Located almost in the centre of the wild West Coast, Hokitika is a town that deserves much more than just a quick pit stop. Featuring heaps of hikes and a great local culture, it is a place that is best “embraced”, not just “visited”.
Hokitika was created during the great Kiwi gold-rush of the 1860s. It now has just the right pace, not to fast, not too slow, helped with stunning surroundings to establish itself as a typical New Zealand town with an untypical vibe. It’s a small town, 3000 maybe but feels bigger.
Dasha and I looked at some great artwork here when we visited Hokitika in April 2016. It was later in the day and the weekend, I think and we didn’t get to see it all. We saw pounamu (jade), possum clothing and many different types and styles of artworks. I was impressed with a doormat, fashioned with West Coast pebbles, I must find one 😉
Pounamu refers to several types of hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite stone found in southern New Zealand. Pounamu is the Māori name. Pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture and is considered a taonga (treasure) and therefore protected under the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1997 the Crown handed back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu.
Genuine Ponamu is expensive and much of the jewellery in New Zealand tourist centres is made by New Zealand carvers from imported jade or just imported (from China).
Dasha and I had the Hokitika Gorge on our to do list but it was raining quite heavily so we carried on to Franz Joseph Glacier, where it was also raining 🙂 The gorge is 40 minutes from Hokitika and one of the highlights is the beautiful colour of the water, not seen when the river is high. Fingers crossed this time.
“The magnificent granite gorge, with milky blue-green pools, backed by cliffs and fine rimu forest. Take care on south bank track. The drive to the gorge passes fine West Coast dairy farms and a memorial to the victims of the Stanley Graham shootings.
This is a classic scenic drive loop which features amazing scenery. Head inland to the Hokitika Gorge to admire its unbelievably turquoise waters, enjoying views of farmland, rivers and the mountains along the way. Stop also at the Kowhitirangi Memorial that honours the victims of the Stanley Graham shootings. On the way back, head around the south and eastern end of Lake Kaniere (a good 2wd gravel road). There are plenty of pullouts to enjoy the lake shore as well as a short walk to Dorothy Falls. Then head back to Hokitika. Of course you can do this in reverse too. Lake Kaniere, 18 kilometres east of Hokitika, is a glacial lake, used for boating, kayaking and fishing. A road goes round the eastern side (to join up with the Hokitika valley), and there are several walking tracks along the shore and in the forest.
I can see this will be a stay of at least two nights. I would like to be there when they hold the “Wild Food Festival” – from delicacy to disgusting, we have oyster to mountain oysters (sheep testicles) and everything in between like venison and whitebait. It’s tempting and is on 11 March. . . . . . maybe, maybe not!