This walk mostly follows an historic bush tramway through the lower Ngakawau Gorge and the Charming Creek valley to the abandoned Charming Creek Coal Mine, passing historic sawmilling and mining remains. The gorge nestles among steep bluffs while below, water foams past immense boulders in the riverbed.
Ngakawau track end to Watson's Mill
Time: 1 hr 15 min one way
Distance: 3.5 km
The track starts with an easy 30-minute walk to an area where bins, historically used for transporting timber and coal, can be seen.
From here the track enters the Lower Ngakawau Gorge. There are sections of the old wooden centre brake rail – reminders of the difficulty of controlling heavy trains on the steep grades.
From the suspension bridge, admire views up and down the gorge. Steep bluffs are surrounded in native bush, with water flowing past immense boulders in the riverbed below. The impressive Mangatini Falls are visible from the track beyond the bridge.
A 50 m tunnel leads to a section of track called the Verandah which offers spectacular views of the river and Upper Ngakawau Gorge.
The track then leads to the river flats of Charming Creek and the historic site of Watson’s Mill.
Watson's Mill to the historic Charming Creek mine entrance/carpark
Time: 1 hr 45 min one way
Distance: 6 km
From Watson's Mill follow the old railway tracks through old cutover and farm paddocks to the site of Mumm's Mill. The track then leads onto the old Charming Creek mine entrance and car park.
There are two access points. The southern end is clearly signposted from SH 67 at Ngakawau, 35 km northeast of Westport. From the north, access is through Seddonville, 50 km north-east of Westport on SH 67, then 10 km along a gravel road to the abandoned Charming Creek mine site.
Contact the Westport i-SITE Visitor Centre on +64 3 789 6658 to arrange transport to/from the track ends.
This ride goes over historic railway formations – there may be sharp or rusty metal remnants along the track.
Some sections aren't suitable for biking. It's necessary to get off your bike as you cross the swing bridge at Mangatini Falls and when going up the rock steps by Irishman's tunnel.
This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.
Nature and conservation
In the steepest, most confined section of the gorge, the hardy Ngakawau Gorge (Celmisia morganii) flowers abundantly on steep rock faces from December to January. This is the only known habitat for this rare and protected species.
History and culture
The walk passes remnants of mining and milling operations from the early 1900s including tunnels, sawmill and coal mine remains.
At Watson’s Mill, steam boilers and other rusty relics are amongst the regenerating bush. Look out for the sulphur ‘stink hole’, seepage from a hole drilled during government coal prospecting operations in 1910–12. It's about 400 m past a small suspension bridge spanning the main creek.
At Mumm's Mill site, there is a sawmill steam engine. Trolleys and a steam log hauler are nearby.
At the Charming Creek mine entrance and car park, you can see the fan that extracted air from the underground mine and the bathhouse shell. Old coal bins are near the sealed entrance to the mine.
Know before you go
What to expect
- Elevation change: +/- 109 m
- Rapidly changing weather – this is the wild West Coast.
- No toilets on the track – public toilets are available in Granity, Waimangaroa and at the Buller Bay Information and Resource Centre in Ngakawau.
Ensure you take:
- drinking water – you shouldn't drink from streams in the area as they have a high mineral count
- sturdy footwear.
In the area
For information on transport, accommodation, activities, and attractions in the West Coast region, refer to www.westcoast.co.nz.