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The Great Coast Road New Zealand: Greymouth to Westport Drive

Lonely Planet named the Great Coast Road on the West Coast of New Zealand one of the world’s most beautiful drives. This 85-kilometre route traces the West Coast of the South Island, showcasing breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Alps, and the rainforest. Along the way, travellers can explore iconic attractions such as Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Please keep reading to discover why the Great Coast Road New Zealand is one of the best coastal drives in the world and things to do on the South Island West Coast road trip on the Greymouth to Westport Drive.

People at a West Coast lookout viewing the coastline

Discovering the West Coast

ocean view

The West Coast of New Zealand is famed for its untamed wilderness, breathtaking ocean views, dramatic landscapes, and a sense of isolation, making it a haven for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. The area is situated between the Tasman Sea towards the west and the magnificent Southern Alps in the east, which results in a stunning combination of coastal allure and mountain grandeur. 

A New Zealand West Coast Road Trip – Exploring the Stunning Drive from Greymouth to Westport

Undertaking this NZ West Coast road trip allows you to admire the awe-inspiring ocean vistas and immerse yourself in the wild, panoramic landscapes. The breathtaking drive is a must-do for any traveller seeking to experience the rugged beauty and natural wonders the West Coast is best known for.

Although it’s possible to drive straight through the Great Coast Road in 90 minutes, doing so would mean passing up on some incredible natural phenomena and enchanting hidden gems scattered along the route. 

West Coast accommodation options range from campgrounds to motels and resorts scattered along the Great Coast Road for those who wish to immerse themselves in the experience.

We have travelled countless times along the Great Coast Road NZ, and we’ve also explored several breathtaking coastal drives worldwide, including the Great Ocean Road in Australia, Big Sur Coast Highway in California, and the Amalfi Coast Drive in Italy. We can confidently say the Great Coast Road New Zealand is the best coastal drive in the world!

Get ready for frequent stops on your journey, as there are numerous photo opportunities at every turn. If you notice a sign for a lookout, be sure to pull over, as the lookouts on the West Coast are truly breathtaking and worth stopping for every time.

Getting to the Great Coast Road New Zealand

Car on coastal road with ocean view on the West Coast

You can make your West Coast New Zealand road trip either from Greymouth to Westport or Westport to Greymouth.

However, if you’re not leaving the West Coast region to travel to other South Island regions, you will need to return on the same route. 

We’ve observed that some travellers consider skipping this incredible road trip due to this fact. However, you don’t have to worry as it’s not a disadvantage. It offers a chance to experience the marvels in both directions.

If you are coming to the West Coast from Picton, Blenheim or Nelson, you will arrive at Westport and take the Westport to Greymouth Drive.

Alternatively, many travellers arrive in Greymouth from Christchurch and explore the West Coast from there. 

Some even opt for the scenic TranzAlpine train ride from Christchurch to Greymouth before renting a car in Greymouth to continue their West Coast road trip adventure.

You’ll set off on State Highway 6, also known as the Great Coast Road New Zealand, from Greymouth to Westport.

Prominent Landmarks Along the Great Coast Road New Zealand   

Coastal drive on the Great Coast Road New Zealand.

As you’re driving the West Coast road, you’ll encounter incredible vistas, awe-inspiring lookouts and inspiring bush or coastal walks that will leave you in awe of New Zealand’s natural splendour. 

The Great Coast Road New Zealand is defined by its stunning ocean views, majestic mountains, and rainforest, making the road trip itself the most noteworthy landmark.

Besides that, the most prominent landmark on the West Coast is the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. These unique limestone formations, resembling stacks of pancakes, result from millions of years of geological evolution. 

The waves crashing against these rocks create a spectacular display, leaving visitors captivated by the forces of nature.

Charming Towns and Villages to Visit

As you travel along the Great Coast Road, you’ll encounter a few quaint villages contributing to the road’s charm. 

Boats on Westport Harbour

Greymouth

Greymouth is a great place to start or end your West Coast South Island road trip. 

The town is well-known for its friendly locals, warm hospitality, and great options for refuelling, shopping, and dining at cafes. 

Take advantage of experiencing all Greymouth offers, including historic sites, river walks and its own brewery.

Read The Best Things to Do in Greymouth New Zealand.

Barrytown

Just 20 minutes from Greymouth lies the remote settlement of Barrytown. 

While there, you can visit a historic pub, but please note that it’s currently for sale, so it may be closed during your Greymouth to Westport drive. 

You can drive from the pub down the road leading to the beach. At Barrytown’s beach, you’ll likely find yourself as the only person on this vast expanse of sand. 

This area is well-known for its abundance of pounamu, also known as New Zealand greenstone or jade. It’s worth looking around – you never know, you might come across a gemstone!

Additionally, at Barrytown, you can enjoy a unique travel experience on a horse-drawn cart along the breathtaking Barrytown Beach. 

Golden Sands Horse & Wagon Tours offer a delightful history lesson while showing you the hospitality of the West Coast by boiling a billy and baking damper bread over an open fire.

Punakaiki

A further 15 minutes along the route, you’ll reach the delightful village of Punakaiki. Here, you can experience the iconic Pancake Rocks & Blowholes or enjoy one of the many short scenic walks.

Punakaiki offers many outdoor activities ranging from kayaking or paddle boarding, visiting a cavern, enjoying breathtaking sunset views on the beach, eating at a waterfront restaurant or taking in the unique landscapes of limestone cliffs, nikau palms and fern trees. 

It’s a magical place to rest or stay awhile before continuing your West Coast road trip.

Read more about Punakaiki – NZ Must Do: Best Things To Do in Punakaiki New Zealand

Charleston

Further down the road, Charleston, a historic gold mining town, offers a glimpse into the area’s gold rush past. The village is on Coast Road, and a short walk will take you to the charming Constant Bay. 

From Charleston, you can go on underground adventures to discover caves adorned with remarkable stalagmites and stalactites and see glowworms.

Westport

Your journey ends at the endearing town of Westport. 

Westport offers some fun attractions, such as the Coaltown Museum, which sheds light on the town’s rich coal mining history. Find out more about the cool attractions and natural wonders of Westport.

However, if you love road trips, please keep driving north and experience the delights of Karamea. Read more about Karamea.

What to See and Do on The Great Coast Road New Zealand

The Great Coast Road New Zealand is not just about the destination; it’s about the unforgettable experiences you’ll encounter along the way.

Pancake Rocks walkway through Nikau palms

Monteith’s Brewery 

If you’re a fan of craft beer, then a visit to Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth is a must. Take a tour of the brewery and learn about the art of beer-making. And, of course, remember to sample some of their finest brews.

Point Elizabeth Walkway 

Walk along the Point Elizabeth Walkway for panoramic Greymouth and Tasman Sea views. This scenic trail offers breathtaking vistas and a chance to spot native birdlife amidst the native bush.

Point Elizabeth Walkway is just one of the fun outdoor activities in Greymouth. Read more about Things to do in Greymouth.

Strongman Mine Memorial

Located near Greymouth, the Strongman Mine Memorial is a poignant tribute to the 1967 tragic mining disaster that killed nineteen men.

The Strongman Memorial is a place of reflection and remembrance, adding a profound dimension to your coastal journey.

It not only serves as a memorial but also offers breathtaking coastal views. You’ll be treated to the awe-inspiring beauty of the surrounding coastline and be humbled by the captivating vistas that grace the West Coast’s rugged shoreline.

Cape Foulwind 

A 15-minute drive from Westport, discover one of the West Coasts best short walks, where you can see a historic lighthouse, scenic views of the coast and the enchanting world of fur seals in their natural habitat. 

The Tauranga Bay Seal Colony is New Zealand’s biggest fur seal colony and can be reached on a well-maintained walking track from Cape Foulwind to Tauranga Bay. You’ll be mesmerized by scenic ocean views along the way.

The rugged beauty of the New Zealand coastline, combined with the playful antics of the lovable seals, makes for an unforgettable experience.

The Cape Foulwind walk to Tauranga Bay is an easy 1.5-hour one-way walk. Alternatively, you can visit Cape Foulwind, take a 10-minute walk to see the lighthouse and dramatic ocean views, and then drive to Tauranga Bay which is the end of the Cape Foulwind Walkway. From there, you can view the seals via a 15-minute walk at the trail’s end.

Alternatively, you can stop at Cape Foulwind, take a 10-minute walk to see the lighthouse and dramatic ocean views, and then drive to Tauranga Bay. From there, you can view the seals via a 10-minute walk at the trail’s end.

Mitchells Gully Gold Mine

Step back in time and delve into the fascinating history of gold mining on the West Coast with a visit to Mitchells Gully Gold Mine. This hidden gem allows you to experience the authentic atmosphere of a working gold mine from the 19th century. Explore the tunnels, see the old machinery, and hear stories of the brave prospectors who once sought their fortunes here. The rich heritage of Mitchells Gully Gold Mine makes it a truly immersive and educational stop on your West Coast South Island road trip.

Is the Great Coast Road New Zealand one of the best scenic drives in South Island New Zealand?

Limestone cliffs at Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

Yes! We consider it one of the best coastal drives in the world, and so does Lonely Planet!

The Great Coast Road drive from Greymouth to Westport is a journey of awe and wonder, where nature’s magnificence unfolds before your eyes at every turn. From the fascinating Pancake Rocks to the charming towns and extraordinary landscapes, the West Coast of New Zealand truly leaves an unforgettable mark on every traveller’s heart. 

The Great Coast Road is an excellent option if you’re looking for adventure and the best scenic drives in New Zealand. This New Zealand South Island West Coast road trip will take your breath away and is a great way to experience the best of New Zealand.


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2 Comments

  1. I love coastal road trips and this looks magnificent. So much to see! I would especially like to see the glow worms (I had heard about these!) and explore the gold mines. How long would you suggest taking to fully explore this route and all it has to offer?

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