The Top 10 Things to Do in Greymouth, New Zealand

wide angle shot of a town by the sea with light clouds in the sea

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

With a population of just over 8,000, Greymouth is the largest town in the West Coast area of New Zealand's South Island. It gets its name from the fact that it's a coastal town at the mouth of the Grey River. Greymouth is one of the more accessible towns on the remote West Coast because it's the starting point and terminus of the scenic TranzAlpine train, which connects it to Christchurch on the east coast. It's also an easy place to stop on a West Coast road trip, as State Highway 6 runs through the town, connecting it with Westport to the north and Hokitika to the south. Whether you're just passing through or using the town as a base for exploring the West Coast, these are the best things to do on any trip to Greymouth.

01 of 10

Learn About the West Coast Gold Rush at Shantytown

woman bending over in shallow water holding a pan

Aaron MCcoy / Getty Images

316 Rutherglen Road Rutherglen, Paroa, Greymouth 7805, New Zealand
Phone +64 3 762 6634

Greymouth was founded during the West Coast Gold Rush of the 1860s, and while gold is no longer a major part of the town's economy, it still holds a significant place in its history. Learn more about this history at Shantytown Heritage Park, just south of Greymouth. The family-friendly park recreates Greymouth's gold rush history in an interactive way. Visitors can ride an historic steam train, pan for gold, step inside a sawmill, stroll through a recreated Gold Rush-era village, and see how Chinese prospectors lived at Chinatown. If you're traveling with kids and need to break up the long car journeys while passing through Greymouth, aim to spend some time here.

02 of 10

Taste Some of New Zealand's Best Beer

Monteith's Brewery

Courtesy of Monteith's Brewery Greymouth

60 Herbert Street, Greymouth 7805, New Zealand
Phone +64 3 768 4149

Kiwis love their beer and in the past few years there has been an explosion in the manufacture of craft beers, particularly in cities like Wellington and Nelson. But an enduring favorite amid all the newcomers is Greymouth-based Monteith's, founded in 1868. At the Monteith's Brewery in town, visitors can take a brewery tour and check out the museum, sample Monteith's beer and cider, and dine at the restaurant specializing in local food. Book tours in advance as they're only held once per day.

03 of 10

Take a Walk on Rapahoe Beach

waves breaking on pebbly beach with cliffs in background

LazingBee / Getty Images

West Coast, New Zealand

West Coast beaches are infamously rugged, with strong currents and large waves. Greymouth's Rapahoe Beach is no exception, but it's a great place for a walk in any season. There's a campground beside the beach. If you fancy a dip in the water in summer, check local conditions first and heed any warning signs. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards on the weekends in summer.

04 of 10

Go Fishing

twilight shot of person fishing with nets in the background

Lakeview_Images / Getty Images

Keen fisherfolk love the West Coast. Greymouth is a good location for whitebaiting in season (September to November), fishing for the small whitebait fish with large nets. Greymouth is also a year-round destination for trout fishing, angling, and sea fishing charters.

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05 of 10

Check Out Lake Brunner

white wooden jetty leading into calm blue lake with mountains and wispy white clouds in background

Martin Ruegner / Getty Images

Lake Brunner, West Coast, New Zealand

Southeast of Greymouth, Lake Brunner is the largest lake in the area and a peaceful place to set up camp for a few days, in the village of Moana. It's a pleasant place for swimming (in the summer!), as well as fishing for trout, boating, and walking. There are a number of short and easy walks near the lake, as well as the advanced Mount French track, an eight-hour return hike to the top of the mountain with great views of Lake Brunner.

06 of 10

Shop For Pounamu

large pieces of pounamu (jade) stone of different shades of green, white, and black

LazingBee / Getty Images

Pounamu is the Māori name for greenstone or jade, and the West Coast is famous for it. In fact, the Māori name for the South Island is Te Wai Pounamu, which translates to "the greenstone waters." It's sometimes possible to find greenstone on the beaches and riverbanks around Greymouth, especially after a storm, but a more reliable way to get a beautiful piece of this spiritually significant stone is to buy it from a local craftsperson in town. Carvers make everything from simple pendants to elaborate art pieces, with prices ranging from very affordable to very high. Even if you're not looking to buy a piece of pounamu, browsing the galleries and shops is a good way to spend time in Greymouth and learn about local culture.

07 of 10

Take a Hike

tiered waterfalls falling into a pool surrounded by green shrubs

NicksPlace / Getty Images

Greymouth, New Zealand
Phone +64 3 731 1895

With the Paparoa National Park just north of Greymouth, keen hikers have easy access to long-distance walks from Greymouth (such as the three-day Paparoa Track). There are also a number of shorter, easier walks nearer to Greymouth. The Point Elizabeth Walkway is a short, well formed track that passes through coastal bush and offers great cliff-stop views of the coastline. The Coal Creek Falls track is another short walk that leads through forest to attractive falls. The plunge pools are ideal for swimming when the weather is warm.

08 of 10

Quad Bike Through the Bush

Butchers Dam
NicksPlace / Getty Images

The West Coast region is covered in dense (and often muddy!) rainforest, and if you're not so keen to explore this on a mountain bike, quad biking is a great option. Adventure tourism outfitters in Greymouth offer a variety of different tour types, including self driving, quads for kids 12 and older, and guided tours for which no license is necessary. Expect to get muddy!

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09 of 10

Drive Up to the Punakaiki Blowholes

blowhole pushing water into the air with sea in background

Robin Smith / Getty Images

4294 State Highway 6, Punakaiki 7873, New Zealand

Just a 40-minute drive north of Greymouth is one of the West Coast's most beautiful and surprising attractions: the blowholes and pancake rocks at Punakaiki. A short walking track above the pancake rocks provides access to great views of the coastline and blowholes, which are most impressive at high tide, when water spurts high in the air.

10 of 10

Ride the TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch

photo of grassland taken from moving train with train carriages at front and mountains in background

Sebastian Nebel / EyeEm / Getty Images

The TranzAlpine journey between Greymouth and Christchurch is one of the few long-distance train journeys in New Zealand, and is a good way to enter or leave the West Coast. The 139-mile journey takes about five hours and travels through the mountainous center of the South Island. It's a good alternative to driving as you'll be able to enjoy the views rather than worrying about watching the road, and there are comforts on board like a dining cart and bathrooms.

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The Top 10 Things to Do in Greymouth, New Zealand