Travel Diary » New Zealand Road Trip: Shantytown
During our time in Greymouth we visited Shantytown, a heritage replica town that aims to recreate what life in New Zealand was like 150 years ago. A replica town with a post office, bank, hospital and schoolhouse as well as a functioning steam train, gold panning, gold sluicing demonstrations, a mock saw mill and Chinese settlement (which as a lot fancier than the settlement we saw in Arrowtown). Noah has been learning about New Zealand's gold mining past at school, while Hayley's class has been doing a project on what life was like 150 years ago so it seemed like the perfect educational experience to fit into our road trip.
I was anticipating Shantytown to either be one of the coolest outings every or something so cheesy that even a 5 year old would roll their eyes at the experience. Thankfully it was closer to the first option, with no hokey animatronic shows! Just lots of historical displays, information and hands on displays. An older sophisticated teenager would probably have been underwhelmed if history wasn't their 'thing' but we really enjoyed it.
We spent 3.5 hours there exploring and playing. We rode the train, visited the Chinese village and it's store, and climbed on every stage coach and steam tractor we could find. One of the best things about Shantytown was that there was very little on display that couldn't be touched or climbed on. Most of the buildings could be entered and explored, from mines and Chinese stores to the hospital and school house.
We explored a replica mine and all decided it would have been very cramped, wet and dark! Noah really enjoyed the mineral and rock museum. Hayley liked the jail house. Both of them got great joy out of locking up Mum!
Only slightly more fun than sitting on the pretend drop toilets.
And spanking your sister ... How often does Mum tell you go for it, smack your sibling!
The hospital was the highlight for me. Rewa Hospital is a copy of a typical period hospital in the area and is filled with equipment donated by hospitals around New Zealand. There was an early X-ray machine, an examination table, an operating table, surgical instruments and catheters, crutches, artificial limbs, bed pans, an iron lung and a dentist's surgery. Some of it was really eye opening, especially the metal cylindrical catheters not much thinner than a pencil ... I honestly can't imagine having that inserted into my arm. The modern tiny needle ones are uncomfortable enough.
We tried gold panning. For $7 you get a pan with rocks, dirt and a small amount of gold, along with a demonstrate of the correct technique and help whenever needed.
We got the hang of it after a few minutes and came away with a small vial with around ten flakes of gold in it. The kids were completely convinced that now we could buy anything we wanted at Shantytown thanks to our new found riches. It was a little expensive so we only did it once, but it was well worth it. Next time we find a creek with someone renting pans out for cheap we'll know what to do.
And of course a lot of time was spent at the park. The giant flying fox was one of the fastest I've ever seen. The kids almost flew off the end each time. They both managed to stay on, although Noah lost his shoes each time. And who can resist a round-a-bout!
Shantytown is 10km south of Greymouth and is open from 8.30am-5pm. The steam train only runs a couple of times each day so it's well worth checking the website for the latest times and timing your visit to fit in with one of the scheduled rides. We spent 3.5 hours there and saw most things. There were a few buildings and demonstrations that we missed, as well as a couple of short bushwalks but by then the kids had had enough.
A family pass for two adults and up to four children is $74, or $69 if you purchase it online through their website. We were lucky enough that the website GrabOne.co.nz (similar to Groupon) was selling family passes for $29. It's well worth keeping an eye on GrabOne for three months before your visit in case the sale is on again. At $29 Shantytown is a fantastic, fun educational outing with kids. At $74 it's probably only worth it if your children are interested in history, trains and gold mining.
Gold panning is $7 extra per pan. We purchased one pan and took turns.
A small restaurant serves sandwiches, soup, salads, coffee, ice cream and snacks. Prices are quite reasonable, but you can also take your own food in.
This week I'm taking part in Delicous Baby's Photo Friday and Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday roundups. They're a great way to find new travel blogs and get inspired! I keep discovering new places I want to visit through them.