Hokitika Gorge, West Coast New Zealand

Here, visitors are welcome to rub shoulders with West Coasters & to experience the stories of nature, history & culture that are at the heart of Hokitika. Such a special place! Hokitika is a small friendly town of 3500 folk, sandwiched between surf & river, only 20km from the mighty Southern Alps. The Hokitika area runs north & south to the old gold towns of Kumara & Ross. Backed by its wild & beautiful beach & river, Hokitika is at the centre of an area known for rainforests & wetlands. When it rains, it rains! Hokitika has similar sunshine hours to Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch but at 2800 mm per year, we enjoy much more rain. Just 20km inland, the Alps form a "dam" to moisture-laden westerly winds, with one of the world's highest rainfalls of over 14100 mm in the headwaters of the Hokitika River. However, as well as being sunny, this is still the least windy region in the country. Coasters & forests flourish in the equitable temperatures, warmed in winter & cooled in summer by the ocean's influence. Coasters quietly grumble & tell stories during wet weather & then rejoice in the dramatic cloud clearances from the south. When the clearance comes, look south to New Zealand's highest mountains, Mts. Cook (Aoraki) & Tasman (Horo Kawau). Come prepared for the weather & get out into nature, wet or fine.

For hundreds of years Hokitika and its surrounding area, especially the Arahura River, has been nationally important as a source of pounamu, otherwise known as greenstone, NZ jade or nephrite. Pounamu can take an edge as tough as steel, and has a beauty all of its own. As it was well suited to making tools, weapons and personal ornaments, it was (& still is) a taonga or great treasure. Maori travelled from throughout the country trading for pounamu from this area. The South Island takes one of its Maori names, Te Wahi Pounamu, from the stone. Ngai Tahu is the tribe with guardianship of the pounamu vested under its authority. The tangata whenua (people of the land) of the West Coast are known as Poutini Ngai Tahu in recognition of an ancestor whose name is given to the West Coast, Te Tai o Poutini (the Tides of Poutini).

Scenic Highlights:

Hokitika Gorge: Drive or bike out to the Hokitika Gorge. And then come back to town via Lake Kaniere. The Hokitika Gorge and Lake Kaniere trip is about 80 km long. The gorge boasts magnificent granite gorge with milky blue-green pools, backed by cliffs and fine Rimu forest. On a nice day you can see beautiful reflections on the lake.

Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve: The Scenic Reserve, is over 7000 ha including most of the land from the lake to the top of the peaks which surround it. The lake is surrounded by native bush except for two cleared areas of farmland on the eastern shore. Dogs are not permitted in the reserve as a myriad of bird species make their home in the lush forest.

The Glow Worm Dell: Just after dusk, head down SH6 to the Glow Worm Dell, a lovely fern grotto by day and a glow worm colony by night, this is open free of charge. The glowworm area itself is quite other-worldly. It's very dark, yet a myriad of tiny points of light surround you, a thing of natural beauty that arises from the rather more prosaic task of feeding on flies. The dell is certainly worth a trip if you're staying in Hokitika for more than a night. If you're lucky and have a cloudless night you can combine the starry landscape of the dell with the real thing outside. The Milky Way in all its glory makes a nice backdrop for a late night beachside stroll.

Activities:

- Visit the scenic Hokitika Gorge
- Enjoy bird watching at Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve
- At dusk visit The Glow Worm Dell
- If visiting in March, the Wild Foods Festival is a must see event
- Hear Stories of the West Coast's illustrious past at the West Coast Historical Museum
- A comfortable two-hour drive south of Hokitika are The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
- The famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks an hour to the north of Hokitika.
- Enjoy guided fishing for brown trout in back country rives, streams, spring creeks and lakes.
- For the Passionate fisher personalised fly fishing trips can be arranged