Greymouth is the largest town in the West Coast Region of the South Island of New Zealand. The town has a rich history of jade hunting, gold mining, and dramatic river floods. The town is also known for its excellent local brewery, which has become something of a New Zealand legend. The town derives its name from its location at the mouth of the Grey River. It is situated on a coastal plain near the foot of the Southern Alps. On clear days, Aoraki Mount Cook is visible in the distance.
Greymouth: What to Do
There is no shortage of activities for visitors to Greymouth. The town boasts the perfect balance between fascinating, historical attractions and access to wonderful outdoor adventures. If history is your thing, take a trip to the local museum, which provides visitors with a detailed history of the rich gold mining history in Greymouth. Likewise, history buffs will surely enjoy a trip to the Shantytown Heritage Park. Shantytown is one of New Zealand’s premier cultural and heritage attractions. It is an accurately and beautifully restored 1900s pioneer town. The town is the perfect simulation of the great New Zealand West Coast gold rush towns born out of the 1860s.
If you are a fan of a well-brewed beer, then head to the legendary Monteith’s Brewery. In addition to being a great place to enjoy an excellently crafted drink, Monteith’s offers a variety of experiences for beer enthusiasts visiting Greymouth. Monteith’s does offer official tours of the brewery where visitors can be taken though the facility and have the process explained to them. However, even if you do not want the full tour, you can still experience the brewery.
Monteiths has an open door policy and the bar at the brewery is open for tastings whenever the brewery itself is open. At the bar, guests can taste any of ten full flavoured beers ranging from light and fruity to dark and full-bodied. They even have tasting trays that allow visitors to taste a few sips of a variety of different beers. The famous Monteith’s is a must for beer enthusiasts visiting Greymouth.
Greymouth is also one of the terminuses of one of the world’s most famous train journeys. The TranzAlpine Train, which travels between Christchurch and Greymouth offers some of the most stunning scenery you will see on a train anywhere in the world. Passengers will be treated to wonderful views of the Canterbury Plains, deep gorges, the ice-fed Waimakariri River, and the majestic Southern Alps. The stunning alpine landscape is sure to take your breath away and keep you riveted for the entire journey. It isn’t often that you hope for a public transportation to journey to continue, but in this case you most certainly will.
The Greymouth area is home to two very well regarded walking/cycling trails, the Croesus Track and the West Coast Wilderness Trail.
- Coal Creek Falls: Enjoy the lovely walking tracks down to the impressive Coal Creek Falls. An Incredibualy beautiful place to cool off with a swim in the hot summer months in New Zealand.
The Croesus Track
The Croesus Track holds the distinction of being one of New Zealand’s best mountain biking tracks despite being built well before the invention of the mountain bike. Back in the 1870s immigrants in search of gold formed the track for their pack horses. Now, the same track is used by thousands of mountain bikers each year. The track climbs over 1,000 metres into the wild Victoria Range.
On a clear day, bikers can see nearly all of the West Coast Region from atop the Victoria Range. The track starts in the small village of Blackball as a gravel road before soon entering dense forest where you will ride on a technical single track. Should you so desire, there are several old mining relics along the track that you cans stop and investigate as you travel. Just above the treeline is Ces Clark Hut, which is a great place for lunch or for an overnight stay. The hut has wonderful views out over the surrounding area. The track continues all the way up to the Paparoa Range. While the ride can be done in one day, many decide to spend the night in the Ces Clark Hut in order to better enjoy the wonderful views it provides.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail
This trail lies in the midst of the Southern Alps in the West Coast Region, travelling between Greymouth and Ross. The track is about 139 kilometres and takes most people four days. However the amount of time it takes depends on how many stops you make along the way. The majority of the ride is level and quite easy, thus making it a great activity for all levels of riding ability, including families.
The trail is made up of tracks originally carved by gold-miners, logging tramways, and historic railway lines. All together, the track is a four-day cycling adventure that is among the best in the Australasia Region. While the trail can be walked, it is much more commonly done on bike.
Over the course of the trail, visitors are taken through dense rainforest, past glacial rivers, lakes, and wetlands, and treated to spectacular views all the way from the mountains of the Southern Alps to the Tasman Sea. Beyond the views, the trail also has a variety of attractions for bikers to stop and check out along the way. Visitors can enjoy panning for gold, rafting, dolphin watching, jade, wood, and bone carving studios, trout fishing, scenic flights, the West Coast Treetop Walk, and the chance to enjoy some wonderful local glass art.
The West Coast Treetop Walk is a particularly popular attraction. Located around 15 kilometres south of Hokitika, the Treetop Walk allows visitors to experience the temperate New Zealand rainforest from the canopy 20 metres up. There is also a tower that climbs to 40 metres above the forest floor. From the tower, there are stunning views of the surrounding area. In addition to these attractions, there are also a number of historic village along the way. Kumara, Milltown, Kaniere, Ruatapu, and Ross all provide riders with wonderful opportunities to meet the locals and enjoy a traditional West Coast New Zealand experience.
Visitors hoping to complete the West Coast Wilderness Trail should keep in mind that the West Coast Region is known for receiving a large amount of rain, especially in autumn and winter. While there are a number of months where the weather is often beautiful, it is best to check the weather forecast prior to starting your trip. Also, there are a few areas where fords may form during periods of heavy rainfall. If these are flowing high, they should not be crossed. Riders should also be aware of the fact that there are many locations along the trail with little to no mobile phone coverage. Finally, riders should bring a water bottle as there are a number of places along the route where bottles can be filled. Additionally, water can be purchased at any of the overnight locations.
Greymouth is home to a variety of accommodation options for visitors ranging from alpine huts to backpackers hostels to luxury hotels. No matter your budget or your taste, there is something for you in Greymouth.
Travelling from Abroad?
The nearest international airport is in Christchurch. From there, it is 3.5 hours by car, or 4 hours on the aforementioned incredibly sceneic TranzAlpine Train.