“There’s gold in them thar hills” is a 19th Century expression that is still alive on the West Coast.

Virtually every rock-bound riverbed yields secrets of heritage gold diggings. Fossick in the loose gravels of any tumbling mountain stream on the Coast and you have a good prospect of winning a small ‘colour’.

Visitors to the West Coast can have a personal experience of the 1860’s gold rush days at Shantytown. This authentic recreation of an historic gold town is located just off the main road, 11 km south of Greymouth. History comes to life here in the form of vintage steam train rides, horse and buggy jaunts, Cobb & Co Coach rides, a pioneer’s sawmill, a working gold claim and over 30 authentic and replica buildings.

A shrill blast from the 1896 steam locomotive ‘Kaitangata’ announces the train’s departure. You will ride back in time to a vintage sawmill deep in the forest. A photo stop allows time to inspect the venerable locomotive, which runs very smoothly and efficiently along the bush track.

Back in Shantytown, visit the Golden Nugget Hotel Saloon and the charming Everybody’s Tea Rooms. Admire the Old World decor and displays of china and glassware. Do the rounds of the livery stables, blacksmith, fire station, gaol and Chinatown’s shanties with their basic home comforts. Don’t miss the displays of precious stones and local crafts at the gem and mineral hall .

Join the modern-day gold rush at Shantytown, and pan for gold just like the prospectors of old. The gold claim is set in an original working mine, where a high pressure sluicing gun brings gravels down from the face. These gravels are then washed over a series of riffles in the tailrace boxes where the precious metal is trapped. Visitors can pan the gravels in water-filled tubs, to reveal specks of bright shining gold. They take gold poaching seriously here. Along the ‘Crittur’s Track’ warning signs tell intruders to ‘Keep Out’, and threaten that ‘any varmits caught robin the sluice box will get hung fast’.

This recreation of the rollicking ‘gold fever’ days makes a thoroughly enjoyable family outing.