Home of the sacred pounamu
Hokitika is a small town located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. With a population of around 3,000 people, it is situated between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, making it a popular tourist destination known for its stunning natural scenery. Just thirty minutes scenic drive from Greymouth, this quaint town is bursting with artistic flair.
A large part of the town's artistry flows from Hokitika's natural association with the sourcing and crafting of pounamu, attracting visitors from around the world who seek to understand its significance and acquire unique pieces of this precious stone.
Pounamu carvers in Hokitika continue to preserve the artistry and tradition, keeping the cultural heritage alive while contributing to the local economy and fostering a sense of pride within the community.
Exploring this quaint town
Founded during the gold rush of the 1860s, Hokitika still retains much of its heritage and charm from the era. With a thriving arts and crafts scene, this small town is bursting with talented artisans who produce unique jewellery, pottery, and other handmade items.
Just around the corner from the artisan shops is the local museum. Bursting with interesting information, you'll discover how the town grew in the 1860s with people coming to the West Coast from all around the world seeking gold. With a growing population of over 25,000 - at one time - the town's port was a busy main shipping point for the gold.
Things to do in Hokitika
Outdoor enthusiasts rejoice. Hokitika is a playground of hiking, fishing, kayaking, biking, and exploring the nearby glaciers and rainforests.
From simply strolling along the beach to hiking the nearby hills. Visit the National Kiwi Centre, explore the Tunnel Terrace Walk or discover the Glow Worm Dell. Learn the rich history of the town at the Hokitika Museum and Heritage Trail or nearby attractions like the Westland Industrial Heritage Park.
Whatever type of activities you enjoy, you won't be short of things to do in Hokitika.
Hokitika is the incredible backdrop for two annual festivals: the Wildfoods Festival and the Hokitika Driftwood and Sand Festival.
Celebrated every year, the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival attracts over 10,000 people to the area. Sharing in a love for everything unique, at this festival you can indulge in huhu grubs, venison, seafood, lamb and, of course, a range of fantastic live entertainment.
The Driftwood and Sand Festival in Hokitika is another annual event that celebrates the creativity of the local community. At this festival, artists use driftwood, sand, and stones to create spectacular sculptures, sandcastles and more.
This “cool little town” has excellent accommodation options, from ubiquitous AirBnB home stay rentals to camping at Hokitika Holiday Park, you'll find the full spectrum of holiday accommodation in Hokitika.
For something luxurious or unique, try the 5-star Rimu Lodge or quirky boutique hotels like the Hokitika Fire Station and the historic Theatre Royal Hotel.
Alternatively, if you want a convenient and stylish stay in the heart of the town with stunning ocean views, then the Beachfront Hotel Hokitika is an exceptional choice.
Beachfront Hotel Hokitika
Overlooking the Tasman Sea and just a few paces from the beach, the stylish Beachfront Hotel is the perfect place to stay in the centre of Hokitika town.
The hotel's bright and airy restaurant and bar opens out over the beach front and is perfect for sunset drinks. And with beautiful, comfortable, clean rooms and stunning sea views, you will not want to leave.
History of Hokitika
A group of Ngai Tahu warriors, who were on a quest for greenstone, were on the verge of attacking a Ngāti Wairangi fortified village when an unfortunate incident occurred. The chief of the invading warriors drowned while attempting to cross the river. As a result, the leaderless group promptly returned directly back to their own settlement.
The name Hokitika relates directly to this event by translating to: Hoki 'to return', Tika 'direct'.
In 1864, gold was discovered in the area by local Māori prospectors, leading to an influx of European and Chinese miners seeking their fortunes. Hokitika quickly grew into a bustling frontier town as thousands of prospectors arrived to try their luck in the goldfields. The population swelled, and businesses, banks, hotels, and other amenities sprung up to cater to the needs of the growing community.
Hokitika became an important center for the West Coast goldfields and served as a major port for shipping gold out of the region. However, the gold rush gradually declined in the late 1860s as the easily accessible gold deposits were exhausted.
Hokitika became a hub for timber milling and flax milling industries in the late 1800s, as well as a service centre for the surrounding agricultural and pastoral activities. The town also played a role in early maritime trade, with ships carrying supplies and passengers arriving at the port.
Over the years, Hokitika went through various economic ups and downs. It faced challenges such as floods, fires, and economic recessions, which impacted its development. However, the town continued to adapt and diversify its economy. In the 20th century, tourism became an increasingly important industry for Hokitika, drawing visitors to its natural beauty, including the nearby Southern Alps and the rugged West Coast beaches.
Hokitika's Wildfoods Festival began in 1990 and has since grown in popularity, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
The Wildfoods Festival was initially conceived as a way to showcase the unique and unconventional cuisine of the region. It aimed to celebrate and promote the wild and natural resources found in the area, including the native flora, fauna, and seafood. The festival provided an opportunity for locals and visitors to indulge in a variety of wild and exotic foods, such as venison, whitebait, huhu grubs, and even more adventurous offerings like fried locusts or worm sushi.
Over the years, the Wildfoods Festival has evolved into a vibrant and diverse event that goes beyond just food. It has incorporated live music performances, art exhibitions, street parades, and various entertainment activities, making it a multi-faceted celebration of the West Coast culture and community.
West Coast Train
Travelling to the West Coast by train couldn't be easier or more beautiful than aboard the TranzAlpine.
Weaving through the peaks of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine Christchurch to Greymouth train ranks among the best scenic train journeys in the world.
From Greymouth, you can simply rent a car or campervan and explore Franz Josef and the West Coast at your leisure. Alternatively, you can book one of our short breaks or tours and let us take care of everything for you.
Getting to Hokitika by train
You can get to Hokitika by train aboard one of the following escapes by rail and unique rail tours:
Discover the West Coast
From idyllic lakes to geological wonders, discover why New Zealand's West Coast is such a spectacular place to visit: