Greymouth to Westport
Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast. Pick up you provisions here - you will find suppliers of everything you need for you West Coast motorhome adventure.
The West Coast is the longest region in New Zealand - it is 600 km long and narrowly sits between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps - and in those 600 km there is only one set of traffic lights (on a particularly narrow stretch of the Buller Gorge) and no parking meters!.
The West Coast experience is not to be missed. The landscape is wild and it is so easy to imagine what it was like for the early settlers. The scenery is varied from the sub-tropical Karamea in the north to the glaciers in the south. Beautiful rainforest, snow-capped mountains, wild coastline - it's all here.
The region was first settled by the Maori who treasured the greenstone (pounamu) they found here - this area is the only source this taonga (treasure). Later it was the site of one of the world's last gold rushes and new settlers arrived from around the world. The area is still rich in gold - take up the opportunity to pan for gold and take away a bit of West Coast magic with you when you leave. And don't forget to have some whitebait - a coast specialty.
Greymouth sits at the mouth of the Grey River - named after Governor Grey not the colour of the water! If you look inland from the mouth of the river you will notice how the hills on each side converge down - Maori legend speaks of 2 tuatara either side of the river drinking from it - have a look and you'll see why.
See and Do
- Visit Shanty Town - you can pan for gold here - you take what you find so good luck! Wander around the historic gold mining village and take the steam train through the bush. The road is well sign posted about 10km south from Greymouth as you travel towards Hokitika
- Visit the Wild West Adventure Company in Whall St - book in for one of the many adventures they offer, including backwater cave rafting, white water rafting, rainforest kayaking, 4WD tours and even a jungle boat cruise! Yes all from Greymouth
- Visit Shades of Jade on Tainui St - one of the many West Coast galleries that sell greenstone (aka New Zealand jade / Maori name: pounamu). You can even talk to the carver of these beautiful greenstone (pounamu) pieces - the West Coast is home to pounamu (New Zealand jade or greenstone), so where better to buy. Don't buy a piece for yourself, though. It's good luck to receive a pendant (taonga or treasure) as a gift.
- Go and sit on the beach and watch the sunset across the Tasman sea - access the beach easily from near either the Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park or the South Beach Motor Camp. There's nothing like a West Coast sunset
- For high fashion, visit The Rock Box, on Mackay St near the railway station - they have a great range of cool edgy clothes
Eat and Drink
- Have Indian from Priya - on the main road (Tainui St) - the naan bread is the best we've had anywhere. As well as the branch in Greymouth, there is also one in Westport, Hokitika and Franz Joseph
- Visit the Jade Boulder Cafe (just over the rail track on Tainui St) - they have great whitebail sandwiches and you can marvel at the huge jade boulder in the entrance
- Take a tour of the Monteiths Brewery - you get to taste samples, so better not plan to drive afterwards
- Greymouth Seaside Top 10 Holiday Park - this is right on the beach and has a great play area for children as well as many other facilities
- South Beach Motel and Motor Park - this has a free spa and also has a children's playground. Next to South Beach
- Free camping for self-contained campervans on the north side of the Grey River. Cross the bridge heading towards Westport, turn left over the bridge towards Cobden and then take the first left following the Dump Station blue sign. Follow the road around to the left. There is the dump station and beyond it there is space for self-contained motorhomes to stop for a maximum of 2 nights
Greymouth to Punakaiki
The trip between Greymouth Punakaiki takes you along one of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand - in fact it has been voted one of top 10 scenic routes in the world! The scenery is just breathtaking - the Tasman sea rolling in on your left as you drive north with native rain forest (known by New Zealanders simply as "bush") on your left.
No crowds along this highway, just miles - kilometers (kms) of natural untouched beauty. It's a stunning drive in the sunshine and even in the rain the beauty is not diminished. The road goes from right near the beach and then climbs to cliffs high above the beach before coming back down again - the views are spectacular.
Look out for the Nikau palm trees - this is called the Nikau Highway because the palm trees line much of it - they are the most southerly palm tree in the world.
The road is windy and single lane each direction. But there's not need to rush - the journey is just as important as the destination. There's lots to do on the way, from adventure sports to native bush walks, and, of course, you won't be able to drive past the Punakaiki Rocks with stopping. Take your time and enjoy this beautiful coast road.
See and Do
- stop at 'On Yer Bike' in Runanga - for adventure lovers who want a 4 wheel drive quad bike experience, then this is a must-do. It's not for the faint hearted, as the tracks in the bush can be muddy. But it is lots of fun. Tours are on demand so stop anytime.
Eat and Drink
- RataView Cafe and Bar - up on the hill as you travel the flats before Barrytown. Great views and equally good food
- There are plenty of rest areas on the way, complete with picnic tables. Just pull over and let the beauty of the landscape engulf you
Tip : Make sure you fuel up in Greymouth as there are no service stations between Greymouth and Westport.
Horse riding - Punakaiki Beach
Punakaiki is a must stop on your travels, even if it's only for a few hours to visit the Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point. If you have the time, though, there is lots to do here so a longer stay is worthwhile.
This is a major tourist spot but there are no service stations and no banks so stock up in Greymouth (or Westport if you are travelling southwards).
See and Do
- Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point - there's lots of room to park, even for campervans. There is a great cafe and craft shop which is owned by a co-operative of local artists, but the real magic lies across the road from these. Take the circuit and view the Pancake Rocks and blow holes. The rocks really do look like pancakes piled high - an amazing sight. You will walk along a well-paved track that gives a good view of the rocks, the blow holes and the Tasman sea flanked by tall harakeke (a native flax) and other native plants. On a clear day, you can sometimes look south and see Mt Cook / Aoraki rising towards the sky. Yes, stand beside the sea and view ancient rock formations, beautiful rain forest and snow-clad mountains! For the best blow hole experience, visit when the holes are blowing - that depends on the tide and the time is displayed on the Tide Clock in the Wild West Cafe over the road - they have great food as well! Alternatively, to plan ahead, check out the tide times in the Christchurch Press - look for the high tide in Westport or take the time halfway between high tides in Westport and Greymouth. Best of all this attraction is FREE
- Punakaiki Horse Treks - this is a great half day experience but you will have to book in advance. There are horses suitable for all levels of riders, including complete beginners. The trek takes you up the Punakaiki River valley - surrounded by native bush with river crossings - it's all very Wild West, even down to the "smoko" - refreshment break. And then to cap the trek off, as if it could be any more magical, there is the final gallop down the beach. Neil and Karen make this a memorable day. This is a great activity and well worth planning as part of your drive between Greymouth and Westport.
- Visit the Punakaiki Crafts and Cafe - opposite the entrance to the Pancake Rocks - this is community owned by the artists whose arts and crafts are available to buy
- Punakaiki River Kayaking - look for signs near the Porari River, just past the Punakaiki Tavern
- Truman Track - a few miles north of the Punakaiki Rocks. The car park is on the right and the entrance to the walk on the left of the road. It's an easy bush walk that takes you down to the beach. Native plants are signed so it's an educational stop as well!
Eat and Drink
- Wild Food Cafe - just opposite the entrance to the Pancake Rocks
- Punakaiki Resort - a more formal restaurant. We had a family Christmas dinner here. Fantastic views as the dining room is just about on the beach. Food and service were very good as well!
- Punakaiki Tavern - this has an old world charm (in a wild west sort of way) - you feel you could arrive on your horse. Very warm atmosphere - we were there on a wet miserable day but the open fire and hospitality warmed us up pretty quickly.
- Punakaiki Beach Camp - sited between the sea, river and the bush (native rainforest)
Punakaiki to Westport
So more great scenic driving through the Paparoa National Park. This part of the journey from Punakaiki is just like the road to Punakaiki from Greymouth - driving along the coast and then climbing up into the forest with brilliant views out over the Tasman Sea.
See and Do
- Stop in Charleston - there are a number of attractions here including:
- Mitchell's Gully Gold Mine
- Underwater Adventures, including underwater rafting, glow worm cave tours, caving and the Nile River Rainforest Train
- Buller Adventure tours - if you take a short detour just before you reach Westport and turn right into Highway 6 towards Nelson and Christchurch, rather than left towards Westport, a few kms down the road you will find Buller Adventure tours. Take the Buller River jet boat ride - it's an exciting jet boat adventure and a great way to view the majesty of the Buller Gorge. Prepare to get wet, though, with the 360 degree turns the jet boat can perform within one boat length.
- Stop near the Fox river and enjoy lunch or refreshments
- Stop at any of the Rest Areas or pull over where there is space on the side of the road