Bordered by forested hills and the Tasman Sea, Greymouth is the perfect place to begin your exploration of the South Island’s west coast. Immerse yourself in the excitement of New Zealand’s gold rush at Shantytown Heritage Park, buy carved jade artwork and enjoy a Monteith’s beer. Use Greymouth as a base to explore the Paparoa National Park.
Pan for gold and investigate a 19th-century mining town at the recreated Shantytown, located 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Greymouth. Head back into town to visit History House Museum to see photographs and records of New Zealand’s pioneering life. Gold miners bought the land from the Māori people for a pittance of what it was worth, until the late 1800s when the Māori Parliament determined that no more Māori land would be sold.
Wandering Greymouth’s streets, you’ll come across plenty of galleries displaying the many types of New Zealand jade, known as pounamu, carved into traditional Māori designs. Jewellery and sculptures featuring this bright-green stone are unique souvenirs.
Beer and cider lovers won’t want to miss Monteith’s Brewery Co., operating in the area for almost 150 years. Learn about the brewing process, including occasional mishaps of trying out new recipes. Monteith’s specialises in creating innovative flavours; sample many of these at the brewery’s bar.
Head north on the coast road to discover craggy granite mountain ranges, blowholes and layered geology at Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, a beach town on the edge of the Paparoa National Park. Ride a horse along the beach, take a night tour of the Westland petrel breeding grounds to see fuzzy grey petrel chicks or rent a kayak to paddle along the Pororari River between sheer gorge cliffs and forest.
The TranzAlpine Rail runs from Greymouth to Christchurch, a route with incredible views of New Zealand’s wilderness, from snowy mountains to dramatic gorges and lush forests. The trip takes 4.5 hours, with an open-air viewing carriage and in-car dining. By car the route from Christchurch takes about 3 hours.