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

Glimpses of West Coast Scenery. — Greymouth and District

page 9

Glimpses of West Coast Scenery.
Greymouth and District

“A land of streams! Some like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn did go;
And some thro' wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far-off, three mountain tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush'd: and dew'd with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.”

New Zealand has been aptly described as a “Vest Pocket Edition” of the world's scenic wonders, and nowhere in the wide world have Nature's gifts been so lavishly bestowed as on this, the “Playground of the Pacific.”

A land of wondrous beauty-of endless variety and charm; a land of stately forest and lofty mountain range, mighty glaciers and ice-carved flords; a land of amazing contrasts-where spouting geysers play beside cool streams; where hot springs bubble 'mid ice and snow. Surely, nowhere else in the world can be found so many attractions-and on such a grand scale -assembled within an area not much greater than that of the British Isles!

The West Coast of the South Island is a region that is incomparably grand in point of scenery, and is famous the world over for its great natural beauty and charm. Its verdant valleys and magnificent forests are overshadowed by the majestic snow-capped ranges of the Southern Alps, whose glaciated buttresses culminate in the flordland of the south.

The main “gateways” to the historic and wonderful West provide the visitor with a foretaste of the varied attractions which annually draw thousands of tourists to this beautiful district.

Thus, the route from the north via the famed Buller Gorge, compels the interest of the traveller. Every mile-every turn in the road opens up some new and everchanging vista of loveliness. From the time that the Gorge is entered near Murchison, until it ends in the vicinity of Westport, the journey engages the admiration. The visitor who travels by the alternative route is likewise assured of outstanding scenery. Not a few there are who make the journey across Arthur's Pass and the Otira Gorge -a journey, every mile of which is packed with interest; a journey by “forest and ice,” unequalled in its rugged grandeur, and a fitting introduction to the natural glories of the “Golden Coast.”

Greymouth, the largest town and the commercial and geographical centre of the West Coast, constitutes the ideal base or “jumping-off place” for those who would acquaint themselves with the famous resorts and the many other wonderful attractions which the district has to offer.

South Westland and the Waiho.

Pre-eminent among the resorts of Westland is the Franz Josef Glacier-the Mecca of all tourists who visit the Coast.

The motor drive from Greymouth is one of absorbing interest both in scenery and in historic association. Between Greymouth and Hokitika, one passes through the once famous Kumara Goldfield and the Six-Mile Diggings. From Kumara to Hokitika, the road traverses miles of “tailings”-mute evidence of the “roaring days of gold.” Were they endowed with human speech, what exciting tales these silent witnesses could relate of the stirring 'seventies!

Leaving Hokitika, the provincial capital, the road passes through Kanieri and Ross, the present railway terminus. Ross township is rich in the lore of the old goldmining days, and is assured of a future as the centre and outlet for a vast dairying district. The Waitaha is crossed some ten miles below Ross, and presently, the beautiful forest-bordered Lake Ianthe comes page 10 suddenly into view, and, as the winding road is descended, fresh glimpses, each presenting some different aspect of this “lady of the forest,” greet the eye.

Next, the Big Wanganui River is reached, and the road lies across the Inter-Wanganui Flat-a prosperous dairying district of which Hari Hari is the chief settlement. Leaving Hari Hari and its fertile plain, one presses further south until the Little Wanganui (Poerua) is crossed, thence to Wataroa, where the route climbs the bush-clothed flanks of Mt. Hercules.

The following six miles or so of road follows the convolutions of the hill, and presents one of the finest stretches of native bush in South Westland. The course is tortuous and full of bends, and may well be termed “the road of a hundred turns.” Fernclad banks and forest aisles lend to this mountain road a charm that is all its own.

Descending, the prospect recalls the oftquoted words of Reeves: “…silver fern fronds.. In cool, green tunnels, though fierce noontide glowed And glittered on the tree tops far below.

A bush scene. Waiho, West Coast, South Island.

A bush scene. Waiho, West Coast, South Island.

There, 'mid the stillness of the mountain-road, We just could hear the valley river flow.”

The Waitangi River is passed, and some miles further on the route skirts the eastern shores of lovely and mysterious Lake Wahapo, on whose broad bosom nestle scores of native game.

Through superb bush avenues, by ferucurtained cliffs and tangled, mossy woods one comes to Okarito Forks. Here the road divides T-wise. To the westward lies Okarito-a name to conjure with-ripe in history and reminiscence.

Once a roaring camp, but now given over to the more prosaic pursuits of timber-milling and cattle-raising.

Turning eastward at Okarito Forks, beautiful Lake Mapourika presently comes into view, and suddenly-

“…through the trees….a snowy gleam Of lonely peak and spectral mountain head, And gulfs that nurse the glacier and the stream.”

If the day be calm, as it usually is in these forest solitudes, one may see the Great Franz Josef Glacier and its sentinel peaks most perfectly reproduced-as in some giant mirror-in the placid water of Mapourika.

It is now but a few short miles to Waiho and the alpine wonders of South Westland.

At Waiho Gorge, the visitor has the choice of a great variety of excursions. The chief attraction is the wonderful Franz Josef Glacier, which, as it descends to well within 700 feet of sealevel, is easily the most accessible of all glaciers in New Zealand or elsewhere, and in its extraordinary setting-it is far below the limit of bush-is a picture of singular beauty. The greenish-blue tinge of the ice, the mysterious depths of the crevasses, the sparkling cascades which bespangle the enclosing mountain-sides, and the snowy heights surrounding, combine to make the spectacle as sublime as it is magnificent.

Waiho Gorge with its first class hosterly forms the base for a score of alpine excursions. Here at hand is a mountaineer's paradise-lordly snow-peaks, extensive ice-fields and rocky crags. High alpine passes connect with the Hermitage and its environs, and provide the finest and most rugged mountain scenery in the Dominion. Experienced guides are available and comfortable huts on the various routes enable the tourist to see this admirable playground to the best advantage.

Distant some twenty miles below the Waiho is the Fox Glacier, which is also readily accessible by road and track. The seventeen miles or so of mountain road between Waiho and the Cook River Flat (whence the track to the glacier commences) is through splendid scenery-none better page 11 exists in New Zealand. The road passes over three successive ridges mantled with virgin forest. The intervening valleys reverberate with the roaring waters of cataracting mountain torrents, while here and there, snowy peak and battlemented height enhance the grandeur and magnificence of the route.

The Fox Glacier is approached by track from the Main South Road (a road that will eventually link Westland with Otago) which takes the visitor right to the terminal face of this “river of ice.”

On the road to Mitchell's, West Coast, South Island.

On the road to Mitchell's, West Coast, South Island.

Recapitulating, the Waiho district offers the tourist and visitor scenery which in variety and form is unexcelled anywhere in the world, while a sojourn in this favoured locality provides one of the finest holidays of a lifetime.

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.