Denniston Mine

Coaling in the clouds

View on map arrow_downward

A town of extremes at the top of an incline railway, with the highest quality coal and lowest living conditions.

Once a leading coal mining town, Denniston sits high on the edge of a steep incline railway once described as the 8th wonder of the world. A town of extremes, workers mined the highest quality coal but families suffered the lowest living conditions. Exposed and isolated, its thriving community was born out of its barren lands.

No place like it and no place for the fainthearted, Denniston was a coal mining town defined by an isolating incline. Sitting 518 metres high in the clouds, the Denniston plateau originally had one access: a 1670 metre incline railway deservingly referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. Steep with some gradients of 1 in 1.3, this engineering marvel used gravity and West Coast grit to transport coal wagons from 1880-1967.

The high-grade coal was worth the hardship, with unsurpassable clean qualities that supplied even the British fleets. The 100-year-long production that was the plateau can still be seen in the Cornish stonemasonry, the town loop tracks and the walkable 2.5km coal transportation rope road linking Coalbrookdale to the Brakehead.

Living on the edge was exactly that; trapped in ghastly mist or gloriously clear to the coast. A town where families couldn’t grow food, dig a long-drop or bury the dead, was simultaneously a thriving social place of brass bands, bowling greens and unionism. Walk the 1884 Bridle Path, listen to the Denniston Rose app, and be blown away that 1400 people once lived here.

Denniston Mine is proudly cared for by the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai.


Facilities and Information

  • directions_walk Walking involved

Learn More



Denniston is 18 km north east of Westport (approximately a 30 minute drive).

From Westport, follow State Highway 67 north for 15 km and turn right at Waimangaroa onto the road to Denniston.

Other Tohu Whenua in West Coast