Hokitika often formally and informally refers to itself as New Zealand‘s coolest little town. And when a place does that, you have to check it out yourself for signs of hyperbole. So I did. But I think I misinterpreted their definition of cool. It’s not like Wellington, which (rather annoyingly in my opinion) refers to itself as ‘the world’s coolest little capital.’
Because it has an overwhelming population of hipsters, and shop logos haven’t been changed in so long they somehow contribute to its ‘vintage facade.’ I call bullshit on that one, but like I said, Hokitika is different. It’s cool in the traditional, cucumber sense. Personified, it’s the chill, level-headed, always-just-slightly-stoned guy that is friends with everyone.
Parked on the West Coast behind the comparatively characterless towns of Greymouth and Westport, Hokitika is the ideal base for exploring the West Coast.
Things to do in Hokitika
But before you head on up to Pancake Rocks, or down to Christchurch for the day, try to make the most of Hokitika. The worst part of driving through towns and cities is that if you’re out of pocket, you’re out of luck. But this isn’t the case in this town. There’s plenty of things to do in Hokitika without spending much at all.
I’ve paid out a lot for tourist attractions in the past that weren’t worth the time spent in the queue let alone the price of admission, so when you go somewhere like Hokitika Gorge, you see the real reason you go travelling.
The turquoise waters of Hokitika gorge border on radioactive in colour, and against the limestone white of the rock and lush green of the enveloping forest, the scene that opens up in front of you is one that seems to take in every season at once. The gorge is just 30 km from Hokitika and is an easy walk from the carpark. It’s not just an opportunity not to be missed on the West Coast of New Zealand, but one not to be missed in New Zealand, period.
One of the things to do in Hokitika is to head out to the beach and attend the driftwood competition. The town is renowned for this competition, which artists and craftsmen take part in every year to build the best sculpture from the sea’s cast aways. It’s a great spot for sitting down with a picnic, making bracelets from seashells or practicing landscape photography. Even on an overcast day, you can capture that Daniel Craig quality, that rough-around-the-edges handsome that sketches its own signature of beauty.
You can while away the days in Hokitika wandering through the art galleries, or craft stores which sell locally manufactured goods such as glassware, patchwork quilting and Puomanu Jade. Hokitika seemes to have a tenacious grip on a manufacturing industry which has largely surrendered itself to mechanical technology in the last half century. But whatever path one takes during the day in Hokitika, everyone usually ends up at the same point in the evening, Sunset Point to be exact. You are pretty much guaranteed one of those sunsets that no holiday scrap book would be complete without. I can’t think of a more fitting end to such a chill trip in a town that thoroughly deserves its reputation.