes (normal people’s time, not “Laura and Robin taking photographs” time), we reach The Lookout. Here it is, the perfect vantage point for Reefton and beyond! We can even spot our campervan outside The Old Breadshop Backpackers from here!

A quick stop at the old power station A quick stop at the old power station
Ending our ride across the Reefton swingbridge Ending our ride across the Reefton swingbridge
The light to be powered with electricity in Reefton The light to be powered with electricity in Reefton

Descending the Zigzag

It’s a bit of an uphill/downhill track to connect with The Zigzag, then we are in for the fun bit! A sign on the floor marks the start of the Zigzag, then we follow Paul all the way down a patch of regenerating native New Zealand forest.

To start with, ferns and some spiky plants whack us in the face (ahhh, nature), then the track opens up more. The track is mostly made up of rocks and loose stones, which Robin and Paul have awesome fun challenging themselves to find the best route through. Meanwhile, Laura lags behind, trying to follow the boys’ trails up ahead. All in all she sucks at it, but is getting the hang of it the further we go down the track.

Where the light was made

Before we connect back at the town, Paul shows us the remains of the old power generators of Reefton – the ones that first distributed the magic of light and electricity to the town! (We are absolutely lapping up this fact and history, can you tell?)

A swingbridge gives us passage over the Inangahua River and back to the State Highway which brings us back into Reefton town and back on the main street, Broadway Street.

Pub Trivia team Assemble!

If celebrating Day 100 on the road by mountain biking in Reefton wasn’t enough, we are going to go have a beer and dinner at one of the town’s pubs tonight, which we hope to see Paul later.

Back at The Breadshop Backpackers, Trevor is gathering us, his wife, Chris, and two American guests to go to a Pub Trivia at the Reefton Auto Lodge.

The perfect way to end Day 100

Our night of Day 100 is the best of Kiwi life and life as a backpacker – hanging out with people we’ve just met but instantly feeling like part of the town. Robin’s having rib-eye steak, while Laura is having fish n’ chips. Just pop in a pavlova and we are walking Kiwi cliches right here! (Instead, we opt for the $5 cheesecake to keep it real with being a cheap-ass backpacker).

Thankfully, this isn’t our last experience in Reefton, as we absolutely HAVE to go listen to the stories of The Bearded Miners tomorrow. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

THe Reefton Lookout in 360 degrees!
THe Reefton Lookout in 360 degrees! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Of course you do! Check out these articles to have an epic time on the West Coast. (And now that we have seen how much there is to do in Reefton, expect a guide to Reefton and a mountain biking guide to Reefton coming soon)!

We’re also doing our thing on Instagram, posting daily travel tips on Facebook, and meeting other travellers in New Zealand on HerePin.

See you tomorrow!

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