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Hokitika and beyond

Easing into the West Coast. Easy waterside idylls, Hokitika sunsets, tranquil waterways and ocean waves
3 to 4 days

Fly into Hokitika or drive in from the east, and let the West Coast put you at ease. Enjoy the views from the tree tops, take a leisurely cruise through a prehistoric wetland, get a fresh taste of local, then fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.

DAY 1: Hokitika - Cool little town

As the launching pad for an easy weekend or a short break, Hokitika is a great start because it’s easy to get to and central to much of the West Coast. Plus, you’ll likely be surprised at just how much there is to see and do in and around Hokitika — culture, arts, heritage, active outdoors, and photogenic wild landscapes.

Explore the Coast’s coolest little town. There’s an arty vibe to the ‘pounamu capital’ from the driftwood artworks on the beach to the artisan shops and galleries. Take a photo with the iconic Hokitika sign, visit a pounamu workshop (or two) and watch the glass blowers in action at their studio. You may find something to take home.

If you want to do a deeper dive into local Māori culture, Te Rua Mason of Te Rua & Sons Pounamu Trails offers guided tours where you can fossick for greenstone and learn about the rich history of pounamu.

Photographers love the Hokitika Gorge for its stunning turquoise blue waters, lush green bush and rocky white limestone banks. A 30-minute drive from town towards the hills, the short Hokitika Gorge Track is a gentle walk with a spectacular pedestrian swing bridge across the gorge.

While this thriving little coastal town is probably best known for the incredible one-day Hokitika Wildfoods Festival(next edition in March 2023) it also enjoys a lively year-round food culture with a great choice of cafes, restaurants and bars where your taste buds won’t be disappointed!

After a casual dinner in town, enjoy a walk along the beach front to watch the sun go down over the sea. Or grab a whitebait pizza from Fat Pipi and picnic on the beach.

Stay: The Beachfront Hotel, Hokitika — let the primeval beat of the waves rolling in, rock you to sleep. Five room categories, and an in-house restaurant that comes with Tasman Sea sunset views. On the northern end of Hokitika, Shining Star holiday park has beachfront chalets, powered and unpowered camping sites.

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Hokitika Gorge

Day 2: Hokitika — explore Lake Mahinapua, waterways and tree tops

West Coast Tree Top Walk
West Coast Tree Top Walkway

Calm reflective lakes and expansive coastal wetlands are a spectacular feature of the landscape around Hokitika.

From Hokitika (south on SH6) there’s an easy loop that takes in lovely Lake Mahinapua. Picnic (Hokitika Sandwich Co. has the goods for that) or take a short walk along the lake edge to admire mountain views mirrored in the still waters, or a slow cruise exploring the lake and network of waterways on the Eco Wanderer — daily departures with West Coast Scenic Waterways include a sunset cruise, and they also have kayaks and bikes to hire.

For an entirely different perspective on this watery wonderland, join the birds in the virgin forest canopy on the West Coast Treetop Walk. Rising to 47m above Lake Mahinapua, the suspended walkway is a surprisingly accessible experience (it’s suitable for push chairs and wheel chairs) with sensational vistas of the lake, forest and Southern Alps.

The West Coast Wilderness Trail (a 132km / four-day ride from Greymouth to Ross via Hokitika) passes by here so, if you’re looking for a more active day out, you’re in the right spot. BYOB (bring your own bike) or rent from several local operators. There’s a 15km / 1.5 hrs (each way) grade 2 (easy) section from the Hokitika i-Site to the Treetop Walk — the perfect cycle trail taster with the added advantage of a cafe to refuel in at the end.

Stay: Rimu Lodge, Hokitika — 5-star comfort, hosted accommodation on the banks of the Hokitika River with magnificent views of the Southern Alps. At 20 minutes further south, Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park has dress circle views of the Tasman Sea and glorious West Coast sunsets, along with funky refitted container pods complete with ensuites and views.

West Coast Wilderness Trail.
West Coast Wilderness Trail

Day 3: Hokitika to Lake Kaniere, Ross, Harihari or Kumara

Going with the flow is all part of the West Coast vibe and, since crowds are never a problem on the ‘Coast, you can let the day decide. Hokitika is conveniently placed with a good choice of destinations within an easy 25-30 minute drive from town. You can’t do all of these in one day, so you might want to add in an extra night (or two).

Tranquil Lake Kaniere is often referred to as the Coast’s most beautiful lake. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, it’s popular for camping, boating, fishing, mountain biking, and there are several shorter walking trails including the Dorothy Falls Track — especially impressive on a wet day — just a couple of minutes from the parking area, and some lovely lakeside picnic spots.

There’s gold in ‘them thar hills’ and, if you’re interested in the ‘Coast’s colourful history, the Ross Historic Goldfields (south of SH6) is a good place to head. The golden hills around Ross produced New Zealand’s largest gold nugget — see a replica at the Ross Goldfields Heritage Centre, visit the historic miner’s cottage, follow short trails into the hills to discover mining relics or hire a gold pan and do your own fossicking.

Lake Kanerie
Lake Kaniere
Cycle trail.
West Coast Cycle Trail

The Harihari Coastal Walkway — just south of Ross — is one of the most scenic walks on the ‘Coast. This 7.6km / easy 3-hour loop between the Wanganui and Poerua rivers follows the remnants of old logging trails through estuaries and swamp forest, revealing spectacular coastal and alpine views. The Wanganui River mouth is a popular white baiting spot.

Coming or going by road from Christchurch? Make the most of a great variety of accommodation options at historic Kumara — on SH73 west of Arthur’s Pass and the Southern Alps) — another old gold mining town that’s been through boom and bust, and has found a new lease on life with the development of the Wilderness Trail. Explore walking trails through old gold workings, walk or cycle a while on the Wilderness Trail, then take a stroll after dark to admire the glowworms around the old mines and remember to look up into the heavenly night skies.

Stay: The Theatre Royal Hotel, Kumara, is the ‘Coast`s only fully restored gold miners’ hotel, and once world-renowned theatre. The hotel has six individually themed ensuite rooms, two luxury suites in the restored Bank of New Zealand and six self-catering Miners Cottages. Relax on the hotel terrace, or in the restaurant and bar.


Hokitika region walks

The Hokitika, Kumara and Ross area is packed with stunning walks that range from easy to moderate. Take in the Southern alps as you explore by foot.

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Lake Brunner and Greymouth

Natural highs. Take a break, dip your toes, stretch your legs on a West Coast weekend.

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Driving the Great Coast Road with kids

Banish the back-to-school blues on the colourful West Coast, with a road trip on one of the world’s greatest coastal drives.

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