The Denniston Experience
The Denniston Experience
5
Sightseeing Tours
Read more
This location was reported permanently closed
About
New Zealand's only underground coal mining experience! Enjoy a fully guided tour into an original 1880's underground coal mine. Kitted out with a hard hat, lamp and raincoat your journey begins with a short guided walk from the carpark to the railway station. A narrow gauge train takes you along a section of the old coal haulage route, with spectacular views over the Waimangaroa Gorge and then into the mine. Advanced audio and visuals bring the experience alive, with the sights and sounds that would have been usual back in that time. Have a go at your allocated mining job; hewer, trucker, clipper, maybe you will be the shot firer. Learn of the myths and legends of the early coal mining culture. Watch a ghostly miner hologram to understand the harsh life of an old time Denniston coal miner. Open every day! The onsite office is often unmanned - Please phone to book in advance.
Denniston, New Zealand

Suggest edits to improve what we show.
Improve this listing
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

5.0
127 reviews
Excellent
113
Very good
13
Average
1
Poor
0
Terrible
0

Munrotti
Nelson-Tasman Region, New Zealand31 contributions
Jul 2020
We were fascinated by the history of this former coal mining town. A town on the top of a mountain! Unfortunately we were unable to do the tours due to mobility issues. There is a lot of information and photos and relics to be viewed, without having to pay a cent. Dress warmly though, it was freezing up there.
Written July 19, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jacqui J
Tauranga, New Zealand14 contributions
Feb 2021 • Couples
As an avid book reader I was keen to visit Denniston (having loved Jenny Patrick’s Denniston Rose). The work that has gone into sharing the lives of those who were involved with coal mining of the past is impressive. Lots to read, with many a tale coming alive as one walked around the site. Worth the 8 km drive up into the mist.
Written February 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

wendhmagz
Waihi, New Zealand1,516 contributions
Feb 2017 • Couples
This is a "must see" on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Denniston is around 19 kms north of Westport up a winding road - not for the faint-hearted - to the Denniston Plateau. We did the full mine tour (2½ hours) which transported us back to Denniston in the 1800s when coal production was the most important thing in the harsh life of the times. We were kitted out with luminous jacket and hard hat and then taken by Don, our guide, to the station to catch a little train to the mine. Don himself was a miner for seven years so knows his stuff. The little train travelled along the Waimangaroa Gorge to the original Banbury Mine operational from 1878 to 1886. Don led us 200 metres into the mine where fantastic audio soundtrack and hologram movies re-enacted scenes from the mining days. We were all given mining jobs to do - overseer, newer, chipper, and so on. In its hey day, Denniston Plateau was the largest producing coal mine in New Zealand with an estimated 12 million tons of coal carried down the 'incline' between 1870 and 1967.

The Denniston Incline, the means by which the coal was transported to the bottom of the hill, was said to be an amazing feat of engineering. It dropped 510 metres in 1.7 km. The weight of the full wagons carting the coal down the hillside pulled the empty wagons back to the top. The fully loaded wagons weighing up to 12 tons could accelerate up to 80 kms per hour. Apart from a goat track, this was also the only way of getting people up or down the hill in those days until the road was constructed many years later. The women especially, once up the hill on the plateau, refused to ever go down again (on the incline) as they felt their chances of coming back alive were slim. If a loved one passed away, they said their farewells at the top of the hill, the coffins were tossed on the wagons on top of the coal, unceremoniously sent down the incline and then to the cemetery 2-3 kms away near the coast. There were more deaths on the incline than there ever was in the mines.

This tour gives a great insight into life in New Zealand during the coal mining days and the harsh conditions under which the miners worked and women and children had to tolerate. Don't miss it!

If you like my review, I hope you'll click the 'Helpful' button; those of us who write reviews love to get them and it motivates us to do more.
Written March 6, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Conway10
Gisborne, New Zealand124 contributions
Mar 2015 • Couples
Now you don't have to go on the organised trip. You can drive there yourself and experience the very good visual record that is available to the public. The Dennistion incline operated for 80 years and was an engineering marvel. It was the only access until a road was developed. Nearly two thousand people lived in the community 1800 metres up on the plateau and many lived there for years before venturing down to the flats below. It was so rocky that graves could not be dug so a cemetery was developed down by the coast which can be accessed at the base of the Denniston Road and crossing over the main road and railway line. There you can read some of the amazing history on the headstones which all point towards the plateau where they worked and called home.
Written March 9, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

22KiwiTraveller22
Hamilton, New Zealand597 contributions
Jan 2016 • Family
This was an interesting tour of an old mine. In view of all the ravingly enthusiastic reviews on trip advisor, and the expensive entry cost, I admit that my expectations were rather high, so perhaps it was not surprising I was disappointed. I think it would be interesting and fun for primary aged children, and for mature adults who have never been in a mine tunnel before. However, for those who like a guide who can provide in depth information, or for teenagers looking for adventure, I would not recommend this trip at all. Our guide was a friendly local, but she didn't know much beyond the scripted information she provided. Sadly the mine cart stops at the entrance to the underground mine shaft so you only get to ride it above ground, and only for a very short distance. Of course, because of OSH regulations, it was not an actual mine cart either, but a tourist-friendly safe little passenger carriage. The mine ceiling has been raised to accommodate tourists, which I thought was a shame. I would like to have seen it as it actually was for those who worked there.
In summary, if this trip was $10 or $20 a head, or $50 for a family, I would call it a nice little trip. But I felt very ripped off and disappointed paying hundreds for our family of 2 adults and 3 teenage boys to be bored on what I had thought would be a highlight of our trip.
Written July 24, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Many thanks for your feedback. We are sorry you and your family were disappointed with the tour and hope you were all able to find something to interest you all during the rest of your travels.
Written July 26, 2016
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Margaret B
1 contribution
Jun 2015
Was very lucky to go on the last tour with the current operator. Really enjoyed my tour and love that it was really interactive! There are also doc walks in the area and can't wait to go back for more adventures
Written June 26, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

KiwiDNA
Wellington70 contributions
Apr 2015
This is a real taste of NZ coal mining history. The story of the mine from its opening in 1860s to its closure 100 yrs later and the extraordinary way they got the coal down the mountain. It is perched on a plateau that is accessible by car, foot or bike. (7km of winding climbing sealed road). The views are out of this world. An absolute must. It is only 16km north of Westport to the turnoff.
We didnt get to do the tourist attraction as it was Easter Sunday. HOWEVER, if you get to Westport you would be mad not to take out a couple hours to visit this site, wet or fine. It reeks of history.
Written June 13, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Fforde
Manchester, UK454 contributions
Mar 2015 • Solo
The mine trip was really memorable. We were kitted out with high vis and hard hats before a short walk to start the train trip to enter the mine. Jobs were allocated amount the group, which provided an interactive experience as we spent time underground "working" the mine. Don , the tour guide, was brilliant and provided an interesting mix of history of the mine, his own mining experiences, and kiwi humour!!

Definitely worth the entry fee, as the technology and social changes you learn about proved fascinating. A tour I will remember for a long time.
Written March 21, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Chances99
Kelowna, Canada149 contributions
Feb 2015 • Couples
What an undertaking to keep going as a tourist adventure. Lot of thought was put in to choreograph each experience. Rails are well maintained. Reception at site is well-manned with knowledgeable staff. Very informative tour. Recommend for all ages.
Written March 11, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Allan T
150 contributions
What an experience best ever, miners train coal mine, it's awesome,would have hated to work for a living way back then A must if you go to Westport
Written March 7, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Showing results 1-10 of 125

The Denniston Experience - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go