Collingwood to Aorere Valley
Splendid views of rivers and bush, the spirits of golddiggers and historic Collingwood.
has essential services, a petrol station, fire station, post shop, food store, tavern and campground. There is a wide selection of accommodation.
includes St Cuthbert’s Church (1873), Courthouse (1901) and Post Office (1906). From the fire station, follow the trail of heritage plaques along Tasman Street, then turn right to the War Memorials and uphill to the Church.
Old Collingwood Cemetery
Ornate wrought-iron fences and crumbling gravestones are scattered on a rocky hillside. Visitors can walk the signposted trail from the Collingwood village up the Gibbs Road track, along Orion Street.
is ideal for walking at low-tide and dog-friendly. Access from Beach Road.
estuary is home to wading birds and whitebaiters (in season).
Devil’s Boots (Rockville)
are an unusual limestone formation.
Salisbury Falls (Bainham)
are at a narrow gorge with a freshwater swimhole.
Turn off the main road at Kaituna Bridge and follow the signs to the carpark. From here the well-graded track takes you to the old Kaituna goldworkings, where water-races, shafts, stacked stones and the odd piece of rusting iron identify a hundred-year-old rush. The track then carries you further into the hills with splendid views over the river and bush.
“You have to walk to Ballroom Caves and swim at Salisbury Bridge water holes.”
Gold was found in the Aorere in December 1856, and within a year there were a thousand men working there. Aorere became the first major goldfield in New Zealand and was notable because sluicing was used and the diggers got together to set down their own regulations. The rush lasted for three years, during which time Collingwood was mooted as the capital of New Zealand.
Nikau palms and roaring west Coast seas are a feature of this 82-kilometre track, which takes 4–5-days to walk. Moderate fitness and abilities are required. Mountain biking is permitted on the track from 1 May to 30 September for a trial period in 2012-13. Bookings are required for huts and campsites. www.doc.govt.nz
People of the Past
Tamati Pirimona Marino was a chief at Aorere when the New Zealand Company first visited. He signed the Treaty of Waitangi and is buried at the Old Collingwood Cemetery. Fred Tyree was a pioneer photographer who recorded the early days of European settlement. His exceptional black and white images are on display at Aorere Centre, Collingwood.
In 1842, Surveyor Tuckett found three Europeans living near the pa at the mouth of the Aorere River. They were building a trading vessel. The tiny settlement was first named Gibbstown after an influential resident but later the name was changed to Collingwood, honouring Nelson’s second-in-command at Trafalgar.
During the gold boom of the 1850′s the suggestion was made that the town become the nation’s capital, but the good years soon ended, the miners drifted away and the gravelled streets with their cleared sections reverted to fern and scrub.
Fire destroyed Gibbstown in 1859, another fire in 1904 destroyed the rebuilt village and as recently as 1967 fire struck again, burning down the hall, hotel and two shops.
Today’s Collingwood is a mixture of old and new. Modern buildings include the general store, hotel and memorial hall, while venerable reminders of the past are found in St. Cuthbert’s Church (1873), the courthouse (1901) and post office buildings.
Houses and a campground crowd onto the small sandspit with the commercial buildings; other houses spread along the coast to the south or meander up the river bank to the wharf.
Collingwood Cemetery 1857-1895
People who enjoy rambling through historic cemeteries and reading stories of flooks, epidemics, shipwrecks and other trials of early colonial life from the headstones should set aside some time to visit the Old Collingwood Cemetery, whose ornate wrought-iron fences and crumbling gravemakers are scattered on a rocky hillslope beside what was once the coach-road to the goldfields. Access is signposted, either from Excellent Street (off S.H. 60) or along a track behind the Collingwood Area school.
An extensive search of archived records indicates that this poineer cemetery was the main burial ground in Aorere district, although some family graves were on private land. This historic cemetery was in use from 1857 with the land belatedly gazetted as a public cemetery on 16 September 1897.