If you’re ever in Westport, a visit to the Denniston incline should be top of your list. Immerse yourself in the history of coal mining in New Zealand at this abandoned coal mining settlement, and get a sense of how life would have been for those who lived ‘on the hill.’
The Denniston Plateau is a short drive North of Westport and only half an hour from Omau Settlers Lodge, Cape Foulwind.
Often our guests will head North to the Oparara Arches in Karamea for a day trip, and visit Denniston on the way.
What To Expect
After heading 9kms up to the top of the Denniston mountain plateau, on a good day you will be rewarded with an outstanding view over the Buller region. However, the weather at Denniston is reknown for being quite changeable and perfect sunshine can be contrasted with an eerie fog, which just adds to the mystique of what was a historic mining settlement.
I’ve been up to Denniston a few times now. There’s a great interpretive walk through the remnants of the abandoned Denniston township and takes about half an hour to do. It’s well signposted with lots of stories and information about the area and the people who lived there.
There’s also a huge variety of walking and mountain bike tracks that weave their way through some amazing landscape. Track surfaces can vary from rocky tracks, gravel roads to bush lined trails – ideal for anyone into fitness, walking, running or mountain biking.
Denniston; The Playground For Runners, Hikers & Mountain Bikers
My good friend Hannah visited recently and needed somewhere hilly to run as she was in training for an ultra marathon. Denniston immediately sprung to mind, so I dropped her off at the plateau, and she explored the tracks for 3.5 hours before I returned to collect her.
As we were only a short drive from Granity, I settled in there for the morning while she was running. It was a cloudy overcast day with a smattering of rain, and I felt a little pang of guilt when I thought about Hannah slogging it out at the top of Denniston while I was warm and cosy enjoying a takeaway coffee from Whanake in Westport… but I pushed that aside, reminding myself that she’s the nutter who wants to run … not me!
I expected to see a bedraggled exhausted friend when I picked her up later that day, but she was buzzing about how amazing her run was. Then the crazy woman proceeded to tell me that she planned to live at the top of the hill because there’s so much to explore and see.
Denniston also has a large network of mountain bike trails. Maps of the trails have been created by the local Westport MTB group and are available for sale from Buller Printing or the i-Site in Westport.
It made me realise that I’ve hardly scratched the surface on what Denniston has to offer.
Denniston is definitely one of Westport’s most understated icons.
Denniston Short Video
Here’s a short video from the NZ National Film Unit, which focuses on the Denniston Incline, providing a last look at the remarkable mountainside rope-railway which brought coal down from a 2000 ft plateau.
Visit the Denniston ‘The Friends of the Hill Society’ website