Hokitika’s cool, quirky vibe is fuelled by a large artisan community, a vibrant hospitality scene, and lashings of inspiring West Coast landscapes.
Feet in the sand of a driftwood-laden beach, sitting proudly beside its historically infamous namesake river, under the snow-capped gaze of the Southern Alps, Hokitika charms from all sides offering up a fascinating past and a full range of activities to keep modern explorers happy.
The imposing Hokitika Clock Tower (1903) serves as a war memorial and a commemoration of the coronation of King Edward VII.
Hokitika claims more galleries and studios per capita than anywhere in New Zealand. Wander around town and watch artists at work, talk to pounamu and bone carvers, photographers, painters, glass blowers, sculptors, wood turners, potters, jewellers, metal, stone and textile artists.
Rest a while on the Take-a-Seat art installations around town. Hokitika’s extra wide town streets were never quite paved with gold but they were built on the back of the 19th century gold rush that brought thousands of hopeful fortune seekers from around the world — and helped set the town off with style.
Long before gold was the object of desire, Māori traders from all over Aotearoa New Zealand came seeking pounamu — the treasured greenstone / NZ jade used for adornment and weapons, and found only on the West Coast.
Just north of town lies the Arahura River, considered the birthplace of pounamu, and there’s nowhere better than Hokitika to learn about the stone and watch it being carved and polished into fabulous jewellery and pieces of art.
The Hokitika Driftwood & Sand Festival takes place over a few days but the driftwood sculptures stay on the beach for as long as they last.
Find the famous Hokitika driftwood sign and start with the beach. Take a walk along the waterfront or down on the sand to admire the incredible sculptures from the last Driftwood & Sand Sculpture Festival (every January) and, if you’re feeling inspired, have a go at building your own.
There’s lots of photographic inspiration here, too. On the beach, the ocean and mountains by day, sunsets and bonfires by night. And a glow worm dell to visit at night.
Out of town, discover cycle trails and walking tracks, including the stunning Hokitika Gorge with its iconic surreal turquoise blue waters. There’s fun to be had on the trails and waterways around Lake Mahinapua and a walk or a zipline in the forest treetops.
Riding the West Coast Wilderness Trail, a 132-km, 4-day ride from Greymouth to Ross via Hokitika.
Hokitika is an important rest and hospitality stop on the multi-day Wilderness Trail cycling journey.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail (a 132 km / four-day ride from Greymouth to Ross via Hokitika) passes by town so, for a more active day out, BYOB (bring your own bike) or rent from several local operators.
The 15 km / 1.5 hr (each way) grade 2 (easy) section from the Hokitika isite to the Treetop Walk is the perfect cycle trail taster with a cafe to refuel in at the end. The views are amazing, too, with majestic Southern Alps, brooding rainforests and mirrored waters.
Nearby, idyllic Lake Kaniere is the start of another scenic feast along the historic Kaniere Water Race (hand-dug in 1875).
Hokitika Gorge is one of the West Coast’s most instantly recognisable scenes.
A true photogenic gem — brilliant turquoise water fringed with stark white limestone cliffs and lush green rainforest — Hokitika Gorge is one of the West Coast’s most instantly recognisable scenes.
Ice, water, rock and age-old natural forces helped create the visual beauty of the Hokitika Gorge.
Glaciers ground the fine rock sediment that adds the essential element for highlighting the super blue-green water and helped work its way through the white granite bedrock. A clear blue West Coast sky helps enhance those colours but any day is a beautiful day at Hokitika Gorge.
These same glacial waters also carry precious pounamu (New Zealand jade/greenstone) from the mountains down to the sea. It’s one of several river sources around Hokitika making this cool little town the pounamu capital of the world.