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. 

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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  😉

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A beautiful door mat

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).


I like the less perfect Ponamu, with character, and this is the style I prefer.

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$135.00 for a 2 hour tour

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-otherworldly-color-of-hokitika-gorge.jpg

“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.

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Lake Kaniere

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.

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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!

Over Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast again, then on a bit . . . . .


I’m not sure what I imagine Arthur’s Pass to be like, I didn’t get Haast Pass correct and I probably won’t with Arthur’s. So who was Arthur? In 1864  Arthur Dobson and his brother Edward went over the Bealey-Otira Pass and it was named after Arthur. Maybe he was the older brother?

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The park is very distinctly split by the main divide of the South Island. The eastern side is typically drier and consists of beech forest and wide riverbeds, while the western side contains dense rainforest. Much of the geography was formed by ancient glacial action, forming flat-bottomed U-shaped valleys. In the middle is a high range, consisting of large, snow-covered peaks and scree slopes.

West and east!

Arthur’s Pass National Park is not far from the Bealey and the Waimakariri River bridge has a magnificent view of mountains at the head of the valley. The weather is often clear here when it raining at Arthur’s Pass Village.


The road then runs through beautiful bush beside the Bealey River until you come into the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass, 5 km south of the mountain pass with the same name. Its elevation is 740 metres above sea level surrounded by beech forest.


From Arthur’s Pass, across the  Southern Alps to Otira, there is native bush and Mount Rolleston. I will do the Chasm and the Dobson Nature Walk (hopefully there will be wild flowers) and maybe others as there are many choices. There is always the weather(;  I’m now back on the “wet” side.


The Otira Viaduct

The next section is one that is unique to New Zealand and of which we are proud. It is a piece of engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes.In places the road not only hugs the cliff but hangs over it!! It descends, steeply  😦


Rock slide and Water Bridges in the Otira Gorge.

Once through the gorge there is the interesting little village of Otira, originally a stop on the Cobb and Co stagecoach from Canterbury to the West Coast. The Midland Line was extended from Stillwater to Jacksons in 1894 and then Otira in 1899, when the pass was navigated by coach from Otira until the railway tunnel opened in 1923. During construction of the tunnel, Otira housed about 600 workers and their families.


The Otira Railway Station was opened on 13 November 1900 (ex-Goat Creek on 15 October 1900), and closed in February 1992. In the 1950s the town had a population of about 350, but this had dropped to 11 in 1988 and was 44 in 2010.

The township is principally old Railways housing, much of which was constructed in Hamilton and shipped south to be assembled on site. As well as the railway station, there is a pub, a fire station, and 18 houses, 14 of them tenanted in 2010.


Until . . . . . . . . . in 1998, Bill and Christine Hennah bought the hotel and town on a whim for $73,000. In 2010, they listed their property, which included the hotel, hall, fire station and 14 rentable houses on 20 hectares of leasehold land. At the time, Christine Hennah estimated the total worth at about $1 million. It has since been purchased and is going through a revival!


Jacksons Hotel, nearing the coast.

Now back on safe ground, no overhangs etc the road follows the Taramakau River to Kumara Junction where I turn right to join the West Coast again, south of Greymouth. It’s a brief return, a mere 20 kilometres, before turning inland again at Greymouth to head to Reefton, an hour on.

Accommodation: Reefton Motor camp

Ross Street

Reefton 7830

PH 03 732 8477