Car Rental Greymouth Railway Station
If you’ve just arrived at the TranzAlpine terminus at Greymouth Railway Station, chances are you’ve just completed the epic journey across the South Island from Christchurch, ranked as one of the most phenomenal railway journeys in the world. The epitome of slow travel at its splendid best, this 4.5-hours of track traverses iconic tunnels and bridges, including a dramatic 75-metre-high viaduct. Panoramic views from carriage windows start on a peaceful note, slipping through the patchwork sheep-speckled pastures of the Canterbury Plains. The breathtaking scenery then rapidly ramps up over the last three hours as you ascend the majestic heights of the Southern Alps, riding alongside the aqua-blue, glacier-fed Waimakariri River, past snowy peaks, beech forests, Moana’s lake valleys and golden fields of gorse. The transition from neat farmlands to the West Coast’s wet wilderness is a highlight of the journey.
There’s no better way to begin your travels over the South Island than with this invigorating rail odyssey. You’ll be warmly welcomed at Greymouth – a serene gateway location and the largest town in the region. Greymouth is considered the heart of the West Coast, and makes an ideal base to arrange a hire car to explore all the wild and stunning features in the area. As a visitor bonus, the cool little beach town of Hokitika is also only a few minutes south along the coast. Mountains, forests, caves, canyons, rivers and beaches, plus a wealth of natural splendours, are all waiting for you to discover and add to your Kiwi adventure.
Soak up the history and culture of Greymouth in your hire car
The Māori name for Greymouth is ‘wide spread river mouth’ referring to its position at the head of the Grey River. The weather is indeed wetter in the west, and the river is famous for flooding. But there’s no reason to be deterred by this little detail. Opportunities for white-water rafting, fly fishing and water recreation are at hand, with some great beaches also close by.
Hop in the car to get to Rapahoe Beach, a popular summer swimming spot just 12-kilometres north of town and a beautiful place to idle anytime. From this lovely beachside location, take the two-hour Point Elizabeth Walk up the hillside through to the Rapahoe Scenic Reserve. This dense native bush is filled with subtropical palms and ferns, with former gold mining sites to encounter. You’ll eventually emerge onto the cliff tops to take in some stunning views over the Tasman Sea, and right up to the foot of the Southern Alps glacier region.
To engage with Greymouth’s gold mining past, you can head to the local museum, or go deeper and immerse in the era at Shantytown. This heritage park brings the Gold Rush alive for all ages. A replica of an 1880s mining settlement, Shantytown is complete with gold panning, a Chinatown, steam-driven saw mill and vintage train rides. Your entry ticket also includes a holographic theatre experience at the delightfully decorated Victorian Princess Theatre. Don’t forget to bring along some traditional boiled lollies when you’re watching the show!
Greymouth is also rich in pounamu, a local jade that’s been collected from river beds for centuries. This New Zealand greenstone is regarded as precious in Māori culture and holds great spiritual significance. Visit the galleries in town that specialise in pounamu jewellery, art or carvings, and take home a meaningful memento of your stay.
For a West Coast adventure, see the wider picture in your hire car
Head out of town to discover some of the spectacular scenic attractions around Greymouth. For an easy cycling route, get on your bike and take the West Coast Wilderness Trail past Hokitika to Ross, 65-kilometres south.
Another recommended journey is New Zealand’s latest addition to its collection of Great Walks – the Paparoa Track – the first to be designed for both walkers and mountain bikes. This time you’ll be venturing north, across the Paparoa mountains between Blackball (an old mining town), and the busy coastal village of Punakaiki, at the edge of the Paparoa National Park. Stay at an overnight hut along the way and enjoy the rugged surroundings. Before you leave Punakaiki, make time to see the striking Pancake Rocks at the seafront, with vertical blowholes and an underwater cave system. Some of the walkways here are accessible by wheelchair, with others carved into the rock faces. A diversity of birdlife and marine wildlife – such as fur and elephant seals, weka, kestrels and dolphins – make this a popular spot for nature lovers.
On return to base at Greymouth, you’ll deserve a cold one at Monteith – one of New Zealand’s oldest and most-loved breweries. Persuade a pal to take the wheel and do the tasting tour. There are so many reasons to relax and enjoy your time in Greymouth.