Hokitika is a west coast super stop on New Zealand’s South Island that captured my imagination. Driftwood-covered beaches, greenstone, wild foods, and the azure Hokitika Gorge are just the beginning. If you haven’t been, it’s time to start planning. If you have, you know there are plenty of unique things to do in Hokitika.
An artist community and beach town, Hokitika is famous for pounamu (NZ jade) and Maori carvings. There are even opportunities to try carving for yourself.
There is something here to appeal to everyone. From enjoying or creating art to adventures, there are plenty of things to do in Hokitika NZ. You will be surprised at how much there is waiting to be discovered.
Our best advice if you are headed here – plan to stay a while.
First, let New Zealand inspire you
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- First, let New Zealand inspire you
- Hokitika Gorge – a must-see
Other things to do in Hokitika New Zealand+−
- Wild Foods Festival – One of the truly unique things to do in Hokitika
- Where is Hokitika New Zealand?
- Have you been to Hokitika Gorge? Have you seen inland water this colour anywhere else?
Hokitika Gorge – a must-see
If you think you have time for only one activity, my first advice would be to reschedule. But either way, be sure to include a visit to the cerulean blue waters of the Hokitika Gorge. From the initial view of the swing bridge, I was entranced.
This suspension bridge offers a gentle bounce that kids seem to enjoy more than adults.
It’s a short walk from the car park to the first surreal view, but you will want to go farther, cross the bridge, and enter the forest. The Hokitika Gorge walk is an easy upgraded 2km loop trail.
It takes you first through dense rimu and podocarp forest to a viewing platform that will take your breath away. The depth of cyan colour is so vibrant that it looks fake. Next, a swing bridge, then the path continues down to the water.
Tips for visiting Hokitika Gorge
- Hokitika Gorge is about 33km outside of town. To get to the gorge, drive east from town turning right at the intersection into Kokatahi. From here, follow the yellow signposts to find the Hokitika Gorge walk trailhead.
- The road turns, twists and crosses a one-lane bridge before arriving at the car park, now complete with a remodelled toilet block.
- The portion of the gorge trail leading to the viewing platform is wheelchair accessible.
Other things to do in Hokitika New Zealand
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Check out the driftwood on Hokitika Beach
Driftwood regularly comes in with the tide, making Hokitika beach a bit unique. As a result, driftwood artwork abounds, the most famous being the Hokitika sign on the beach. And, there is an annual driftwood creation competition resulting in many newer driftwood art examples.
Visit the National Kiwi Centre
Kiwi bird sightings in the wild are rare, so places like the National Kiwi Centre offer a great opportunity to see this endangered bird, a national icon.
Nocturnal, you will need to allow a few minutes for your eyes to adjust, then prepare to discover these flightless creatures. There are wildlife keepers around to answer questions and help you learn more.
And that’s not all. If you time it right, you can feed longfin eels (the world’s largest eel species) at 10 am, 12 pm, or 3 pm daily. The National Kiwi Centre in Hokitika is also home to tuatara, crayfish, and whitebait.
While you can rock up, pay, and enter, you might be able to get discounted entry tickets with this link, even with less than an hour’s notice.
Carve your own pounamu (greenstone) pendant
How cool is this opportunity? You can design a pounamu (also called New Zealand jade or greenstone) pendant, learn how to create it, and have some fun carving (with guidance as needed).
About 10 years ago, our girls opted to carve Māori designs out of bone, and their pendants are now kept amongst their treasures. We did our carvings at Bonz and Stonz, which still operates today. It’s an activity for all ages, although I think most often done by adults.
The stones are added to the cost of your pendant, or you can bring your own. While you can comb the beach in search of pounamu, you will have better luck, and learn a lot more, with a tour from a Māori guide along the sacred Arahura River. Your guide helps you find small pounamu pieces and teaches you how to carve it and create a necklace to take home. Check price on the greenstone tour on the sacred Arahura River
Kayak on the Mahinapua waterways
If you are looking for a pleasant way to enjoy the peace of the area as well as the incredible scenery, kayaking on the gentle waters of Mahinapua Creek might be a perfect adventure.
You can choose from single or tandem kayaks, and everything else is provided including lifejackets, paddle, area map, dry bag, and a safety briefing. Click here for kayak discount options depending on the time and day you choose.
Stroll to Dorothy waterfall or take a longer hike at Lake Kaniere
Well known for its stunning reflections, Lake Kaniere was even beautiful on an extremely cloudy and overcast day. Here one can relax, hike, or camp, but whichever you choose, don’t forget your camera.
The hiking options are varied, ranging from 4-hours one way to a quick and easy 2-minute walk to Dorothy Falls. Access this multi-step waterfall from the car park on the eastern side of Lake Kaniere. We stopped here on our way back to town from Hokitika Gorge.
Take a Treetop Walk and enjoy the rainforest canopy
Honestly, we haven’t done this on the South Island yet, but we did to a tree canopy walk in Rotorua, and it was amazing. With similar specs and great reviews, I am sure this one is just as cool. The Hokitika Tree Top Walk is set in the local temperate rainforest.
Walking long steel platforms 20 metres above the ground, you get a fabulous perspective from above, while surrounded by the quiet sounds of the forest. Best of all, with this link, there are often discounts available (depending on the day you choose).
Stroll through the town
Art galleries and cafes left us spoilt for choice, and best of all they were intermixed or often built within classic buildings. And, even if shopping isn’t your thing, be sure to stop into some of the pounamu (greenstone) shops.
Wild Foods Festival – One of the truly unique things to do in Hokitika
Hokitika is a town made world-famous for its annual Hokitika Wild Food Festival that takes place each March. It’s an opportunity to try unexpected wild treats like game meats, huhu grubs, fish eyes, duck heads, crocodile bites, scorpions, worms, deep-fried pigs ears, and more.
End the day with a beautiful Hokitika sunset and glow worms
Some say the best sunsets in all of New Zealand are found on Hokitika beach. What we found was while each night offered a different show, each had rich, vivid colours that were beyond anything we had seen before.
You be the judge.
The colours of the sky were so vivid that my images almost felt over-processed, while in reality they accurately reflect the sky we saw.
Free night walk to see the glow worm dell
A five-minute walk from the well-marked signpost along State Hwy 7 at the northern entrance to the town, and you will be in the glow worm dell. As it must be dark to see the glow worms, we used a torch (flashlight) to follow the path, but then stood in darkness at the dell.
This is one of the best free things to do in Hokitika at night. If you have never seen glow worms before, this is a great opportunity.
Where is Hokitika New Zealand?
Hokitika is found along one of my favourite road trips, the west coast of the South Island. More specifically, it is north of the glaciers and south of Greymouth. Here are a few key drive times:
- Hokitika to Greymouth is a 35-minute drive
- Hokitika to Punakaiki is a 1 hour, 10-minute drive
- The glaciers: Hokitika to Fox Glacier (2-hours) or to Franz Josef Glacier (1 hour, 45 minutes).
- Hokitika is also about 3 hours north of the west coast’s Munro Beach where we saw the Fiordland Crested Penguins.
- And some of the longer drives: from Christchurch 3 ½ hours; from Nelson 4 hours 20 min; and from Queenstown 6 ½ hours.
Accommodation in Hokitika New Zealand
While we opted to be sure not to miss the sunset by staying at a beachfront hotel, there is a full range of accommodation options.
We stayed in one of the chalets at the Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation and loved the easy access to Hokitika beach, as well as the nearby path to see the Hokitika glow worms.
Our chalet gave us privacy and a great night’s sleep. And, you can’t beat the sunset.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
We usually start with aggregator companies as they do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews. However, we also added a few personal NZ favourites:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in New Zealand, we use Bookabach.
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
- Activity discounts: we always check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on selected tours, activities, restaurants and more.
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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Have you been to Hokitika Gorge? Have you seen inland water this colour anywhere else?
More from the South Island you might also like … or check out 18 Extraordinary Things to Do in the South Island.
Gorgeous! What an incredible area! I always love to see the crazy blue glacial waters, but there is so much more! I would looove to see kiwis at night, and the beaches look fabulous too!
NZ may be a small country but you need 6 weeks to see most of our beauty spots. Both islands have different beauty and you don’t have to travel far to see them. When covid is over come amd visit us, you won’t be dissappointed!
Courtney @ Adelante
The color of that water is surreal! Looks like a natural paradise!
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
Yet another reason for us to return to New Zealand. Are you sure it is a steer with udders? Perhaps it is a cow with horns!
How gorgeous! I was in NZ many years ago for about a week. I focused on the North Island, which is gorgeous, too. I would love to get back one of these days, and I’d be sure to visit Hokitika.
The photos are stunning Rhonda! I would love to have one photo over that bridge!! So amazing!
Have a great week lovely!
This is just stunning! It reminds me a bit of the soca river in slovenia which is also so so clear. However this one is a much deeper blue!
Oh wow! What a beautiful little hike! That water is stunning! It’s a shame you could go further!
Oh, that looks absolutely stunning! I like waterfalls and sunsets (and don’t trust anyone who doesn’t!) 🙂
I cannot comprehend the beauty here LOL. Seeing this gorge floors me. My friend took us on a tour around the East Cape today. I just cannot believe it. Maori territory, so few humans, the Pacific, hills, bush, forests, farms. Speechless.
I have never been there but the colour of the water is amazing, kinda reminds me of the Blue Springs in Putaruru.
Wow! That is quite the gorge! And quite the blue water! Looks like an incredible place to visit!
Such amazingly beautiful pictures! What a beautiful area! Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to get there yet.
It looks like a really nice place! And the colour of the waters!!
The color of the water looks incredible! It is a place I would like to visit. The festival with all sorts of crazy food sounds interesting. Well, at least it would be interesting for my husband. He has tried the weirdest stuff you can imagine.
Paul F. Pietrangelo
Oh my God, what a beautiful sun. I just love the photos and the color of that water, so blue. You know Rhonda, your photos are so realistic even though they are photos. See ya my friend.
What an interesting place. Still under the tourist’s radar, I hope?
It is one of so many beautiful places in New Zealand to stop and visit.
Beautiful place, great pictures and what a spectacular sunset. This place is calling me!
Beautiful place with some stunning features
Wow! So very gorgeous!
Lydia C. Lee
That water is amazing!!
Kay L. Davies
Fabulous scenery…I could go on and on…but I must say I admire your family crossing the suspension bridge. Although I used to live in North Vancouver, nothing and nobody could get me across the Capilano bridge. Fear of heights, unfounded fear of falling, every other fear I’d ever feared!
That turquoise water in your photos is unlike any I’ve ever seen…the Canadian Rockies have a few mountain lakes that are close, but not as deeply turquoise.
Thank you for the lovely, lovely tour.
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel
Wow! Your photos have me seriously considering adding this to my non-existent bucket list of places to see. I think I’ll have to get working on that list! Have a great week, Rhonda!
It is an incredible place indeed Rhonda.. I have similar thing in Indonesia and some Caribbean countries
I’ve seen some blue water…Saint John in the Virgin Islands, but even it wasn’t that blue.
We missed this one when we were in NZ. Each time i think we should come one more time… i even think we should do it next year feb, before the little one turns 2 (on the other hand, better if he has his own chair for the almost 24 h).
Oh, I hope you do come back. I would love to meet you for real.
Julie Kemp Pick
What a brilliant shade of blue! It makes you want to jump right in!
indah nuria Savitri
Such an amazing landscape…blue diamond in the wild..Happy WW and thanks for sharing these beautiful photos…
I have never been there. Just looking at the swinging bridge made my stomach do flips 🙂
The water is very beautiful.
I used to be bothered by them, but not anymore. I don’t know why, one day they just stopped being scary.
Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand but when I do it sure looks like Hokitika Gorge is a MUST see!
It is a must see, but a bit off the traditional tourist path. It is on the west coast of the South Island.
What a incredible views! I wish to travel someday to there. Someday….
I have a long bucket list of somedays as well. I hope New Zealand moves higher on your list soon 🙂
That looks so amazing!
Wow. That is so gorgeous! Now I need to plan a trip to New Zealand. (Which we were already thinking of visiting…)
I would encourage anyone to visit New Zealand. It is an amazing country, small but has it all.
Gorgeous! The colour of that water is spectcular
I’ve always heard that New Zealand is beautiful. Your photo is proof positive! Well caught!
Beautiful scenery. Is the water really that blue?
Yes, it is totally amazing. It was too bad your daughter wasn’t here long enough to get to the South Island, it is spectacular.
Sheryl at LibertyHillHouse.com
NZ has always been on my wishlist of places to visit, but you just pushed it to the top. That water is stunning! Is it someplace that would be good for swimming?
New Zealand is amazing. I know many expats. We came, we fell in love with the country and we never left.
Absolutely stunning – shame it’s on the other side of the world from me! One day maybe…..
Wow – i love the colour of the water!
Beautiful blues! I think I would get dizzy on that bridge!!
I used to be afraid of swing bridges, now I have been over so many, they don’t bother me anymore.
That water is so perfect. We were to the Royal Gorge in Utah. It to had perfect blue water.
I will have to add Royal Gorge to my bucket list (Utah is already there as I want to see Arches National Park)
The water in your photos is so blue, such a beautiful place. Please stop by and add your links there great to share! Enjoy your day!
I’ve never been to New Zealand. I’ve friends that have gone and they said it was very peaceful there. A more quiet way of life.
Have a fabulous day Rhonda. 🙂
The South Island is really more peaceful, surrounded by beauty everywhere you turn, and only one million people on the entire island. I am not sure it’s always quite, as we are the adventure capital of the world.
What a beautiful place! I love the swing bridge–though I’m not sure that my husband or the middle daughter would go near it! 🙂
It looks absolutely beautiful there and no I have never seen inland water that co,our before, you described it well…Magical 😉
Have a scenictastic week & thanks for hiking by 😉
I’ve never seen water so blue! I just visited your guest post and enjoyed the photos and learning a bit more about your family adventures. Take care and have a great week!
Stunning scenery – but then one expects nothing less!!! YAM xx
What a lovely view, not to mention breathtaking… I’m sure this was an amazing experience.
Great for you all!!
Have a lovely week
Really lovely shade of blue. They have very nice places in NZ to visit 🙂
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Wow, that water is blue!
Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)
Title of my #ww entry is Blue but I think these photos are more deserving of that title! Its the bluest ive ever seen! #ww
Oh how beautiful. Now I want to visit. The water reminds me of blue diamonds. I bet that was an amazing trip. Thanks for sharing.