Orepuki is a small country township which once used to be a thriving gold mining settlement. Today Orepuki resembles a ghost town, with many abandoned stores from the past. The Orepuki primary school closed in 2003.
Orepuki is situated next to Te Waewae Bay, with sandy beaches and high cliffs with tunnels and caves in them. To the east is the Longwood Range, which is covered in dense forest. Great for hunting and tramping. There are many farms surrounding Orepuki.
With surrounding areas include Pahia, Round Hill, Wakapatu, Ruahine, Colac Bay, Waihoaka, Te Waewae and Te Tua.
The township has a pub, store, bowling green, community hall and a church. It has a population of about 100.
The area is famous for its bent over trees, due to frequent winds blowing salt from across the sea. Most trees along the coast are bent by nearly 90°. The land around Orepuki is scarred from past gold mining projects.
More information towards the bottom of the page.
Where to stay in Orepuki:
- Quartz Cottage (center the map)
- Monkey Island - Freedom Camping (center the map)
What to do in Orepuki:
- Monkey Island (center the map)
- Gemstone Beach - Surfing & Exploring (center the map)
- Monkey Island Beach (center the map)
- Orepuki (center the map)
Orepuki is 20 minutes from Riverton, 15 minutes from Tuatapere and 50 minutes from Invercargill.
In 1866, Commissioner for Crown Lands Mr Walter H. Pearson travelled to a gold mining camp that had sprung up on the beach at Monkey Island. He reported that "the journey from Riverton was both circuitous and harrowing, but a good walker could make the journey in one day. "At that time there was no road beyond Riverton, and supplies were taken around the coast by boat.
Assisted by Mr Henry Hirst who had taken up Longwood Run No 393, Mr Pearson pegged out a township right at the beach at Monkey Island. This township was the first Orepuki but it was short lived. Gold was discovered on higher country inland from the sea. Eventually a town named Garfield was established at the goldfield and some buildings were moved to this new site. Provisions and new settlers still depended on coastal shipping and the established jetty at Monkey Island. Two early settlers, Hirst and Printz conveyed the provisions to Garfield by way of bullock wagon.
In 1879 a coal mine was established near Garfield and later a sawmill and a flax mill. On 25 May 1885, a branch line railway was opened to Orepuki, providing it with swift transport to Invercargill. This new rail service saw the demise of the shipping service and also saw the town gradually shift to the rail head. Once again buildings were moved to a new site, and sluicing operations found more gold under the old Garfield site.
On 1 October 1903, a further rail extension beyond Orepuki was opened and the line ultimately came to be known as the Tuatapere Branch. The section of line between Riverton and Tuatapere closed on 30 July 1976 and the Orepuki station building still stands today, albeit relocated to serve other purposes on a farmer's paddock.
At first this third township was known as Hirstfield but soon changed to Aropaki "Crumbling Cliffs" but evenyually reverted to Orepuki.
In 1899 a rich shale oil operation began, employing 200 men thus adding to the properity and population which reached 3,000 at its peak. The shale oil industry which produced an oil for lighting and a number of byproducts came to a sudden end in 1902. The excuse given was the adverse marketing conditions and the removal of duty on kerosene and paraffin oil. Mystery still surrounds the real reason!
The closure of this important industry, coupled with less gold being discovered and the sawmilling industry moving further west saw the town slowly reduce in size. In the 1960s the town still boasted a movie theatre, three shops, an hoteland a dairy, plus a school, three churches and a Mission hall.