Embracing all things West in Hokitika
PHOTO: Hokitika Clock via www.westcoastnz.com
Hokitika on the west coast of the South Island – or the mainland as they like to call it in the company of North Islanders – is a ‘must visit’ town.
Nestled between an untamed beach, clear mountain rivers and the mighty Southern Alps, it’s not hard to figure out what makes it an attraction.
The inhabitants of Hokitika, often referred to as ‘coasters’ are easy to spot. Slightly rough around the edges, driving a well loved vehicle which may have that day’s hunting slung across the back – they fit into the wild landscape. Their most distinguishing feature? They appreciate what they’ve got. In this town it won’t take long for you to forget what is due at work on Monday and start enjoying the things that matter in life – the beach, the mountains, good kai and good company.
Bushwalks are a great way to see what this area has to offer. Stroll the beach to the river mouth at sunset or hit the bush at Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve or the stunningly beautiful Hokitika Gorge. Tracks range from 10mins to 7 hours. On offer are views of the forest, Southern Alps, fresh mountain rivers, beach and historic town. Yes, all in the same walk. Ridiculous.
For a different angle check out ‘The Treetop Walk’ at Lake Mahinapua, a layout of completely enclosed walkways set high in the trees. Opening on December 15th this brand new attraction is set in a beautiful scenic reserve and offers an experience like no other. Relax afterwards to recount the experience at the Mahinapua cafe.
Integral to the heart of Hokitika is pounamu or greenstone, the semi-precious stone treasured in Maori culture. Each evening as the beach washes up a new selection of stones and shells, locals scour the sands in hope of a sliver of the taonga. Be warned it’s harder than it looks – about to proclaim myself an official treasure hunter, I was disappointed to find out my handfuls were ‘fool’s gold’. There is an easier option – ‘Mountain Jade’ in the centre of town. This family owned company has been producing beautiful greenstone pieces since 1986. They also offer the opportunity to learn about carving and even have a crack at it yourself. And if you don’t want to leave they even have their own backpackers.
Hokitika’s claim to fame ‘The Hokitika Wild Food Festival’ takes place 9th – 13th March 2013. Here, delicacies are not just the local whitebait. The festival stretches the limits of the term ‘edible’ to the likes of huhu grubs, wasp larvae ice-cream and snails. Along with the annual Kumara Race Day, the Speights Coast to Coast Challenge and the Driftwood and Sand Sculpture Competition this is an event that is uniquely Hokitika. An awesome chance to get out amongst the locals and try something new.
These are just a few features of what Hokitika has to offer the traveller. No doubt you will run into a local on the beach who has their own take on the perfect itinerary (by the end of our time there our packs were overflowing with hand drawn maps). So embrace the ‘coaster’ within this summer and turn off to SH6 – Hokitika is one of the most beautiful, friendly and culturally rich places that New Zealand has to offer.
PHOTO: Take your pick…Cricket, Grasshopper or Huhu Beetle at the Wildfoods Festival!