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10 of the Best Things to Do in Hokitika

10 of the Best Things to Do in Hokitika

Hokitika’s position on the West Coast makes it a natural place to stop and spend a night or two, with an interesting mix of tourist town and regional centre playing out in the compact downtown area. You can find some of the South Island’s coolest souvenirs in the many galleries and gift stores, while the beach is never far away if you’re keen for a walk (or a takeaway). This post will also show you some of the things to do in the nearby area including Hokitika Gorge (definitely one you won’t want to miss). 

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Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge is the top sight in town. Well, “in town” isn’t accurate — it’s a 30-minute drive, much of which is along narrow gravel roads. Once there it’s a short walk along a forest trail to a bridge and some other viewpoints where you’ll see the gorge.

Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, New Zealand

You can walk down to the edge of the river too but you’ll be assaulted by sand flies — worth it for a quick look! Hokitika Gorge is obviously better in sunny skies so try and time your visit when the weather is good.

Hokitika Beach

Rough and full of driftwood, Hokitika Beach is a typical bit of West Coast coastline. The famous Hokitika driftwood sign is just in front of the town centre and the beach stretches for miles from there. A great place for a long stroll or a quick walk after dinner.


The best time to visit Hokitika Beach is towards the end of the day, as the sun slowly falls into the Tasman Sea. We stayed a few kilometres north of the town centre (close to Hokitika Breakpoint). It was right by the beach — perfect to stroll over there just before sunset and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Galleries | Giftshops | Museums

Some of the South Island’s top galleries and giftshops are in Hokitika, including Hokitika Glass and William Steyn Stone Painter. The little blue penguin family / painted rocks we bought recently are some of our favourite souvenirs from our trips around the South Island. Hokitika Museum is temporarily closed (for upgrades as far as I can tell).

Treetop Walk

The West Coast Tree Top Walk is the only place I know of in the South Island where you can ditch the ties of the earth and walk among the giants (safely of course). The suspended boardwalks take you on a journey through the upper reaches of the forest canopy — some great photo opportunities too.


There are plenty of places where you can see glowworms in the South Island, but none as easy as the glowworm dell in Hokitika. It’s around a minute walk from the car park to an area with heaps of glowworms — it’s popular though so not quite as intimate as other glowworm experiences (and tough to get a good photo).

Terrace Tunnel Walk

The Terrace Tunnel Walk is partly closed at the moment, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re headed that way. There are two manmade tunnels, dating back well over 100 years, connected by a forest trail. One of the tunnels is closed (as of late 2023) but you can still walk through the other one.

You could keep driving to Kumara from there, which is home to a few interesting pieces of history including the ruins of a swimming pool.

Lake Kaniere

You can easily visit Lake Kaniere as a detour from the drive to Hokitika Gorge. There are a few hiking trails, including the short walk to Dorothy Falls. We didn’t hang around Lake Kaniere for too long but we’ll be back to explore more!

See Hokitika from Above

Head up to Hokitika Cemetery/ the old lighthouse for an elevated view over Hokitika. It was a bit cloudy when we went up there but I’m sure it looks better on a sunny day.

Spend a Lazy Day or Two

The West Coast is made for adventure. For long forest walks and windswept beaches and long drives. When travelling regions like this sometimes you’ll want a break from all that activity and to just spend a couple of days chilling somewhere nice (especially if the weather is grim). I reckon Hokitika is the best place to do that on the West Coast.

There are plenty of places to eat, accommodation to suit all budgets and lots of things to keep you busy, both indoors and out. We stayed at Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation recently (pictured below) and thought it was the perfect spot for a lazy few days — it’s right by the beach (a quick stroll to watch the sunset), just across the road from the glow worms, and has a massive DVD library which should help fill a rainy day or two.

Other Things to Do in Hokitika

The Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, held in March (9/3/24), is an iconic part of the South Island events calendar. You could also go surfing, play golf, watch a movie at the cinema or explore some of the nearby areas including Greymouth and Ross (Ross Cemetery pictured below).

Eating and Drinking

The big city lights of the West Coast’s third largest settlement, population 2,600, shine over bars restaurants and takeaway joints — a far larger selection than most other places on the coast. Fat Pipis Pizza is a popular spot, with Hokitika Sandwich Co also highly rated (it has always been closed when we visited Hokitika though). There are a few bars too, not a bad place for nightlife on a Friday/ Saturday night considering the size.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation recently and loved it (especially the location). If you’re keen to stay closer to the town centre there are plenty of options — check out these hotels in Hokitika.

Are you planning a trip to Hokitika? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.