Hokitika is a great little town on the gorgeous west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Here, you’ll find scenic natural landscapes with lakes and mountains, delicious restaurants and cafes, quirky art galleries, and a laid-back vibe.
Hokitika is full of unique experiences, whether you want to go on an adventurous day trip by bike or kayak, or want to immerse yourself in local carving workshops and creative activities.
First inhabited in 1860, Hokitika was best known for its gold. It’s become a popular place for visitors to discover more about the rich history and culture of the land and its people. The lush native forests, freezing glaciers, and precious greenstones in the area offer something special to anyone that visits.
The town is only a 30-minute drive from Greymouth or a 3-hour drive from Christchurch. You can even take a 40-minute flight from Christchurch, making Hokitika very accessible by land or air.
Once there, you’ll have plenty of diverse activities to enjoy. So, keep reading to dive into the 18 best things to do in Hokitika!
The BEST Things to do in Hokitika
1. Take a photo with the Hokitika Sign
Located on Hokitika Beach, there is a famous sign made from large branches spelling out the word “Hokitika”. The letters are around 1-2 people high with large rocks keeping them stable. Although it’s a simple activity, getting a photo with this iconic sign is a must in Hokitika!
Access the Hokitika Sign from Beach Street. You can park along the road or walk one block from the local shops. The sign is directly in front of the public toilets on the beach.
After the necessary photos, I recommend walking along the long sandy beach. It’s quiet and peaceful, and you can see the beautiful mountains in the background. Sunrise or sunset is the best time to go so you can take photos with a backdrop of amazing orange hues.
2. West Coast Treetop Walk
Ever wanted to walk among giants? Well, on the west coast of the South Island, you can visit the West Coast Treetop Walk and take a stroll across 450 meters (1,476 feet) of elevated walkways. Twenty meters (66 feet) above the forest floor, this incredible experience lets you explore the landscape from a different perspective. You’ll feel as free as a bird weaving between the Rimu and Kamahi trees.
The Treetop Walk is an inclusive experience with wheelchair and stroller accessibility. The park is also kid-friendly with safe, enclosed paths so you don’t need to worry about little ones running around! However, pets are not allowed, so you’ll want to leave your furry friends at home.
If you are looking for an adrenaline burst, you’ll find it at the top of Hokitika Tower. This spiraling staircase is 47 meters (154 feet) above ground for an even better view of the lush landscape.
The Treetop Walkway is just a 15-minute drive from Hokitika. You can buy tickets online for this West Coast Treetop Walk Experience starting at $32 NZD per adult. Exploring the walkways will take about 30-40 minutes, and there is an al fresco cafe onsite if you get hungry after.
3. Visit Hokitika Gorge
New Zealand’s rivers on the South Island are stunning. They’re often glacier-fed and the rock flour in the water gives the rivers a bright blue color – especially on a sunny day! A great example of this is the powerful Hokitika River that runs through Hokitika Gorge.
The Hokitika Gorge access point is about a 30-minute drive from Hokitika town center. You can park at the Hokitika Gorge Parking for free.
From here, you can walk the easy 2-kilometer (1.2 miles) loop to the gorge and back. You’ll find viewpoints to take photos and stare at the powerful river. There’s not much else to do here other than enjoy the scenery, but the views alone are worth it!
Related Read: If you’re heading to Hokitika on a road trip, check out these other epic South Island road trip ideas!
4. Visit Hokitika Beach
Looking for relaxing things to do in Hokitika? Hokitika Beach is a pleasant, scenic location to spend some time. Take a stroll along the long and wide black sand beach, observing the driftwood, shells, pebbles, and wild ocean. If you’re lucky, you may find some gorgeous greenstone.
If you are not a great swimmer, it’s probably best to avoid swimming as it’s not the safest beach. If you are a strong swimmer, go ahead, but be warned, it will be freezing cold! Going fishing and surfing are also popular activities to do at Hokitika Beach on a nice day.
My favorite thing to do on Hokitika Beach is to sit and watch the breathtaking sunset over the ocean sky. End the day right by capturing a sunset while enjoying some yummy New Zealand fish and chips! But make sure to bring a warm top, as it can be pretty windy throughout the day.
5. Carve greenstone
Unleash your artistic and crafty side and carve some greenstone at Bonz N Stonz. This specialty carving studio gives you the opportunity to learn directly from experts. You’ll practice the skills required in Maori carving to create your own unique pieces!
Located among many other creative stores in the heart of Hokitika, Bonz N Stonz is on Hamilton Street. Founded in 2000 and open seven days a week, the friendly staff will support you to the best of their ability. You can make your vision come to life as you immerse yourself in the carving process.
You will need to book your carving experience at Bonz N Stonz before you visit. Carving greenstone, also known as Pounamu or Nephrite Jade in New Zealand, costs $190 NZD per person and will take between 2-4 hours to complete your 5-6 cm (1.9-2.3 in) creation.
This memorable opportunity is not available everywhere you go, so when you’re in Hokitika, be sure to book your greenstone carving experience and create a treasured piece of jewelry to keep forever. It’s the perfect souvenir from your time here.
This is one of my absolute favorite activities in Hokitika. And if you’re creative or enjoy hands-on activities like me, you’ll love this stone-carving experience!
6. Visit Hokitika Glow Worm Dell
New Zealand is known for its glow worm caves, and Hokitika has a great one!
A well-known, local glow worm spot is the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell. It’s right on the side of State Highway 6, about 1 km (.6 mi) from town. Look out for a brown sign with an arrow. From the turn off, you’ll head about 50 m (55 yds) down a gravel track.
It’s close enough to walk from town. However, if you’re driving, you can park on the roadside or at the small parking lot. Make sure you have a flashlight before heading in! It can get really busy, so the later at night you go, the better!
Being only a 5-minute return journey, the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell is suitable for all ages and is stroller-friendly. Use your flashlight to guide you along the path, and switch it off when you reach the tall cliff walls. Here, you’ll find all the brightly shining glow worms.
I was in awe looking at the glow worms that surrounded the walls. A wire fence around the walls makes it slightly less magical. However, it’s understandable since the fence is necessary to protect these bright worms. But overall, this is a great, easily accessible spot to see these fantastic creatures!
7. Fill your belly at The Hokitika Sandwich Company
For the freshest and most delicious sandwiches, check out The Hokitika Sandwich Company. It’s the best place in Hokitika to stop for a gourmet sandwich. Run in and pick one up for your beach picnic or come in, sit down, and enjoy your meal!
Located at 83A Revell Street, The Hokitika Sandwich Company is conveniently near all the local shops. You can easily walk, drive, or catch a bus here and enjoy some shopping after you eat. Open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 2 pm, the sandwiches range from $11 NZD – $23 NZD.
The Hokitika Sandwich Company is known for its delicious sandwiches because of the locally sourced fresh ingredients they obtain daily and the varieties they have available. These are not plain, ordinary sandwiches.
My favorite is the Half Fish Sandwich which is generously filled with smoked fish, cream cheese, capers, lemon, red onion, and greens. Yum!
For the best local sandwiches that will fill your belly, handmade with love by a skilled local baker, I highly recommend trying out a sammy at The Hokitika Sandwich Company. If you’re still unsure, check out their menu to whet your appetite!
8. Explore Lake Mahinapua
Lake Mahinapua is a 3 km (1.9 mi) long picturesque lake in Thel Mahinapua Scenic Reserve. Located on State Highway 6, the lake is only a 10-minute drive from Hokitika town. This area is home to a range of native tree species and birds such as tui, parakeets, and ducks. It’s the perfect place to relax in nature, soaking up the peaceful sounds and sights.
This area has countless activities, such as swimming in the calm water, admiring the lake from the treetop walk, mountain biking through the trails, and going on a cruise down Mahinapua Creek. Enjoy a few short bush walks or do the Mahinapua Walkway, an easy 2-2.5 hour hike that follows an old logging railway and passes the lake.
Whether you come on a day trip or stay longer, Lake Mahinapua can offer a calming and tranquil environment. If you do decide to stay longer, I recommend checking out Lake Mahinapua Campsite.
Per night, Lake Mahinapua Campsite costs $10 NZD for adults and $5 NZD for children ages 5-17, and is free for kids 4 and under. Book online ahead of time to avoid missing out. On the campsite, you can sleep in a tent, caravan, or campervan to get the full camping experience. But don’t worry – the camp has all the amenities you might need, such as showers, toilets, a shelter for cooking, a jetty, and more!
Related Read: If you enjoy camping and exploring nature, check out more of New Zealand’s national parks.
9. Check out Dorothy Falls
Want to check out a cool little waterfall in Hokitika? Dorothy Falls at Lake Kaniere is one of the many beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. It’s a peaceful spot where you can take a dip and even swim up to the waterfall. You’ll also hear the sounds of birds and the trickling stream as you breathe in the fresh air.
It’s a 30-minute drive from Hokitika and follows the winding Dorothy Falls Road. Upon arrival, park your vehicle in the car park on the east side of the lake. There is currently no clear signage for Dorothy Falls, but it’s fairly easy to find. Walk over the bridge that you can see from the car park. After about a 2-minute walk, you should see the falls on your left.
This narrow, tiered waterfall is a hidden gem yet very easy to get to. So throw on your sandals and head here for a quick dip or photo!
10. Wander the Wilderness Gallery
The gallery showcases a range of items representing the West Coast, including bronze sculptures and copper-plated natural items, fossilized shell jewelry, and photography prints and blocks.
Open everyday from 9:30 am – 5 pm, the Wilderness Gallery shares its passion for the West Coast and wildlife through art. As the winner of the 2021 Travelers Choice award, the gallery provides a friendly and welcoming experience for both tourists and locals.
For all creatives and art lovers visiting Hokitika, be sure to pop in to see the art in this gorgeous, family-owned gallery. Whether you just browse or decide to buy some artwork, you’ll get a beautiful window into the local culture and even wildlife that’s unique to NZ.
11. Lake Kaniere
A 200 m (656 ft) deep glacial lake, Lake Kaniere, is located within Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve, 30 minutes from Hokitika central. This flat, glassy lake is surrounded by Rimu forests. With many picnic and camping areas, this lake is the perfect place for visitors to hang out, explore, or enjoy recreational activities.
Lake Kaniere flows into the Tasman Sea and can be a great place to fish. It’s home to fish species such as the brown trout, and on the lake’s surface, you might see pukeko, black shags, and paradise shelducks swimming around. If fishing isn’t your thing, jump into the lake or waterski!
There are many fantastic walks, some are longer and others are short, easy walks under 15 minutes. I recommend the Kaniere Water Race Walkway, an easy, relatively flat 4-hour walk through a historic area. Don’t bring your dog as they aren’t allowed in the Lake Kaniere area.
Looking to camp overnight by the lakeside? The Hans Bay – Lake Kaniere Campsite is only $10 NZD a night per adult, $5 for kids ages 5-17, and free for children 4 and under. It has a large grassy camping area and toilets.
While prior bookings aren’t required, it’s recommended in case there is no space left. Plus, if you book online, you can avoid the $10 service charge.
12. Ride part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail
Rent a bike and ride part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail on a day trip! The west coast is such a gorgeous place to be outside exploring native forests, historic towns and bridges, and picturesque lakes and rivers.
Cycle Journeys, located at 23 Hamilton Street, rents mountain bikes, tandem bikes, and e-bikes. The store is open 8 am-5 pm daily and prices range from $60 NZD to $120 NZD for an adult bike for one day. Wear comfortable clothes, shoes, and a backpack for water, food and any other supplies you may need.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. For a day trip, there are two routes you could take from central Hokitika.
The route from Hokitika to Milltown is 36 km (22 miles) along a grade 2 track. You’ll pass through native bush, cycle along the shores of beautiful lakes, and head over a hill and through paddocks. The route ends near Cowboys Paradise, a Wild West-like establishment offering food and drinks. If you want to embrace your inner cowboy, ask them about shooting activities.
The other route is 33 km (20.5 miles) from Hokitika to Ross and is grade 2 with some on-road grade 3 sections. Cycle alongside the Mahinapua Creek, through wetlands, lush forest, rural roads, and historic rail sites to reach Ross, the gold mining town.
13. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Delighted Ice Cream and Dessert Parlour
To cool down on a hot day and get your sugar fix, visit Delighted Ice Cream and Dessert Parlour, situated at 27 Tancred Street. This cute dessert place is a one-stop shop for all kinds of delicious desserts and ice creams.
Delighted Ice Cream and Dessert Parlour stocks a range of sweet desserts including frozen yogurt, milkshakes, warm waffles, creamy ice cream (including real fruit), tarts, and more. Their Freak Shakes are hugely popular with the locals!
It’s open 7 days a week: Monday-Wednesday 10 am-4 pm, Thursday-Saturday 10 am -4:30 pm, and Sundays 11 am-4:30 pm. Walk in and the welcoming staff will help you pick out a tasty treat!
This is definitely my go-to ice cream shop in Hokitika. Grab your heavenly midday dessert and savor it as you browse the nearby shops or sit by the beach.
14. Hokitika Museum
The Hokitika Museum first opened in 1869 and was called the “Museum Room” because it was inside the town hall. Hokitika Museum is now the biggest archive and museum on the whole West Coast!
It aims to share the interesting local history with all, but especially to inspire the younger generation. The museum is free to visit and an hour exploring should be sufficient.
The museum is located at 17 Hamilton Street. If driving to Hokitika Museum, I recommend parking along Hamilton Street (in one of the 120-minute spots) and entering the Museum through the Hamilton Street entrance. This will take you straight to the exhibition gallery. However, if you want to use the museum car park, it’s accessible from Revell Street on the western side of the museum.
Unfortunately, the museum has been closed since 2021 due to redevelopment and earthquake strengthening, but when the Hokitika Museum reopens, it will have a bunch of new exhibits to share with visitors. Check the museum’s hours here to see if they’re open to the public yet!
15. The National Kiwi Centre
Are you interested in learning about and getting up close to some of New Zealand’s most iconic wildlife? The National Kiwi Centre is home to the famous kiwi, tuatara, whitebait, crayfish, giant eel and more. What’s nice is this place is indoors so it can be enjoyed on a rainy day too!
Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, and the center costs $29 NZD per adult, $18 NZD per child, and $80 NZD per family (2 adults plus kids).
The National Kiwi Centre is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the world of New Zealand’s most endangered and sacred animals. Conveniently located at 64 Tancred Street, this interactive center allows you to not only learn about these creatures but also feed the eels and catch and release the crayfish personally.
The conservation of these New Zealand species is super important and managed carefully by the center’s staff. Don’t miss your chance to check out these beautiful critters up close.
16. Go on a cruise with West Coast Scenic Waterways
Enjoy a panoramic boat cruise with West Coast Scenic Waterways! Jump aboard the Eco Adventurer For their sunset cruise. Hope aboard by 7 pm to begin the journey along Mahinapua Creek and around Lake Mahinapua. Get breathtaking views of Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps during the 90-minute voyage.
Bring along your own choice of drinks and food to enjoy while you cruise along the glassy water, listening to the birdsong and admiring the spectacular landscape of lush bushland and glacial mountains.
The sunset cruise costs $60 NZD per adult and $30 NZD per child, and it’s suitable for all ages. The boat holds a maximum of 20 people, providing a nice small group experience. Wear warm clothes and bring along a jacket, hat, sunscreen, and a camera.
If you prefer a more adventurous and physical way to explore this scenic spot, rent a kayak from West Coast Scenic Waterways and take yourself on a self-guided trip through the river and lake. Rent a single or tandem kayak for half a day or a full day, with prices ranging from $70 NZD to $110 NZD.
17. Tunnel Terrace walk
The Tunnel Terrace Walk takes you through regenerating forests with the option to explore old gold mining tunnels. Only a 13 minute drive from Hokitika, you should follow State Highway 6, then go along Stafford Loop Road until you reach the car park on your left.
This 20-minute loop provides a brief, unique adventure for all ages. However, be mindful of the uneven, varied track. No dogs are allowed (unless you have a DOC permit). Pack a torch and wear good walking shoes.
Unfortunately, the original Tunnel Terrace Walk is closed (2022) due to a rockfall. The entrance through the tunnel at the car park is blocked off, but there is another option! There is another entry point through a different tunnel – 100 m (110 yds) up the road, at the east end of the car park.
A pathway guides you through a rocky tunnel into a forest filled with native fern, Kamahi and Rimu trees. During the walk, you’ll come to another tunnel with a slippery clay floor. It’s about 50 m (55 yds) long and has no exit, so return the way you came to loop back to the car park.
18. Play a round of golf
Hokitika Golf Club is an excellent choice to play a round of golf in Hokitika! It’s 1 of 10 true link courses (located alongside the sea), so you can play while enjoying scenic views of Mount Cook and the Southern Alps.
Open to both members and visitors, the club’s green fees cost $30 NZD per person per round. If you wish to rent clubs, you can do so at the Heritage Highway Motel just down the road.
This 18-hole course is only a short 5-minute drive from central Hokitika. It’s just across the Hokitika River, on Golf Links Road, and open from dawn to dusk every day, so you don’t need to book ahead. If you’re a golfer and want to enjoy a day on the greens, head on over!
Where to stay in Hokitika, New Zealand
Hokitika is only a small town but it’s a very popular place to visit on the South Island, so there are plenty of great places to stay.
For budget travelers, you can’t beat the Mountain Jade Backpackers. This hostel/hotel has dorm beds, budget doubles, and even cheap studio apartments. It’s located in the heart of the city and is my go-to when I need to save money for fuel (gas!).
If you don’t mind spending a tad more, you can stay at the Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation. Although located a little out of town, you are right on the beach with breathtaking ocean views. In summer, this is a very popular choice!
Now there aren’t really any luxury stays in Hokitika (when compared to places such as Queenstown). However, the Beachfront Hotel Hokitika is pretty close. This stunning hotel is only slightly more expensive than the options above, but wow, is it beautiful! With ocean views, stunning rooms, a bar, and room service, it’s certainly a luxurious stay.
Related Read: One of the best cities to visit nearby is Christchurch. Learn about all of the best things to do in Christchurch!
Thanks for reading!
Although Hokitika is a small town, the area has something for everyone – from golfing and cycling routes to nature walks and creative endeavors. Hopefully, this guide has helped you pick a few favorite options and, ultimately, enjoy your stay in Hokitika!
And if you’re traveling around New Zealand, you might enjoy reading more about the South Island. I’ve explored this area extensively and am in love with all it has to offer.