Relaxed beach town with a slow pace of life, Hokitika will conquer your heart with its magical tales of ship wrecks, gold miners and pounamu hunters. Although a small place with approximately 3100 inhabitants, Hokitika lures in plenty of tourists every year. If you find yourself crossing New Zealand's South Island towards Queenstown, you should stop for a night in Hokitika, you'll be surprised by the natural wonders you'll find here.
How to get to Hokitika
It took us just under 5 hours to drive from Nelson to Hokitika via State Highway 6. The drive on the West Coast is pretty spectacular and some views are so amazing, you've to stop and marvel at the landscape. You can drive entirely on the State Highway 6, in which case you should stop in Punakaki and check out the magnificent Pancake Rocks. This is a longer drive and you might end up traveling for 6 hours or so. It's totally doable in one day and you won't even feel tired by the end of it. The alternative is to make your way on State Highway 6 until you reach Inangahua, then take the State Highway 69 and drive towards Reefton, where you can stop and fuel up if you need to. Continue your journey down State Highway 7 towards Greymouth. You can take a break here should you wish to. Greymouth is a shanty-town with a long history of jade hunting and mining. Walking around through the town centre will make you feel as a main star in an Old American Western movie. Once you're ready to move on, take the State Highway 6 and drive along the coast till you reach Hokitika.
Beach Front Hokitika
We arrived to Hokitika just after lunch time. We dropped our stuff at the Bella Vista Motel, left the car in the parking lot and made our way towards the town centre to grab a bite. Hokitika looks much like a smaller Greymouth. It gave us the chance to feel like modern cowboys. I think the highlight of the city was a funny restaurant with the name Fat Pipi Pizza which sounds totally unappetizing, but apparently totally delicious being one of the top rated eateries in town. We ended up wandering around the New World supermarket, where we found ready to eat (massive) prawns. We also bought some freshly baked bread, queen olives, some snacks, a couple of beers and made our way to Hokitika's breach front. It was a quiet and lazy afternoon, with only a few people walking down the beach. We sat down on a bench by the shores and ate whilst admiring the beautiful Tasman Sea. We must have arrived to Hokitika just after a sea storm, as the shores were being washed by some incredibly big waves. I mean, for the first time in my life I actually wanted to surf. It looked lush.
We walked on the beach a little, then made our way back to the car. A bit more re-energised, we knew it's time to drive to our main destination: The Hokitika Gorge. We heard and read so many things about it, we didn't quite know what to expect. It took us 30 min drive to reach the Gorge. We arrived at about 5 or 6pm and we were the only people there. We left the car in the parking lot and made our way through a well defined trail towards the water. The walk was absolutely fantastic, through beautiful native bush, trees and ferns. The walk is not long, probably about 15 minutes, and it takes you over a swingbridge with magnificent views over the turquoise coloured waters. You can continue your walk a bit further to get really close to the glacier river but bare in mind there's lots of sandflies by the banks, so either have long sleeves, or use special lotions, because they can be a menace.
Wondering how the Hokitika Gorge looks so damn beautiful? The water gets its turquoise colour due to its content of rock flour (ground schist and greywacke rock), melted ice and minerals from ancient glaciers. If only we could buy these ingredients from the supermarket ...
Feel free to take your time around the great Hokitika Gorge, especially when it's quiet and there are no tourists around. It feels really secluded and looks incredibly impressive. It's a really good place to meditate or yoga. Once the sun starts setting, it's time to make a move back towards Hokitika. Stop along the way to capture the beautiful sunset over the mountains.
Hokitika Glow Worm Dell
Since it should be pretty dark by now, it's time to make your way towards Hokitika's second best kept secret: The Glow Worm Dell.
Once you reach Hokitika centre, you have two options. You can either drive for 2 minutes or walk for 15 before reaching the Glow Worm Dell. Whichever you pick, make sure you get there when it's pitch black to really capture the best of these magnificent creatures. The walk around the Glow Worm Dell is very short so don't expect too much. However, being a free of charge attraction and a great chance to admire the wonderful glow in the dark dots, I think it's well worth it. Feel free to take pictures, but please be considerate, don't use the flash on your camera/phone and don't point any lights towards the worms as they are night loving creatures.
There are plenty of other things to do in Hokitika. You can go for the Treetop Walk, you can check the Wilderness Gallery or the Hokitika Museum. If you time your trip properly, you might even arrive during the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival. This is your chance to try huhu grubs, duck heads, crocodile bites, fish eyes, scorpions, worms, snails, grasshoppers, colostrum cheesecake, mountain oysters and the infamous stallion protein shots. I bet you're so hungry right now ...
If you want to read more about the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival check out their official website here.
Good Bye Hokitika, Hello Again State Highway 6
Next morning we grabbed breakfast and coffee from Stella Café, then had a lovely walk on the beach. We had a last wander around Hokitika's quiet streets, and had a chat with a friendly local about our visit and itinerary. We even got some great tips for the following few days. Thank you, nice New Zealand lady.
We got in the car, fuelled up and before we knew it, we left Hokitika behind and continued our journey towards Queenstown, via Franz Josef Glacier and Wanaka. Music on, very excited, we were on the road again.
What did you do in Hokitika? Would you like to visit during the Wild Foods Festival and would you be brave enough to try some of the world weirdest snacks?