Cool little town

Hokitika wears its slogan well.

Hokitika wears its slogan well.

Sunset at Hokitika Beach – one of the best. Pictures by Jo Ferris
Telescopic artwork on the river lookout is a pointer to Aoraki/Mt Cook.
On a clear day Aoraki Mt Cook dominates the horizon from the beach at Hokitika.
Whitebait for breakfast at Stumpers Bar and Cafe.
Centre of town – Hokitika‘s clock tower greets sunrise.
The hidden gem of Hokitika Gorge.

Jo Ferris makes her first visit to the West Coast and notches up more firsts with a perfect Hokitika sunset and whitebait pizza . . .

Saddened to see the recent ravages Mother Nature wrought on the West Coast, I was further dismayed this month to read Hokitika’s iconic Wildfoods Festival is up for its own dumping.

Despite March 2019 marking the event’s 30th anniversary, politics and decreasing ticket sales have pushed the carnival into the red corner. Once a drawcard for around 10,000 people and a multi-million dollar earner, it deserves to stay, in some form or other. Events sit at the heart of Hokitika’s tourist appeal.

But am I part of the problem? Preferring to avoid the crowds, my first visit to Hokitika was at the end of February. Knowing the West Coast succumbed to a weather dump last February, I hadn’t banked on another one — almost 12 months to the day.

The plan was to fly to Christchurch, spend a night in Addington’s unique Jailhouse and take KiwiRail’s TranzAlpine to Greymouth. The rental was booked, along with accommodation for a night in Franz Joseph, back to Hokitika for another night, then a meander across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch and the return flight north.

Mother Nature had other ideas, picking my weekend to drop a bundle near Franz Joseph and block the highway. Sometimes things turn out for the best. Even two nights in Hokitika wasn’t enough.

Hokitika wears its slogan well — clearly the “cool little town” on New Zealand’s West Coast. There is more than enough to fill several days — places to explore, history to discover and things to do. There are bush walks and cycle trails for all, from serious adventure buffs to slow strollers.

The Hokitika Gorge is spectacular; a must- do and an easy walk — even with its swing bridge. Afterwards, there is the picturesque loop drive around Lake Kaniere to stop at various spots. With lakes and rivers surrounding Hokitika, you can fish, boat and water ski; see glow worms, feed eels and admire native bush from lofty heights along the stunning Treetop Walk.

The area’s history is fascinating, from its foundation on gold mining to its claim as the birthplace of pounamu. Understandably, Hokitika is an artisan haven, locals boasting that it probably has more galleries and studios per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand. Pan for gold, carve your own piece of jade, or fossick on Hokitika’s rugged beach for a speck of treasure.

The foreshore promenade is mandatory any time of the day, but best savoured at sunset. While driftwood sculptures dot the somewhat ominous rock wall every summer following the Driftwood and Sand Festival, Hokitika’s landmark signature is a year-round fixture. Invariably tweaked and twiddled by locals and visitors alike, it’s arguably the top postcard shot.

Plenty to do

Hokitika’s calendar is loaded with events, quite apart from the Wildfoods Festival. The driftwood event is the second biggest and renews all the intriguing monuments along the beachfront.

For racing fans, the summer races at Hokitika and nearby Kumara draw people from throughout the country.

Other events include the Woodstock Rally at Rimu, junk shows and art days; a lantern parade and a scooter safari. Depending on the time of year, Hokitika is a photographer’s nirvana, borne out by captivating pieces in local galleries framing sunrise behind the town’s clock tower to stunning sunsets at the beach.

The sunset stroll is standard for visitors and locals alike. On a clear evening, paying homage to the dipping sun while munching a pizza is joyful. Fat Pipi Pizzas are the best — especially when dripping with whitebait. Whitebait, after all, is synonymous with Hokitika.

If you’re truly lucky and not one cloud graces the sky, the crisp outline of Aoraki/Mt Cook is a reminder of the Southern Alps’ dominance in this part of the world. That said, given the friendly jibes to the “Wet Coast”, rain is always on the cards. It simply makes the likes of Dorothy Falls at Lake Kaniere more impressive and indoor pastimes at local attractions appealing.

Having read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries since visiting Hokitika, her explicit detail made much more sense of this extraordinary area. While fiction meets fact in the book, having walked in the footsteps of her characters, this cool little town’s history is all the richer for her literary masterpiece. I can’t wait for the film version. Hopefully it will have the same effect as Lord of the Rings and lure people in droves to this unique place.

Rain might have thwarted my chance to explore Franz Joseph; but the prospect of another visit to the West Coast is already in the diary — sunsets and whitebait on the menu preferably.

More:
www.hokitika.org (coollittletown.com)

Where to Stay:
Stumpers Bar and Cafe Accommodation

Places to See:
Hokitika Gorge
Lake Kaniere
Lake Mahinapua
Glow Worm dell

Things to Do:
Treetop Walk
Sunset Walk
West Coast Wilderness Trail
Blue Spur MTB trail

Jo Ferris makes her first visit to the West Coast and notches up more firsts with a perfect Hokitika sunset and whitebait pizza . . .

Saddened to see the recent ravages Mother Nature wrought on the West Coast, I was further dismayed this month to read Hokitika’s iconic Wildfoods Festival is up for its own dumping.

Despite March 2019 marking the event’s 30th anniversary, politics and decreasing ticket sales have pushed the carnival into the red corner. Once a drawcard for around 10,000 people and a multi-million dollar earner, it deserves to stay, in some form or other. Events sit at the heart of Hokitika’s tourist appeal.

But am I part of the problem? Preferring to avoid the crowds, my first visit to Hokitika was at the end of February. Knowing the West Coast succumbed to a weather dump last February, I hadn’t banked on another one — almost 12 months to the day.

The plan was to fly to Christchurch, spend a night in Addington’s unique Jailhouse and take KiwiRail’s TranzAlpine to Greymouth. The rental was booked, along with accommodation for a night in Franz Joseph, back to Hokitika for another night, then a meander across Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch and the return flight north.

Mother Nature had other ideas, picking my weekend to drop a bundle near Franz Joseph and block the highway. Sometimes things turn out for the best. Even two nights in Hokitika wasn’t enough.

Hokitika wears its slogan well — clearly the “cool little town” on New Zealand’s West Coast. There is more than enough to fill several days — places to explore, history to discover and things to do. There are bush walks and cycle trails for all, from serious adventure buffs to slow strollers.

The Hokitika Gorge is spectacular; a must- do and an easy walk — even with its swing bridge. Afterwards, there is the picturesque loop drive around Lake Kaniere to stop at various spots. With lakes and rivers surrounding Hokitika, you can fish, boat and water ski; see glow worms, feed eels and admire native bush from lofty heights along the stunning Treetop Walk.

The area’s history is fascinating, from its foundation on gold mining to its claim as the birthplace of pounamu. Understandably, Hokitika is an artisan haven, locals boasting that it probably has more galleries and studios per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand. Pan for gold, carve your own piece of jade, or fossick on Hokitika’s rugged beach for a speck of treasure.

The foreshore promenade is mandatory any time of the day, but best savoured at sunset. While driftwood sculptures dot the somewhat ominous rock wall every summer following the Driftwood and Sand Festival, Hokitika’s landmark signature is a year-round fixture. Invariably tweaked and twiddled by locals and visitors alike, it’s arguably the top postcard shot.

Plenty to do

Hokitika’s calendar is loaded with events, quite apart from the Wildfoods Festival. The driftwood event is the second biggest and renews all the intriguing monuments along the beachfront.

For racing fans, the summer races at Hokitika and nearby Kumara draw people from throughout the country.

Other events include the Woodstock Rally at Rimu, junk shows and art days; a lantern parade and a scooter safari. Depending on the time of year, Hokitika is a photographer’s nirvana, borne out by captivating pieces in local galleries framing sunrise behind the town’s clock tower to stunning sunsets at the beach.

The sunset stroll is standard for visitors and locals alike. On a clear evening, paying homage to the dipping sun while munching a pizza is joyful. Fat Pipi Pizzas are the best — especially when dripping with whitebait. Whitebait, after all, is synonymous with Hokitika.

If you’re truly lucky and not one cloud graces the sky, the crisp outline of Aoraki/Mt Cook is a reminder of the Southern Alps’ dominance in this part of the world. That said, given the friendly jibes to the “Wet Coast”, rain is always on the cards. It simply makes the likes of Dorothy Falls at Lake Kaniere more impressive and indoor pastimes at local attractions appealing.

Having read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries since visiting Hokitika, her explicit detail made much more sense of this extraordinary area. While fiction meets fact in the book, having walked in the footsteps of her characters, this cool little town’s history is all the richer for her literary masterpiece. I can’t wait for the film version. Hopefully it will have the same effect as Lord of the Rings and lure people in droves to this unique place.

Rain might have thwarted my chance to explore Franz Joseph; but the prospect of another visit to the West Coast is already in the diary — sunsets and whitebait on the menu preferably.

More:
www.hokitika.org (coollittletown.com)

Where to Stay:
Stumpers Bar and Cafe Accommodation

Places to See:
Hokitika Gorge
Lake Kaniere
Lake Mahinapua
Glow Worm dell

Things to Do:
Treetop Walk
Sunset Walk
West Coast Wilderness Trail
Blue Spur MTB trail

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