Grey District - Mawhera Heart of the West Coast
Greymouth, West Coast, New Zealand
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Shantytown Heritage Day
Heart of the West Coast
Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast and has the turnaround of the TranzAlpine train journey, recognised as one of the top train trips in the world and one form of public transport that you'll actually wish took a little bit longer.
Greymouth and the surrounding Grey Valley offer adventure activities, heritage attractions and guided nature tours.
Cycle the easy West Coast Wilderness Trail or visit Shantytown, a replica of a 1880's gold town. Get muddy on a quad bike tour, go caving or whitewater rafting, head up the Croesus Track for a very scenic full day hike and then end your adventure with a good old local brew of Monteith's beer.
The Greymouth and Grey Valley area takes in Blackball, Nelson Creek, Stillwater and Greymouth.
Five free family things to do
in and near Greymouth, West Coast
As passionate West Coasters we are only too proud to dish out the best local travel tips to our visitors at Shantytown when they ask ‘What should we do while we are staying in Greymouth?’
With the school holidays approaching soon, we’re going to dedicate this blog (actually, our first ever blog!) to families. “The five best FREE family-friendly things to do in and near Greymouth”.
These recommendations are about exploring the outdoors, discovering new things and about spending quality family time together – making memories.
1. Visit the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
The drive to Punakaiki itself should be its own stand-alone recommendation! Voted one of the top ten coastal drives in the World, the Great Coast Road is home to the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. A spectacular 45 minute drive north of Greymouth along SH6 will have you arrive in the small coastal settlement of Punakaiki where you and your family will experience one the West Coast’s most impressive natural wonders!
This paved easy walking track loops around a limestone landscape of pancake-shaped rock formations, blowholes and surge pools – these are particularly impressive around high tide.
Allow 20-45 minutes to do the whole track as there are some good interpretation panels to learn about the geology of the area and a fun one where the kids can have a go at trying to make out the ‘faces’ in the rock formations as described on one of the panels near the end of the track.
With the exception of an optional short section with steps, the walk is suitable for wheelchairs and prams
2. Hokitika Gorge
Seeing is believing! Take in the stunning views of lush native bush and the turquoise waters of the Hokitika Gorge. The viewing platform, boardwalks and the swing bridge keep this short 15 minute easy walk enjoyable and is a great option for the kids especially if the fantails are out to play!
Prams and wheelchairs are suitable for the first small part of the track to the viewing platform.
Getting there: Head south to Hokitika – from Greymouth, this will take approximately 30 minutes and the back seat passengers will be pleased to know, the road is pretty straight. The Gorge is another 25 minute drive south east of Hokitika through a lovely country setting – follow the yellow road signs and be prepared for lots of turning.
3. Brunner Mine Site
Sneak a bit of learning into the school holidays by heading out to the fascinating historic Brunner Mine site. This site was one of the country’s earliest industrial sites where coal was mined. The area is well interpreted with a short walk around the coke ovens, brick factory and the remains of the tunnel entrance.
We recommend driving this quick 11km trip out to the Brunner Mine site from Greymouth via SH7 as there is much better parking on this side of the river and you then get to cross the almighty Grey River over the walk bridge.
4. West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail
Bring your bikes! Beaches, rain forest, rivers, lakes, wetlands….the West Coast Wilderness Trail is truly a unique West Coast Experience. This easy grade-2 cycle trail is mostly off the road on a firmly packed smooth gravel surface.
The start of the Greymouth to Ross trail is at the historic Greymouth Railway station along the Grey River floodwall. If you are visiting between 1 September and 14 November, you’ll be able to peer over the rock bank to the Whitebaiters below and ask them if there’s any bait running! At the end of the floodwall, you’ll ride past a working port before journeying out towards the coast line. From here, you are on your way south….
There are tonnes of short trip options along this four day trail and the West Coast Wilderness Trail website has a great map and offers some great advice for you to do some pre-planning.
5. Coal Creek Falls/Woods Creek/Point Elizabeth
Ok yes, these are three separate walks but we just couldn’t choose between them! They each have their own special theme and are equally spectacular. Photo opportunities not to be missed.
These tracks have been classed as easy walking tracks by the Department of Conservation however they are probably going to be a bit too hard going and a little bit hazardous for pre-school children. Prams/strollers cannot be used on these tracks.
Coal Creek Falls Track – A lovely walk through native forest to a picturesque waterfall. One hour return easy walking. A quick 10 minute trip from Greymouth will have you in the Balance Street carpark in Runanga.
Woods Creek Track – Fascinating forest walk, rich in history. Be sure to take a torch to explore the amazing tunnels dug by the gold miners. This walk can be covered in 45 minutes but allow extra time for admiring and exploring the remnants of tunnels, races and walls of stacked stones. This walk is a bit off the beaten track, it’s another 17 kms past Shantytown. Stop in at Shantytown and pick up a Woods Creek Track brochure and ask for directions. We’ll be only too happy to point you in the right direction.
Point Elizabeth – Coastal views galore amongst a sub-tropical rainforest. The views along this coastal walk are absolutely breath-taking. For many locals, this walk reminds us daily of just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of New Zealand. There are two access points to the walk. The northern end at Seven Mile Road, Rapahoe or the southern end at North Beach, Cobden. The track is 5.5km from end to end and takes approximately 1 hour and 45 mins, however you may just choose to go halfway to the main viewing platform.
Well, there you go folks. Five great FREE family things to do if you are considering a family getaway. ‘What ever the weather, it’s as good as gold!’
We’d just like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and credit the following photographers.
For a good half day trip from Greymouth head to the iconic West Coast town of Blackball. This small town was the birth place of the New Zealand Labour party. Back in 1908 miners went on strike for three months to win a 30-minute lunch break. They won!
Nowdays it is more famous for The Blackball Salami Company, where they serve up "West Coast perfection". Colin at Kereru Crafts makes his own woodwork creations and another good stop is Formerly the Blackball Hilton Hotel, named after an infamous dispute with a certain international hotel chain. Apparently the ladies loos never fail to raise a smile.
The Croesus Track follows an historic miners pack track and is open to trampers and mountain bikers. You can either do the 45 minute walk to Garden Gully past an old miners hut or an 8 hour return walk to Croesus Knob. For the more adventurous, make this a two-day walk and stay overnight in a Department of Conservation hut.
There are several historical places of interest in Blackball to visit here including an old mine site and the Blackball-Roa Railway Line.
North of Greymouth, Nelson Creek, has a great community run campground complete with a playground, jump off point into a deep swimming hole and historic walks through a landscape of tunnels and tailraces created by the gold miners. Children love exploring the tunnels – just don’t forget to take a torch.
Stillwater township is a small town with a sad reminder of the area’s tragic history. A total of 67 men were entombed in the Brunner Coalmine collapse in 1896 and you can still see the Brunner Mine remains just 2km out of Stillwater heading towards Greymouth.
For more information on the region please visit the West Coast Travel website.