Everyone already knows New Zealand is The Place to go for walking in the wilderness, spectacular scenery and some really good grub. But there’s more to the Land of the Long White Cloud than just lakes and mountains. Jamestown, an eerie and abandoned South Island settlement off Martin’s Bay on the Hollyford Track, is proof-positive that New Zealand is a wealth of history with plenty of stories left to share.
Thanks to its position on the Tasman Sea, Jamestown has played host to both Māori people and gold rush prospectors – the latter of whom held high hopes for it to become the capital of South Island in the 1800s due to its considerably short distance from Australia. Māori communities thrived in the region for centuries, and evidence of their presence can be dated as far back as the 1600s, but in the late 19th century, colony settlers also moved their families to the isolated outpost with dreams of building a grand port city. Jamestown was not to be tamed, however, and the settlers fled just a decade later, overwhelmed by punishing coastal climate and extreme isolation from the rest of New Zealand’s still-developing civilization.
Today, travelers can see this failed settlement for themselves as part of New Zealand Walking Tours’ Elegant South trip, which takes visitors into the abandoned site on foot through the dense undergrowth of Podacarp Forest. Overgrown and barely distinguishable as a once-promising outpost, all that remains of Jamestown today are three apple trees, a plaque and a crumbling fireplace left by its former residents, but New Zealand Walking Tours’ guides have a trove of tales to tell on the trials and errors of fated Jamestown and its starry-eyed settlers. Now part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Fiordland National Park, Jamestown is a stark reminder of the harsh realities of early colonization in New Zealand’s untamed wilderness – and how quickly Mother Nature can reclaim what’s rightfully hers.
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