What to see, getting there and getting around
Greymouth on the Grey River
Greymouth is known for its dramatic river floods, extractive industry history and the arrival point for the Tranzalpine train from Christchurch. Greymouth is settled on a Maori pa site, Mawhera (widespread river) and is the largest town on the West Coast. The town has galleries specialising in pounamu (jade) jewellery and objects, local art works and artisan goods using upcycled materials. Greymouth has a substantial number of architectural heritage sites worth spending time wandering around town. The Floodwall walk is a heritage highlight with the power of the sea, river mouth sandbars and the difficulty of maintaining the Greymouth Port graphically illustrated. Greymouth offers visitors easy access to the iconic Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Charleston and underground caving and plenty of outdoor walks exploring old gold mining sites.
- Local brewer, Monteith’s is a New Zealand legend, the 45 minute tour includes beer tasting and a chance to shop in the attached store.
- Local walks including Coal Creek Waterfalls and Point Elizabeth lookout point
- Explore heritage sites from Runanga Miners Hall to the charming village of Kumara
- Greymouth heritage precinct walk with Greymouth Railway Station, former Government Offices, hotels and commercial buildings providing insight into the history of Greymouth
- Brunner Mine Site and the story of the disaster that claimed 65 lives
- Shantytown replica nineteenth century village attraction
- Arriving by train on the Tranzalpine Christchurch to Greymouth with its breathtaking views. A bucket list experience for travellers to New Zealand and from New Zealand
Walk past the Greymouth Star newspaper building and watch the newspaper press in action on printing days.
The mural on the building side is a great selfie location
MUSEUMS & SHANTY TOWN
Over 30 relocated buildings form a replica main street providing visitors with a visual recreation of a nineteenth century gold mining town. There is a Chinatown section, a saw milling operation and a small foundry. With cafes and rainforest walks it is easy to spend the day at Shantytown. You can try your hand at gold panning. SHANTY TOWN is a tourist experience and will be busy during the school holidays.
Brunner Mine Walk
13 km from Greymouth on State Highway 7 (the road eventually leads to Reefton, Lewis alpine pass and Christchurch).
Brunner Mine walk is a 2 km flat easy walk. The coal manufacturing sites were operational from 1860 until the 1896 disaster. The heritage site has rare original beehive brick coke ovens, original chimneys and mining relics. The archeological site is of tremendous significance to New Zealand’s industrial history and must-go destination.
Cross both sides of the river to ensure you thoroughly explore the area, Allow up to an hour to view displays.
Town end of the Floodwall Walk is the clock tower, from the former Post Office (1903) & opposite the clock tower is the historic Bank of New Zealand building 1924 now repurposed as the Left Bank Art Gallery.
The raised floodwall walk protects the town from the Grey River. While primarily a flood protection wall it offers an attractive glimpse of Greymouth. The walk can be accessed from several entrances along Mawhera Quay. The floodwall walk includes a memorial to miners who have lost their lives in coal mining accidents on the West Coast. It is striking with the sheer number of names carved onto the memorial, there are over 200 recorded deaths. The memorial was unveiled in 2013 on the anniversary of the Strongman Mine disaster killing 29 men.
The floodwall walk finishes at the Coal River Heritage Park with its sculptures celebrating the importance of coal and mining in the area, three restored Q coal wagons and the heritage passenger wharf.
The walk exit is Gresson Street where the Harbour Harbour Board Offices (1885) and Grey County Chambers buildings are worth a look for their heritage features.
Grey County Chambers building, built in 1924, was home to the History House Museum however due to earthquake strengthening it is currently closed.
Locals call the Floodwall Walk the ‘Great Wall of Greymouth.’
The floodwall is the starting point for the West Coast Wilderness Trail (Greymouth, Kumara, Ross to Hokitika)
Pre-European Maori knew the area as Erua Moana… Kowhai Walk is a 0.8 km easy boardwalk through wetland remnants. It is a good spot to observe wading birds. Originally the area would have been a rich resource for fishing with its estuary tides. There are views of the beach and Tasman Sea. Blaketown is a suburb of Greymouth.
NOTE: The beginning of the walk crosses unsupervised railway tracks, look both ways and take care.
King Park Walk
The track can be slippery in wet weather due to the leaf litter. Several views of the town are visible and the walk finishes with a view of the Grey Valley, the river and town. There are seats at the end of the walk.
Point Elizabeth Walk
The Point Elizabeth trail begins on the other side of the river from Greymouth at the end of the Dommett Esplanade. This is a steep trail offering sweeping views of the Tasman Sea. The walk is a firm surface and follows the coast through native bush to a clifftop viewing platform. The walk is a known location for whale sightings. The walk begins at Rapahoe Beach, a safe swimming spot in summer.
- Length: 5.5 km (one way)
- Grade: Easy / moderate
Another walk out of town that is accessible for wheelchairs. A highlight is the Colls Dam Walk providing access to lookout points. Access to the walks is through an atmospheric hand picked tunnel and across the Nelson Creek suspension bridge.
The suspension bridge crossing Nelson Creek is a historic bridge. It was originally built in 1872 and has been rebuilt a couple of times, most recently by the New Zealand Forest Service in 1982 using the original plans.
WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS IN GREYMOUTH
- Shantytown will be a firm favourite, New Zealand style disneyland complete with stagecoach rides, a vintage train, cafes for ice creams and snacks plus lots of buildings with Victorian costumed hosts.
- SELFIE moment at Shantytown dressed in period costume
- Floodwall walk is dramatic at the port with the Tasman Sea surging against the wooden piles of the wharf. The visible sandbar forms an eddy of water movement at the harbour mouth. The sheer volume of water between the sea, the river and the town protected by the floodwall is spectacular. Definitely worth standing there at high tides watching the forces of nature battle the wall.
- Brunner Mine site where kids find out what it is like to work in an underground mine where shafts were located metres deep below the river bed.
- A day trip to Runanga to find Coal Creek waterfalls. Many a tourism poster has these falls as a backdrop for the West Coast
- Check out nearby settlement of Kumara, Goldsborough, and Blackball
WHAT TO DO IN NEARBY RUNANGA
Runanga to Greymouth – 10 km
Runanga grew as a railway junction settlement with the mines creating local jobs. The town’s proximity to Greymouth has created a dormitory suburb with local services and the swimming pool under the threat of closure. The town’s name means ‘meeting place’ in Maori. For visitors there are two outstanding reasons to stop and explore Runanga. Coal Creek Waterfall is a postcard waterfall for Aotearoa New Zealand tourism. The waterfall graces tea towels, spoons, coffee table books and is the imagery for what the West Coast looks like. The second reason to visit is the tribute to unionism, working rights and the struggle of 19th century miner’s to equitable wages. The Runanga Miner’s Hall is emblematic of industrial history.
RUNANGA MINERS HALL
Heritage buffs will not want to miss the Runanga Miners Hall. The hall is a significant site for the history of organised labour movement, unionism. Its striking facade is recognisable for its place in the emergence of the modern Labour Party.
Learn more about the Runanga Miner’s Hall…
An easy 3.6 km bushwalk sloping down to the Coal Creek Fallsis a gentle 3.6km bushwalk that weaves down to the Coal Creek Falls. These natural pools are a perfect place to take a dip and cool off during summer. This is a must-go waterfall walk for fans.
DAY TRIPS FROM GREYMOUTH
Greymouth is an ideal hub for day trips exploring the southern West Coast.
TRAVELLING TO GREYMOUTH
|Queenstown||622 km||6 hr 45 min|
|Christchurch||162 km||3 hr 30 min|
|Franz Josef||172 km||2 hr 20 min|
|Hokitika||37 km||30 mins|
|Fox Glacier||195 km||2 hr 45 min|
|Punakaiki||47 km||45 min|
|Reefton||78 km||1 hr|
|Westport||102 km||1 hr 30 min|
GETTING TO GREYMOUTH
Due to the lack of public transport and relative distances between attractions the most popular transport option is a private vehicle. The Intercity bus departs from Christchurch daily.
For visitors without transport there are daily tours to key tourist destinations however you will be limited by the amount of time you can spend at each place.
For train enthusiasts there is the option of renting a vehicle in Greymouth which allows you to enjoy the world-class train journey and enjoy setting your own pace while exploring the West Coast.
TRANS ALPINE TRAIN
A stunning choice is the Tranzalpine train that departs from Christchurch and finishes in Greymouth. Check out the Tranzalpine online resource for reservation details. The TranzAlpine is one of the world’s great train journeys covering 223 kilometres one-way, taking just under 5 hours. You’ll pass the rolling farmland of the Canterbury plains climbing steadily through sub-alpine landscapes to the breath-taking Arthurs Pass National Park. It is a journey of a lifetime.
- The train is largely a non-stop service unless you have booked a stop. There is one stop at Arthurs Pass. You can’t get off unless you have pre-booked a stop. There is one compulsory stop (you don’t have to get off) in Arthurs pass. A favourite choice is Moana (Lake Brunner) for travellers.
- You can take your own food and drink but not alcohol.
- The best time of year to go is in the middle of winter when the alps are covered in snow.
- You can travel one way or return and you can board the train at any of the official stops
- The best photo opportunities are passing the Staircase Viaduct, Broken River Viaduct, Waimakariri River Bridge and at Arthurs pass. You are notified beforehand so as not to miss the photo moment. The large picture windows offer unimpeded views.
DEFINITELY THE WAY TO ARRIVE IN STYLE IN GREYMOUTH.
POPULATION WEST COAST
The West Coast’s population is expected to be lower in 2048 than it was in 2018.
Data released by StatsNZ shows the region’s population in 2018 was 32,400 – and it is predicted to be 30,600 in 2048.
The West Coast is the only region in the country to have a lower projected population.
The population dip will likely be caused by more deaths than births and low net migration, a StatsNZ spokesperson said.
GREYMOUTH VISITOR CENTRE – LOCATION RAILWAY STATION
Greymouth Visitor Centre is inside the station. They offer a free reservation service for all activities, tours, accommodation and transport. Those services include TranzAlpine Train, Tranz Scenic Trains and coach, Intercity buses, Atomic Shuttles, West Coast Shuttles, Naked Bus, InterIslander and Bluebridge Ferry.
The town has a colonial name honouring Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand in the nineteenth century.
Travel pack information
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