Photo: Ron Mader, Greymouth
New Zealand – Located at the mouth of the Grey River, Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast of the South Island and the gateway for visitors to the beautiful wild West Coast. To the north are the famous Pancake Rocks and Paparoa National Park. Southeast of town is Lake Brunner.
In May 1988, the Grey River surged over its banks and flooded the town. Four months later flooding happened again. Nearly two dozen floods had wrought havoc since the 1860s. A wall was constructed, not very attractive but effective.
Greymouth was once the site of the Māori pa (fortified village) called Mawhera which means ‘wide spread river mouth.’
The history of gold mining is recounted at a museum in Shantytown, 11 kilometers south of town. A faithfully recreated town of the 1860s, Shantytown recounts the story of the hardy immigrants who arrived to take part in the Gold Rush. The museum includes steam train rides and opportunities to pan for gold.
The Monteiths Brewery runs tours that include a tasting session.
Rugby Park is the home of West Coast Rugby Football Union. Matches are played on Saturdays. Field hockey is very popular.
Explorer Thomas Brunner named the river to honor Sir George Edward Grey, the Governor of New Zealand at the time. The town was declared a borough on July 16, 1868.
South of Greymouth is the town of Hokitika (‘Hoki’ for short), the original hub of the 1860s Gold Rush. The annual Wildfoods Festival (held in March) is world famous. Hokitika has a thriving artisan community, and the area is now internationally renowned as a creative arts center and famous for its jade (also known as greenstone or in Maori pounamu).
Also nearby is the Cape Foulwind Walkway runs along the cliff tops from the lighthouse at Cape Foulwind to Tauranga Bay. Highlights include views of the Seal Colony, home to hundreds of fur seals.
Midway between Greymouth and Westport is Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park. The site is famous for its Pancake Rocks, weathered limestone that attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year. When the tide is right, the ocean enters the caverns and hurls upward through blowholes. Check the weather!
Transportation — Greymouth Airport (Code: GMN) is 10 minutes from town and has service from West Coast Air. Nearby Hokitika Airport (30 minutes). There is regular bus service to and from Christchurch. By rail the TranzAlpine offers daily service with Christchurch. This is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world as the train crosses the mountain divide.
What would locals like visitors to know about Greymouth?