Written by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand. An extensive traveller herself, Jen has three young children, so if you are looking for ideas on travelling around New Zealand with kids, check out their blog!
Things to do in Hokitika, as recommended by a local
The West Coast, aka the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand, is a stunningly wild and rugged landscape that is just so different than the rest of the country. I remember driving around feeling like I was in deep African wetlands, then finding beautiful emerald green waters of alpine Europe.
If you want to get off the beaten track, then exploring the West Coast will give you that middle of nowhere experience. Hokitika, in particular, is a cute small town that is home to some stunning scenery and wild wonders. If you’re looking for inspiration on what to do in Hokitika, here are our favourite recommendations!
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11 Things to do in Hokitika
1. Hokitika Gorge [Free]
My favourite thing to do in Hokitika is to take a trip out to the Gorge. This short walk will lead you to a marvellous swing bridge that overlooks the craziest blue water you have ever seen. This easy 10 minute walk (one way) is suitable for all ages, and there is a lookout that can be accessed by people with disabilities, just 5 minutes into the walk.
Cross the swingbridge and a few minutes down the track you can access large boulders overlooking the river for a fun (but quite slippery) climbing adventure.
How to find it: Signposted from Hokitika township, head south towards Lake Kaniere and follow your GPS to the end of Whitcombe Valley Road. There are lots of turns on the way, and it feels like you are heading into the middle of nowhere, but just follow the signage and you’ll reach the Hokitika Gorge.
2. Dorothy Falls and Lake Kaniere [Free]
About 25 minutes from Hokitika township you will find the 8km long Lake Kaniere. The lake is home to many beautiful wild walks, that range from just 5 minutes up to a couple of days hiking.
Dorothy Falls is only 2 minutes off the main road, so is very easy to access. There is a small carpark and it is well signposted. Across the road from Dorothy Falls, there is a 5-10 minute walk down to the lake access, perfect for a picnic or if you have kids, obligatory stone throwing.
3. Short Walks [Free]
There are some fantastic short walks including the Kahikatea Forest Walk (a 10 minute loop) and the Canoe Cove Rimu Forest Walk (just 15 minutes) which has beach access and sheltered swimming. Make sure you bring insect repellent anywhere on the West Coast that is close to water.
4. Longer Hikes [Free]
If you’re a hiker and want to enjoy something a bit longer I recommend the Kaniere Water Race Walkway (3-4 hours) or the Lake Kaniere Walkway (4 hours), which has some great views of the lake, as well as access to beaches where you can swim.
The Mt Tuhua Track is a rugged 7-hour return track that is pretty steep so it’s recommended you only attempt it if you’re an experienced hiker. This hike offers the best views of Lake Kaniere!
Multi-day hikes include the track to Mt Brown Hut and the Whitcombe Pass Track. While I haven’t attempted these hikes myself, I’ve heard they are wild but very beautiful.
5. Sunset Point [Free]
With a name like Sunset Point, you will be expecting great things, and rightly so. You’ll have stunning views of the sun as it sets on the West Coast- so grab your fresh fish and chips and enjoy!
How to find it: Hokitika Beach at the end of Gibson Quay.
6. Treetop Walkway
Just 15 minutes south of Hokitika you will find this wonderful walkway in the sky. The Treetop Walkway offers wonderful views of the rainforest from a height of 20 metres. The well-fenced boardwalk is over 450m long and will take 30-60 minutes to wander around.
One of the highlights is the Hokitika Tower which rises up to 40m above the forest floor. From here you can see views of the nearby Lake Mahinapua and the Tasman Sea. This is an easily accessible activity, catering for wheelchairs and well as strollers.
How to find it: 1128 Woodstock-Rimu Rd, Hokitika. From the Hokitika Township, head south following the signs for Hokitika Gorge. The Treetop Walkway is signposted not far out of town.
7. Glass Blowing Studio [Free]
Hokitika is home to some amazing artisans. One that puts on a particularly good show is the Hokitika Glass Studio in the centre of town. While perusing their wares, take a moment to view the glassmakers hard at work. Watching them melt, blow and shape the glass is incredible to watch and makes you really respect their craft.
How to find it: 9 Weld Street, Hokitika.
8. Mountain Jade Discovery Tours [Free]
Hokitika is the home of pounamu (greenstone) and some of the finest greenstone artists are right here in Hokitika. The Mountain Jade workshop runs free daily tours that will show you how they turn stone into art and explain the different tools and techniques they use. Pounamu (which means treasure in Maori) is extremely sacred and protected. If you are interested in New Zealand history and culture, this will be one of the best things to do in Hokitika.
How to find it: 41 Weld Street, opposite the i-SITE.
9. Glow Worm Dell [Free]
No list on the best things to do in Hokitika could leave off the Glow Worm Dell! While a big tourist attraction, this is totally free- is not run by a tourism company, it is wild and local and is about as natural New Zealand as you can get.
To see the glow worms at their best, you need to head here at night when it is completely dark and bring a torch (flashlight) or your cell phone light to help you get to the track.
Then let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and look up! The little sparkly glow worms are dotted everywhere and there are thousands. It’s a pretty special experience and open for anyone to see. This is one of the most special experiences you can have in Hokitika.
How to find it: Head North of State Highway 6 from Hokitika towards Greymouth. Just a few minutes north, opposite Richards Drive, you will see the Glow Worm Dell signposted on your right.
10. National Kiwi Centre
Nothing says “experiencing New Zealand” more than seeing our kiwi icon in the flesh. Kiwis are endangered and native to New Zealand. The Department of Conservation, along with kiwi centres do an amazing job of helping these birds reproduce so the species can survive.
Kiwis are nocturnal birds, so the chances of seeing them in the wild are very slim. But at the National Kiwi Centre, you are guaranteed to spot one. You can enter their dark enclosure, and once your eyes adjust, and you are very quiet, you will hear the little pitter patter of steps before you see them scurry past (and they are surprisingly quick).
The National Kiwi Centre also has eels, Tuatara, crayfish and whitebait. Eels are fed three times a day, if slippery creatures are your thing (they gross me out but the kids love seeing them!).
11. Woods Creek Track
While we were staying in Hokitika recently, some locals told us about an amazing short walk called Woods Creek Track. About 45 minutes north of Hokitika, this easy walk took us through mining history, caves, tunnels and swingbridges and was the perfect short walk for young adventurers. Our three and five year olds walked the whole track, making up their own stories of dragons in caves. The track will take 45-60 minutes with stops to explore along the way.
We never would have come across this track without local knowledge and it was a real hidden gem and highlight of our trip to Hokitika.
There are many different Hokitika attractions and sights, but whatever you do, make sure you stop and enjoy the local hospitality and see these off the beaten track wonders. Don’t hightail past from the glaciers to Abel Tasman without stopping in!
By now you should have a good idea on what to do in Hokitika. Make sure you bookmark this article for your next West Coast adventure!