Where is Greymouth?
Greymouth lies at the heart of West Coast region on New Zealand's South Island, approximately 233km west of Christchurch.
With a population of around 14,000 people, Greymouth is the largest town in the West Coast region of New Zealand’s South Island.
Surrounded by chiselled cliff tops, wild beaches, and the serene Grey Valley, Greymouth is a beautiful destination in its own right. But it is also the hub for connecting to Christchurch on the east coast via the iconic TranzAlpine Greymouth to Christchurch train.
Gateway to the West Coast
Greymouth has direct road connections with all the West Coast towns, and Queenstown to the south. This makes Greymouth a convenient hub for exploring the West Coast region and beyond, and there are plenty of car rental companies in Greymouth should you wish to venture onwards.
Greymouth is also home to the world-famous TranzAlpine Christchurch to Greymouth train, making it the obvious place to start exploring the West Coast without a car. And with one of New Zealand's most beautiful cycle trails starting here, the West Coast Wilderness trail, you have the perfect excuse to forget about cars altogether. You can hire bikes in Greymouth or bring your bike aboard the TranzAlpine train.
Things to do in Greymouth
With so much beautiful West Coast scenery to enjoy, it's no surprise that Greymouth's best activities are outdoors. So bring some walking shoes or hiking boots with you if you are staying for a night or two.
Gateway to the West Coast
Greymouth is also famous for the Monteith's Brewery, and even if you are just staying in Greymouth for an hour whilst the TranzAlpine train turns around, you should try to visit this iconic brewery for lunch at least.
But if breweries aren't your style, then this charming little town has plenty of cafés to enjoy. And if long nature walks don't appeal, then the walking trail along the river bank is both interesting and informative.
Brunner Mine Site Walk
The Brunner Mine walk is an easy-grade 2km loop that takes you around the historical coal-manufacturing site that operated from the 1860s until 1896 when disaster struck with a single explosion killing 65 mineworkers.
Coal Creek Track
The Coal Creek Track is 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.
Nelson Creek Track
Nelson Creek is another fantastic place to explore with a number of shorter walks. Take the 30-minute climb to the lookout for a spectacular view across lush river valleys before continuing to Prices Creek Road and into the forest.
Point Elizabeth Walkway
A slightly longer walk that’s suitable for the whole family is the Point Elizabeth Walkway. With a distance of 5.5km one way, there is a well-surfaced walkway around the coast, taking walkers through the forest to a clifftop viewing platform.
Woods Creek Track
Not to be missed, Woods Creek Track trails through the forest. In a 1.1km loop, you’ll walk past dams and into 19th-century goldmine tunnels.
For an immersive experience of 19-century life on the west coast, take a trip to Shantytown. Modelled on a real-life mining town, Shantytown brings New Zealand Gold Rush history to life. Wander around authentic 1860s shops and homes, then hunt for gold using the age-old panning technique.
Brunner Mine Site
Brush up on your history with a day trip to the Brunner Mine memorial site and walk through the industrial ruins that once produced coal and fire-bricks.
Cool off or warm up at the renovated Monteith’s Brewery, which once served local miners, loggers, and blacksmiths in the mid-1800s.
Established in 1868, Monteith's Brewery has been at the heart of the West Coast community for more than 150 years. Today, it is one of Greymouth's main attractions, with brewery tours telling the story of this West Coast stalwart and demonstrating the brewing process.
On Yer Bike
For a more adrenaline-packed holiday, sign up for an off-road quad bike or buggy tour with On Yer Bike Adventures. Choose between driving yourself through waterfalls, forests, and mud tracks, or jumping on an ex-military off-road beast to ride through assault courses and steep mud banks.
Top 5 Greymouth Activities
Greymouth has great accommodation options, from convenient hotels and motels to camping sites and the delightful Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park.
For something quirky and historic, “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” is a living museum at the heart of an old mining town. If you are keen to learn about the region's rich mining history, then this is a great way to experience it first-hand.
Alternatively, if you want a convenient and stylish stay within Greymouth town centre, then the Coleraine Suites & Appartments and the Copthorne Hotel Greymouth are perfect.
Copthorne Hotel Greymouth
Situated alongside the Grey River at the heart of Greymouth town, this elegant 4-star hotel provides modern stylish comfort with a traditional warm West Coast welcome.
For a blissful escape, choose a Superior Riverview Room with balcony overlooking the Grey River and Tasman Sea. And with on-site restaurant, Jimmy Cook's Kiwi Kitchen, serving delicious locally inspired cuisine night and day, you won't need to go far.
Things to do on the West Coast
Greymouth is the launchpad for exploring the incredible landscapes and industrial history of the West Coast.
Highlights include the Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki; the magnificent Lake Brunner, the largest lake on the West Coast; and Hokitika Gorge, just 33km from Hokitika township, with gorgeous greenery and breathtaking turquoise-blue water.
Visiting Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, Haast, and the Oparara Arches are just a few more of the spectacular natural attractions in the West Coast region.
Greymouth is named after 19-century Governor George Grey and his eponymous Grey River which flows through the town. With the town sitting at the mouth of the Grey River, it is a fairly obvious name to choose.
Before Greymouth the region was centred around the Māori settlement here called Māwhera pā. The name Māwhera means Widespread River.
Before Greymouth, the region was centred around Māwhera pā. It was here that Thomas Brunner and Charles Heaphy stayed when first exploring the region and where James Mackay negotiated the land purchase with local Māori chiefs on 21 May 1860.
During the 1860s, Greymouth fell within the Canterbury Province, with the Grey River acting as the boundary to Nelson. By 1868, the west coast became the County of Westland, which then gained provincial status in 1873. Following the abolition of the provinces in 1876, the modern West Coast region was created.
West Coast's rise in status came during the gold rushes that began in the Taramakau valley in 1864–65.
Today, the TranzAlpine train travels through this valley on its way to Greymouth. However, you are unlikely to spot any gold. In fact, barely any gold was ever found, and the gold rush left thousands of impoverished immigrants stranded in New Zealand, unable to afford the journey home.
From the 1870s onward, gold mining was replaced with coal mining, and Greymouth became a bustling port for coal and timber exports.
But shipping coal around the coast to Christchurch was laborious, so plans to build a railway were soon underway. Expensive and treacherous, railway construction halted in 1900 at Otira.
In 1917, news of a German warship in the Tasman sea looking to intercept allied shipping became a huge concern.
With renewed vigour, the Otira tunnel was completed by 1923 and Greymouth and Christchurch were connected by a few hour's train journey. The dependency on shipping was greatly reduced, and the rise of the railway was underway.
You will almost certainly meet a coal train on the Midland line when you travel on the TranzAlpine train today. And you can step back in time to experience West Coast gold fever at Shantytown - one of Greymouth's leading educational experiences.
Greymouth Railway Station
Conveniently located at the heart of Greymouth town, Greymouth Railway Station is perfectly situated for exploring this historic West Coast town.
Find out more about the station, including maps, parking, and amenities and the TranzAlpine timetable.
Getting to Greymouth
You can get to Greymouth by train from Christchurch aboard the world-famous TranzAlpine. Either book a train journey directly or choose from one of our many West Coast packages and tours to see more of this wonderful region: