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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (November 1, 1927)

The Greymouth-Westport Coastal Road and Punakaiki

The Greymouth-Westport Coastal Road and Punakaiki.

“…On the verge

Of the tall cliff, rugged and grey,

At whose granite base the breakers surge,

And shiver their frothy spray.”


The Coast road, Greymouth to Westport, which is now nearing completion, presents the most superb seascape scenery in the world. An iron-bound coast with a road traversing it hundreds of feet above the surging sea, through magnificent natural beauty-beauty of virgin forest, foaming cascade, and wild, rocky promontory jutting out into the thundering surf. Such is the scenery of the Coastal Road, which runs up hill and down dale, and occasionally inland, but mainly within sight and sound of the sea.

Punakaiki, some twenty-seven miles north of Greymouth, and approximately mid-way between Greymouth and Westport, is an ideal scenic resort, and the drive from Greymouth is becoming increasingly popular from year to year.

Leaving Greymouth, the visitor proceeds through the coalmining districts of Runanga and Rapahoe, and at a distance of about seven miles the sea coast is reached near Point Elizabeth. From this point the road follows the base of the Paparoa Range and skirts the coast-line, and at times rises sheer for hundreds of feet above the surf.

The typical glorious bush and fern predominate, but this is relieved from time to time by groves of stately nikau palms, which lend an almost sub-tropical aspect to the general landscape. The nikaus are an especial attribute of this Coastal Road, and are a feature that is entirely lacking on other forest routes on the West Coast.

Within about ten miles of Greymouth, the road turns abruptly up and across the picturesque gorge of the Ten-Mile stream, and seven miles further on descends sharply to the Barry-town Flat. Within a short time the old settlement of Barrytown is reached. Barrytown was once a veritable hive of industry, and is reputed to have boasted a population of about 10,000 during the days of gold.

Leaving Barrytown, the road eventually plunges into the forest again, through leafy woodland avenues until Punakaiki (“The Bay of Good Eating”) is reached.

Arrived at Punakaiki, the visitor may spend many interesting hours amid novel and picturesque surroundings. The outstanding feature, and one that usually claims the premier attention of the tourist, is the fantastic dolomite formation (“Pancake Rocks”) in the immediate vicinity. This curious freak of nature is situated but a short distance off the main road and less than a quarter of a mile from the Punakaiki (Deadman's) River, and is reached by a formed track through the bush.

This rock formation is in itself a most wonderful sight and alone well worth the visit. It is situated on a jagged promontory (Care Point), a short distance north of Punakaiki River and consists of stratified rocks which have the appearance of piles upon piles of pancakes grouped together in the most extraordinary manner.