When we decided to take a job in Greymouth, countless people asked us why. We were told the West Coast was the place least worthy of our time in the South Island. The only thing stopping us changing our minds was our English nature – our desire to follow through with a commitment to the job, and fear of letting someone down.
Having spent two months on the West Coast, I can only say that it must be one of the world’s best kept secrets. Sure, if you pass through Greymouth for one day, you might be ready to leave in the morning (particularly if you hit it on a grey day): the town itself doesn’t have a huge amount to offer in its current state, having suffered a huge amount economically since the closure of the mines. But stick around for a few weeks with some wheels, and the place becomes a unique kind of paradise: uncharacteristically relaxed (even by New Zealand standards), wonderfully wild, and unimaginably beautiful. It doesn’t have the golden sand beaches and heat – that tropical beauty which sends you to sleep; it has the green, waves and mountains that make you feel awake and alive.
Perhaps it’s because the West Coast suits a particular kind of person. For someone who wants the excitement and buzz of a city, it might feel too remote, frustratingly quiet, and unwilling to embrace the modern world (some West Coasters are known for their resistance to change). If you don’t like the outdoors – swimming, fishing, hunting, hiking, the bush – this place might not be enough for you. But if you appreciate nature and the simple things, if you can enjoy the company of the people around you and make the most of where you are in the world, it could be the place in which you are your happiest.