Greymouth Lake Brunner

101km (63 miles) SW of Westport; 45km (28 miles) N of Hokitika; 290km (180 miles) SW of Nelson

I've always felt Greymouth was rather well named. Personally, it's never been a town to inspire a long stopover, despite the fact that it is centrally placed and has the best access to Nelson and Christchurch.

It is, however, part of a rich history. The Grey River was the landing place for Maori canoes on the hunt for greenstone, or pounamu—the jade that was West-land's most prized possession. Even today, the Grey River gap has great significance in Maori myth, and greenstone is just as prized as ever. The discovery of gold in the 1860s also left its mark on the area.

With a population of 11,000, Greymouth is kept busy with coal and timber exports. It is the largest town and the commercial heart of the West Coast, and most goods and services are available here—although some of them could do with a bit of a crank-up. If you're trying to decide whether to stay in Greymouth or travel another 45km (28 miles) to Hokitika, keep in mind that Greymouth has better food outlets, while Hokitika has a greater range of attractions and tourist shopping. The best accommodations in the central West Coast area lie between the two (see "Where to Stay," under "Hokitika: Greenstone, Glowworms & Gold," later in this chapter).

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