How a West Coast holiday turned into a lifetime adventure

Renee Cadigan arrived on the West Coast on what was initially meant to be a holiday. Little did she know that this journey would lead her to a new love and a lifetime of exploration in her new hometown.

"I moved to Hokitika with my 8-year-old son in 2014 after doing a stint in Western Australia working as a Lab Technician in Kalgoorlie, for a gold mine.”

It was supposed to be a short visit, but “then I met a local boy, the love of my life, and the rest was history," she explained.

Her passion for the Coast and its natural beauty quickly grew. "I fell in love with the paradise that 'rains' a lot.”

Having grown up on a farm in Ranfurly Central Otago, Renee's love for nature was ingrained. "Nature has always been my obsession, mountain views, the beach, lakes, rivers and the bush. I grew up on a farm, so I was always outdoors exploring,” she explained.

Upon arriving in Hokitika, Renee was surprised by the warmth of the locals.

“So many offering to lend me their trucks or a trailer to move my belongings over. I was blown away by the generosity. I was just a girl at a cafe, fresh to the town and anyone was willing to help ... Hokitika had such a family-friendly vibe, and my son was happy too."

Fast forward to the present, Renee is now happily married, with two more boys aged five and seven.


"There are so many things to do here on the Coast, and in just a short drive, I'd find myself in a different location with so much to explore. Ten years on and we're still exploring."

A few years ago, the family bought their second home at Lake Kaniere, a place Renee had longed to live in since moving to the West Coast.

"With the lake and the bush at our doorstep, I started hiking and exploring the backcountry that Westland had to offer," she said.

Renee, along with her two little ones (two and four years-old at that time), embarked on numerous adventures.

“It started with just day walks and picnics, which then grew into overnighters, hut bagging and climbing mountains to sleep on.

"We have so many amazing tracks to explore here in Westland that we are slowly getting through them, some really great family friendly ones and some great technical trails for the avid explorer,” she exclaimed.

Some of her favourite day walks include the Lake Kaniere Walkway, Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Stafford Loop Tunnels, Roberts Point Walkway Franz Josef, and Oparara Archways.

"The list is huge!" she said.

“Some of the overnight hikes we have done that are a favourite but more technical for young ones would be Mt Brown, Kelly's Saddle, Cedar Flat with the Hotpools and Temple Basin Tarns in Arthurs Pass.” 


Currently working as a shift worker in production for Westland Milk Products, Renee always finds herself planning the family's next adventure on her days off. "Because we are doing more technical hiking nowadays, the weather is unpredictable in the backcountry, and our safety is paramount," she stressed.

With many places still yet to explore and huts to discover, Renee envisions more challenging hikes as her boys grow older. “We have a huge list of places we want to see and huts we want to find, and as the boys get older, we will be able to get the harder ones that take a few days to find,” she added.

"The West Coast is stunning and has so much to offer families that love to explore and never gets boring. It’s my paradise, and I feel so blessed to live here and bring my children up in such an amazing place.”

West Coast Stories: