What is Greymouth known for?

written by Kate Gazzard February 20, 2023
Aerial view of Greymouth and its surrounding blue waters

Not sure? You’ve come to the right place blog

Despite not being on many travellers’ ‘must-visit’ list when contemplating a trip to New Zealand, Greymouth is actually the largest city on the South Island’s west coast and well worth a lengthy stop – if only to learn about the region’s culturally significant ties to Pounamu (Greenstone or NZ Jade) and have a pint of locally crafted beer from Monteith’s brewery.

And coincidentally, it’s these very things that have put Greymouth on the tourist map, becoming a large part of what this charming town offers avid adventure-seekers, history buffs, and nature lovers.  

So, whether you’re treating Greymouth as a stepping stone on your way to other destinations (which you totally shouldn’t be) or you’re staying to experience the breathtaking natural beauty and explore the town’s fascinating past, these are the top things Greymouth is known for. Happy holidaying.

Grey River

I can’t talk about Greymouth, and the many other things it’s known for, without first mentioning its namesake, the Grey River. This 120-kilometre river was named after the governor of New Zealand at the time, Sir George Grey, by explorer Thomas Brunner in 1846 (who also give his name to Lake Brunner, the largest lake on the west coast) and continues to be a spot treasured by both locals and visitors to the region.

Whether you fancy trying to hook a trout or a yellow-eyed mullet out of its murky depths, play around in the Taylorville swimming hole (located off the river in the nearby Taylorville township) or wander alongside it on a peaceful walk, this river only adds to the charm of Greymouth and offers the perfect outdoor escape for nature lovers.

The mid-1800s gold rush

A person panning for Gold, holding a gold nugget in their hand

No event or phenomenon in Greymouth’s short but fascinating history has shaped it as much as the mining rush of the mid-1800s did. So profound an effect on how the town turned out, this period in Greymouth’s past has been recreated and remembered with attractions such as the Shantytown Heritage Park and the Brunner Mine site available for exploration to the public.

Walking around the Shantytown Heritage Park will give you a good understanding of what life was like for those seeking golden glory with grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and hospitals (among other places) all set up as if it was the 1860s – you can even try your luck panning for gold.

Craft beer

A couple of beers lined up under their taps while a man pours more.

If New Zealand runs on beer (the 63% of alcohol sales being beer tells me it does), then Greymouth’s runs on Monteith’s Brewery – the original home of craft brewing in New Zealand. With a pioneering past that dates back to the early mining days of the mid-1800s and a cosy atmosphere that’ll have you saying, “I’ll take another, thank you”, this local watering hole is an intrinsic part of Greymouth’s history and its present cultural scene.

Whether you want to linger a while over a tasting tray (choose from either 3 or 6 beers) and a delicious meal made up of locally sourced ingredients or try your hand at pouring your very own beer as part of a brewery tour, Monteith’s is iconic in its offerings – think the classic staples of Pilsner, Black, and Golden mixed in with some fun seasonal ales – and strong in its spirit.


Pounamu (Greenstone)

A pounamu pendant

Māori culture runs deep in Greymouth and so does the significance of pounamu – a brilliantly coloured green stone only found in New Zealand that’s been used for carving treasures such as pendants, cloak pins and other heirlooms and practical tools like chisels, knives, and spear points by the Maori people for centuries.

Believed to hold and increase spiritual power when passed down through the generations, pounamu continues to play an important part in the country’s culture today with jewellery and other decorative items fashioned from this special stone given as gifts.

If you fancy taking a bit of this region’s cultural history home with you, there are a few boutiques that sell trinkets made from pounamu and our Greymouth tours even stop at a local studio for a behind-the-scenes look at handling this precious stone.


Nature trails/walks

A boardwalk winding through lush wilderness in Greymouth

Part of Greymouth’s charm is its beautiful, natural surroundings, so it only makes sense to explore as much of it as possible while you’re visiting. Luckily, it’s extremely easy to do considering the multitude of walking trails that take you through thick forests, past mirror-like lakes, and along coastal clifftops.

Check out ‘woods creek walk’ for a leisurely journey through forested bushland to tunnels once used by gold miners or perhaps visit the coal creek falls via a one-hour easy loop that’ll take you directly to the base of a spectacular waterfall by passing through the native wilderness. Whichever trail you decide to follow, you’re bound to enjoy spending your time in the great outdoors.

TranzAlpine train journey

View of the TranzAlpine train journey from a carriage, looking out over the Greymouth landcape

Heralded as one of the best train journeys in the world (along with the Inca Rail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Pichu in Peru and the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin in Australia), the TranzAlpine train journey is truly a transformative experience if not for the outstanding natural scenery that’ll whizz by your window, then for the startling fact that for once in your life, you’ll wish the trip had taken longer.

 Covering 223 kilometres in 5 hours, this journey travels from coast to coast (Christchurch to Greymouth), allowing you to marvel at the South Island’s extraordinary mountain ranges from the comfort of an open-air viewing carriage. Yes, you read that right.

From the expansive landscape of the Canterbury Plains to the gently moving Arnold and Grey rivers, experience the very best of New Zealand’s scenery and begin your South Island adventure on the right track, literally. 


Feeling inspired?

You might also like

Back To Top