25 August, 2023
Last updated on 01 September, 2023
Posted by Spaceships Crew
The Great Coast Road (from Westport to Greymouth) on New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best coastal roads in the world. This relatively short route, a 100 km coastal drive, will take you to all the beautiful sights and amazing things the West Coast and the Tasman Sea have to offer: mountains, forests and beaches.
If you think that because it is such a short route that you can rush through and finish it in under 2 hours, then think again. Coastal roads are to be taken slowly so you can take it all in. This route from Westport to Greymouth is no different. You don’t want to miss out on amazing views and fun stuff.
Where to start: Christchurch?
This blog post about the Great Coast Road from Westport to Greymouth is the perfect itinerary to use as a stepping stone when creating the perfect New Zealand road trip. You can simply add this route to your itinerary, it will fit like two LEGO blocks.
Ready to explore the Great Coast Road from Westport to Greymouth? (photo: West Coast Tourism)
Westport: start of the coastal road trip
In Westport, you can choose from various campsites and holiday parks to spend the night. Make sure to use the free travel & camping app to find all suitable campsites in New Zealand. Or if you prefer to skip camping, there are several motel & hostel options, for example, Trip Inn Hostel (formerly known as YHA Westport) which is housed in a beautiful historical building.
YHA hostel in Westport in historic 1860's building, originally a gentleman's residence
Westport is a historic fishing and gold mining town, meaning it has that industrial look & feel. It is also the gateway to lots of outdoor activities, like jet boating, underground rafting, caving, white water rafting and kayaking.
Cape Foulwind is only a 15-minute drive from the centre of Westport. It is the perfect place to experience the ruggedness of the West Coast of New Zealand. This scenic point got its name in 1770 from Captain Cook after his ship was blown quite a distance offshore from this point. The name tells you exactly what to expect there, even more than its previous name - Rocky Cape – given by Abel Tasman.
Must-see things at Cape Foulwind are the lighthouse, fur seal colony and amazing views of the mountains and the coastline. All this can be seen on the Cape Foulwind Walkway, a 3.4 km (one-way) track. It’s a relatively easy walking track suitable for everyone with a low to moderate level of fitness. More info about the track can be found on the DOC website.
A great & short walk at Cape Foulwind: see a seal colony, a lighthouse and panoramic views of the coastline
Punakaiki: home of the famous Pancake Rocks
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes Walk is something we’ll touch on briefly. So many travel guides have already covered this impressive limestone formation that every traveller knows that this is a must-see on the route from Westport to Greymouth.
Park your campervan and enjoy the short walk to see the force of nature. The Tasman Sea forces its water through the holes in the limestone rocks creating an effect like an Icelandic geyser or whale. You’ll immediately see why it's called the Blowholes Walk.
If there is one thing you simply must do on the route from Westport to Greymouth it is exploring the latest addition to the Great Walks of New Zealand. Assuming you’re into hiking.
Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track is a 3-day hike (one way) or 2-day mountain bike track (no e-bikes) that opened in March 2020. It is classified as one of NZ’s Great Walks, which is pretty unique as the list of Great Walks almost never changes. That means that this hike is on the same level as the famous Tongariro Crossing and Routeburn Track, to name a few other Great Walks.
Highlights of this amazing hike on your West Coast road trip are:
Pororari River Gorge with dramatic limestone cliffs, beech forest and subtropical nīkau palms.
Experience amazing sunsets over the Tasman Sea from the Moonlight Tops Hut.
Follow the Croesus Track and take a trip into gold-mining history. Go to Garden Gully to see remains of the times of gold mining.
Enjoy the amazing views, see the Lone Hand rock formation on the way to Pororari Hut.
Greymouth: discover and taste liquid gold made from hops
Greymouth is a turning point in any West Coast road trip. The town connects both State Highway 6 (from Blenheim to Nelson, Westport all the way to Wanaka, Queenstown and Invercargill) and State Highway 7 (the inland route to Christchurch). Here you can decide to change direction.
Greymouth is the home of Monteith's brewery, one of the many breweries in New Zealand. Visit their tasting room to sample the liquid gold they create at this West Coast brewery or go for a full-on brewery tour to see with your own eyes how they turn simple ingredients into amazing beers. Every tour ends with sampling the brews so it’s a great activity for your eyes and taste buds.
Make sure to stick around as the tasting room serves yummy pub food, from “simple” beer-battered fries to dishes that use typical West Coast ingredients like Shorty’s Seafood Chowder.
Visit Monteith's taproom for a beer & food tasting then enjoy Greymouth by night (photo: West Coast Tourism)
Hokitika: see the bright blue colour of the Gorge
Hokitika Gorge is another classic to see on this Great Coast road trip from Westport to Greymouth. Its turquoise water and the suspension bridge are perfect Instagram-worthy spots. The short walk to the Gorge is nice and easy. Just make sure you time your visit to Hokitika Gorge perfectly. Sometimes, especially after heavy rain or lots of snow melting, the water of the gorge isn't turquoise at all.
It has to do with a thing called 'rock flour' or 'glacier flour', fine particles or dust created by the glacier's movement over the limestone rocks. These particles and the light on it create the amazing colour of Hokitika Gorge. During heavy rain or mass snow-melt it sinks to the bottom of the river, thus removing the amazing colour.
Experience the amazing colour of Hokitika Gorge (photo: West Coast Tourism)
Don’t stop now, keep road-tripping: Hokitika and beyond
The road trip isn’t over but the Great Coast Road is, but that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring. Next stop: Hokitika. The perfect place to so some shopping, especially if you are looking for typical New Zealand souvenirs or memorabilia like jade jewellery. But there’s more to do and see here.
Every year the Wild Foods Festival takes place in Hokitika. This food festival is a must-do for adventurous foodies as it serves food that you usually won’t find at a food festival. It’s all about the nose-to-tail cooking philosophy and trying things that are way outside your comfort zone. To name a few of their “special” ingredients:
Huhu grubs (beetle)
But you’ll also find “more normal” ingredients at the food festival, for example, snails, venison and whitebait.
This relatively short road trip is easy to add to your epic South Island circuit trip or by creating a long weekend or mid-week round trip from Christchurch.
Or go for a loop trip from Christchurch and include Westport to Greymouth
The advantage of this loop trip is that you can see & do even more, for example, going for a road trip stop in Reefton to visit the Reefton Distilling Co. This modern distillery housed in an original Reefton building produces gin with an attitude. They source the botanicals for their gin from West Coast forests and gardens: native leaves, flowers and berries. They even have a range of fruit liqueurs, vodka and whiskies. There are lots of reasons to spend a bit more time in the West Coast region.