The Guide to Greymouth on a Budget
The Wild West Coast’s central hub is Greymouth – a must-stop on any road trip down the West Coast of the South Island. Entering Greymouth can be an experience in itself, especially when taking the TranzAlpine train – one of the world’s most scenic train journeys – or arriving along the Great Coast Road. Once you’re here, no doubt you’ll be looking for some epic stuff to do in Greymouth!
The largest town in the West Coast situated on the mouth of the mighty Grey River and is surrounded with fascinating hikes, short walks and some gnarly mountain biking tracks. History plays a big part in this gold mining district too, where you can find heaps of relics and gold mining experiences around the area.
If you’re lucky you may experience the “Barber” – a true katabatic wind found in only a handful of places in the world. Said to be cold to the bone and sight to behold.
Gold Mining History in Greymouth
They call the coast of Greymouth the “Gold Coast”, not for its golden sands like Australia’s Gold Coast, but for its significant gold mining history. Visit Shantytown, a replica of a 1880s gold town with a still-working steam train and one-of-a-kind holographic theatre. Try your hand at old panning where you are “guaranteed” to find gold.
More gold mining relics can be found all along the Grey Valley which runs between Greymouth and Reefton.
Just outside Greymouth on State Highway 7 and across the Ikamatua Junction is the small town of Blackball (population of 400). The quirky town has a pub called “Formerly the Blackball Hilton”, named after a dispute with a certain hotel chain. The pub is worth checking out just for the ladies toilets alone! (Which isn’t as weird as it sounds). Don’t leave the town without trying the famous Blackball Salami. To walk on a historic mining track complete with mining relics, take the Croesus Track close to Blackball (see track description below).
On the tragic side of the gold mining history, Stillwater on State Highway 7 has a mass cemetery of 33 men killed in the Brunner Coalmine collapse in 1896. You can still see the Brunner Mine Site and walk around the historic coke ovens, brick factory and the remains of tunnel entrances. The Brunner Mine Site is 11km east of Greymouth on State Highway 7 and the main car park is on State Highway 7.
Pubs in Greymouth
Now, “pubs” aren’t exactly a must-do on every backpackers’ list, but if you are only going to go to one pub in New Zealand, it has to be in Greymouth. The pub culture here is huge with the town having the national record for consuming more beer per head than any other town in New Zealand.
The West Coast Pub is a historic pub and always a safe bet in Greymouth to grab a beer. Check out The Monteith’s Brewery offering affordable tours and tastings – a great way to spend an afternoon with travel mates. Plus, the quirky Formerly the Blackball Hilton in Blackball is well worth a visit.
Mountain Biking in Greymouth
To get to (or from the end of) the following bike tracks, you will need to either have your own transportation or make use of bike shuttles operating from Greymouth. By the way, have you checked out Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide?
West Coast Wilderness Trail (Grade 2)
Greymouth is the start of a 2-4 day West Coast Wilderness Trail. This 120km bike trail to Ross takes old miners tracks through rainforest, past glacial rivers, lakes, Wetlands and the Tasman Sea. Stop along the way in Kumara, Lake Kaniere and Hokitika. The trail is mostly off-road and starts from the centre of Greymouth with plenty of bike hire and transport options for the one-way trip.
Croesus Track (Grade 3-5)
The Croesus Track is a shared hiking and mountain biking track between Blackball and Barrytown (although you can cut your trip shorter by simply returning the same way). Either slog your way uphill or treat yourself to a heli-bike experience from Greymouth. Read the track description in the walking section below.
Moonlight Pack Track (Grade 5)
Ride along another historic miners path on this hardcore mountain bike trail. The trail is 32km and usually takes 4-6 hours to complete. To get there, drive 9km north of the Blackball turn-off where the Atarau Road bends past a picnic area, turn left onto the Moonlight Valley Road (narrow gravel road) as it runs off toward the range.
Napoleon Hill (Grade 3)
Take this adventurous ride on a 4×4 gravel road past an old gold mining settlement, tunnels and creeks. You’ll need the landowner’s permission, call Robin and Malcolm Smith ( +64 27 606 5648). To get there from Greymouth, follow State Highway 7 northeast for 34km to Ahaura. At Ahaura turn right at the corner dairy onto Orwell Creek Road. The Napoleon Hill trail ends at Waipuna-Clarke Road (a 30-minute drive from the start point).
Hiking in Greymouth
Greymouth Floodwall to Blaketown Tiphead (30-45 Minutes)
An easy walk within Greymouth itself, follow the top of the floodwall (on the riverside) towards the river mouth to see a monument to 300 men who died in West Coast mining disasters, watch people fishing, pass historic cranes and birdwatching at the sandbar. You’ll get awesome views from the Blaketown tiphead all the way to Aoraki Mt Cook. Plus, this is a great place to watch the sunset.
Lions Walk (10-minute Return)
Walk up into the Rapahoe Range Scenic Reserve for excellent views of Greymouth, coastline and Southern Alps. Access is from the end of Weld Street in Cobden.
Omotumotu Bush Walk (25-minute Loop)
Get your quick dose of forest right in the Greymouth urban area in theOmotumotu Bush. Access is from Marsden Road.
Point Elizabeth Walkway (1h45mins One Way)
Get some awesome rugged coastal views and learn about the history of the area on the Point Elizabeth Walkway. Start from North Beach Road in Cobden.
King Domain Walk (25 Minutes One Way)
Reach four different lookout points on this zigzagging uphill climb. Access is on Mount Street.
Coal Creek Falls (1-hour Return)
Take a forest track to see Coal Creek Falls, which look particularly impressive after heavy rainfall. The track leads down into the Coal Creek Valley. To get therefrom Greymouth, follow State Highway 6 northeast for 8km to Runanga. Turn right down Seddon Street and right into Ballance Street where a car park is at the end of Ballance Street.
Croesus Track (1-2 Days)
The Croesus Track unsurprisingly follows an old miners pack track where you can do a variety of side trips and cut your walk short at any time by returning the way you came. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll enjoy walking through a mixed podocarp and beech forest, crossing a swing bridge and finally making your way up to Ces Clark Hut (4-5 hours) with rewarding views over Lake Brunner and the Southern Alps. From this track, you can either extend your walk 45 minutes to Garden Gully for historic mining relics or an 8-hour return hike to Croesus Knob for more epic views. If you stay in the Ces Clark Hut, you can extend your walk the next day to Barrytown (4-5 hours). To get to the Croesus Track, drive 1km past Blackball on a sealed road to Roa mine with a signpost pointing right, indicating the gravel road to the Smoke-ho car park and to the start of Croesus Track.
Nelson Creek Walks (20-40 Minutes)
On the other side of the Grey River from Blackball near the town of Ngahere is the fascinating mining location of Nelson Creek. A number of walks can be found here taking you to through tunnels, to see historic water races and gold panning areas. Choose from the Callaghans Track (30 minutes one way) to a lookout point over bush-clad valleys, the Tailrace Walk (20 minutes return) to see some old gold workings, and the Colls Dam Walk (40 minutes loop) with a lookout over the dam.
More awesome walks can be found in Lake Brunner! Take a look in the 10 Hikes Around Lake Brunner.
If You Have More Time in Greymouth…
- Get muddy and enjoy the thrills of a self-driven 4×4 or quad bike tour with On Yer Bike
- See photos depicting the people and places of the West Coast at the Stewart Nimmo Gallery (MacKay Street), the History House Photograph Museum (Gresson Street) and Leftbank Art Gallery (Mawhero Quay)
- Swim your heart out at the Aquatic Centre (High Street)
- Go searching for pounamu (greenstone) on the beaches
- Go surfing at Cobden Beach for some mean left-hand-break action – one for the experienced. You can hire surfboards in town
- Check out the retro cafe and local’s favourite, DP1 Cafe (Mawhera Quay)
- Find food, coffee and all sorts of treasures at the Greymouth Sunday Market (Tai Poutini Polytech 10am-2pm)
- See Cobden Cave. It is not advised to go beyond the first chamber. Access is under the Cobden Bridge.