Atlas Obscura - Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations

Asbestos Cottage

Upper Tākaka, New Zealand

This backcountry hut was home to an asbestos miner and his wife for 40 years. 

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Asbestos Cottage was built in 1897 by prospectors coming to Kahurangi National Park to search for asbestos. What we now know to be a carcinogenic mineral, asbestos was widely used for over a century to provide a fireproof barrier and insulation to buildings.

One miner in particular, Henry Chaffey, lived in this isolated hut for over 40 years with his wife Annie Fox. Visitors today will be struck by the isolation of the building, tucked between mountains and forests. One can only imagine how lonesome it would have been a hundred years ago. However, Annie was always glad to greet visitors in her impressive Edwardian-style clothing.

Chaffey would make visits to Motueka and Takaka by foot for provisions and to sell what he was able to mine in order to support himself and his wife. This trek would have taken him days to complete. 

Know Before You Go

It takes a bit of a hike to reach the cottage, which is not for the faint of heart. The track is about 10km out and back and has a 522m elevation gain. It takes most people just under 4 hours to complete. The train head is at the end of a fairly bumpy road. There are a few beds with mattresses available if you'd like to stay overnight in the hut.

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