Greymouth Mini Guide
What Can you Tell me About Greymouth?
Greymouth is an industrial town on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It was a Maori settlement before the arrival of Europeans and the people used to fish in the river and estuary. In 1846 coal was discovered in the valley and the Maori were displaced to make way for the export of the fuel. Later, gold was discovered, adding to the draw of the town for prospectors. Fishing remained important despite the dangers posed by two sandbars off the estuary that saw several ships run aground. Disaster has never been far away from the town with a huge tornado destroying much of it in 2005 and causing many injuries then last year it was the scene of dashed hopes as 29 miners who were trapped underground were subsequently killed in an explosion at the Pike River Mine.
How do I Get to Greymouth?
There’s a regional airport at Hokitika, around forty minutes away from Greymouth. Air New Zealand operates daily scheduled flights there from Christchurch; international travellers can fly to Christchurch
and then get the connecting flight. From Hokitika, a bus runs to Greymouth or you can catch a connection on the TranzAlpine rail route or hire a car from Hokitika and drive to Greymouth.
What is There to See and Do in Greymouth?
There’s not much in Greymouth for the tourist apart from some lovely walks along the promenade that borders the Grey River. It’s out of the town that the real attractions start. Mount Cook is visible from the town on a clear day and the national park of the same name, although a couple of hours drive away, is a good way to spend a day. For a different view of the Southern Alps, take the TranzAlpine train that crosses from west to east across the mountains. Just outside Greymouth is Shanty Town, a reconstruction of a 19th century gold mining town complete with gold sluice and panning activities for visitors. There’s a steam train that runs there several times a day operated by New Zealand’s only steam school.
What is There to Buy for Souvenirs in Greymouth?
As Greymouth isn’t a tourist town, there’s not much to satisfy the retail needs of visitors. The best souvenirs are the stunning framed photographs available in the local galleries showing the beautiful scenery of the region.
What Should I eat When in Greymouth?
Greymouth still has a sizeable fishing operation and the restaurants of the town feature many fish dishes. There are often dishes made with local fish varieties but the grilled mullet is a speciality of the region.
What is the Entertainment Like in the Town?
It’s a small town and most of the entertainment is low key with people drinking beer or wine in the local bars. The town has a single nightclub which is infrequently attended and so can barely be classed as entertainment. Stick to a drink with the locals and you’ll be making new friends by the end of an evening.
Greymouth is an industrial town and is not thought of as attractive with many locals considering its name to be apt. After the coal and gold industries declined, the town took up forestry and fishing to provide its income.
The draw of the town is its proximity to several places of interest and so, despite its limitations it attracts thousands of tourists each year. The area is fairly inhospitable, one reason why nearly half the region’s population lives in the town but the terrain, part of New Zealand’s alpine country makes it attractive.