Road Trip: Christchurch to Greymouth (Returning via Arthur’s Pass) 3-Day Itinerary

Friday, July 24, 2020

This return loop from Christchurch to Greymouth can be completed in 3 days or extended to a longer trip if you have the time. This exciting itinerary takes in mountain views, historic gold towns, the wild west coast and some of the best natural hot pools in the country. We have made a list for you to experience all the top attractions, so you won’t miss anything on your trip.

Day 1: Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

Drive time from Christchurch: 1 hour 40 mins (130 km)

Whether you’ve flown into Christchurch, the South Island’s most metropolitan city, or arrived after driving from Picton heading into the hills always provides a sense of adventure.


Even though it’s just over an hour and a half’s drive from Christchurch to Hanmer Springs, there is a lot to experience on the way. Your first stop is Waipara, a picturesque valley 50-minute drive from Christchurch, which is home to some of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. It is a great place to stop and stretch your legs, visit a vineyard restaurant or one of the many tasting rooms. Or explore the Iron Ridge Quarry and Sculpture Park. The sculptures on display are both large and small in the park which overlooks the Waipara Valley.

Hanmer Springs

From Waipara, it’s an hour drive to Hanmer Springs. On arrival, you’re spoilt with a choice of activities. A visit to the world-famous Hanmer Springs Thermal & Pools is a must-do. Leave a couple of hours aside to soak in the natural hot pools or unleash your inner child on the hydro slides. 

There are also forest walks, horse trekking, trout fishing, jet boating, bungy jumping, and golf to explore in this scenic place.

For accommodation, there is a wide range for any budget from campgrounds, backpackers, lodges, motels, apartments, and hotels.

Day 2: Hanmer Springs to Greymouth

Drive from Hanmer Springs: 2 hours 50 minutes (216 km)

Lewis Pass

The next morning, you will travel to Greymouth. The journey is approximately 3 hours. The road will take you through the Lewis Pass, which is an old Māori trading route. After one hour of driving this road, you will find yourself at the high point of this alpine road at 907m. If you’re keen on seeing more of the landscape up close, there are plenty of both long and short DOC walks in the area.


Continuing your journey, you will arrive at Reefton. Known as The Town of Light it still holds a 1900s feel in much of its architecture and boasts of being the first place in New Zealand to have public electricity. This is an excellent place to take a break on the trip as you are halfway to Greymouth. Explore Reefton’s golden heritage by visiting the gold-bearing quartz reefs and the historic building from the 1800s. For food, there is a selection of cafes for you to choose from for lunch. 


Your last destination Greymouth is an hour's drive from Reefton. Greymouth is arguable the heart of the West Coast and is the biggest town this side of the mountains. Like Reefton it is steeped in gold mining history, and you can experience it at the recreated European pioneer town Shantytown.

In the town make sure you visit galleries specialising in pounamu (New Zealand jade), pounamu is only found on the South Island. If you feel like taking it easy, the local brewery Monteith’s is a great place to try a range of craft beers, you can also book a tour of the brewery. Other activities in Greymouth include walks, rafting, caving, sea fishing, fly fishing and more. You are spoilt for choice!

There is a wide range of accommodation, from lodges to backpackers, along with several camping areas and freedom campsites. Please respect the restrictions and responsibilities of using these areas.

Day 3 Greymouth to Christchurch

Drive from Greymouth: 3 hours 15mins (245 km)

Arthur’s Pass

Today you will make your way from Greymouth to Christchurch. The drive will take just over 3 hours, but there are lots to stop and see along the way. When driving from Greymouth on the West Coast, you will drive through Arthur’s Pass, climbing over 900m through Arthur’s Pass National Park. This is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps. Flat plains give way to snow-capped mountains, and if you are an experienced backcountry hiker, there are some epic walking tracks with magnificent views of rivers, lakes, and mountains around every bend. This an alpine area, make you check weather and road conditions before you drive or hike, as in winter it is often covered in snow.

While there isn’t the bustling town centre like other South Island towns, if you want to see some of the world’s most magical mountains up close, it’s worth doing a longer walk and staying a night in this small village.

Castle Hill

An hour's drive from the top of the pass you will arrive at Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a mecca for bouldering, caving, walking, and fishing with the Korowai River and Craigieburn Forest boasting amazing views and rich history trails.

From here it’s only an hour's drive back down the hills towards the plains of Christchurch.

You could easily choose to extend your stay at any of these stops and make your trip longer with plenty more to see and do.

Happy travels from all of us at _Mode.

Updated on October 12, 2022.

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