Where to feed wild eels for free in New Zealand: Hokitika uncovered

The perfect New Zealand holiday to me is one that strikes the ideal balance.

Nature and city. People and animals. Fast and slow. Bucket-list-worthy and cheap-n-cheerful. It’s authentically Kiwi and leaves you reminiscing about all the fun you had.

The West Coast of New Zealand offers exactly that!

In particular, we fell head over heels in love with the little seaside town of Hokitika. It’s arty, incredibly gorgeous and reminds me a little of what my home town used to feel like 30 years ago.

Above all else though (and there’s plenty in Hokitika to be proud of), it has glow worms by the droves and a bunch of friendly eels ready for you to feed – all for free!

We know travelling in New Zealand can be expensive and that having a couple of budget-friendly Kiwi travel tips up your sleeve can really help.

Make one of those activities an adventure just slightly out of town to feed the local freshwater eels – you’ll feel like a real Kiwi in no time!

Eels splashing in the waters while one of them tries to crawl on land.

Where to Find Eels in Hokitika

Driving into Hokitika (from the North):  Take the first driveway on the right immediately before the Hokitika Holiday Park sign.

Driving out of Hokitika (from the South):  The first driveway on the left immediately after the Hokitika Holiday Park sign.

Once you’ve found the right gravel driveway, you’ll see signs pointing you in the right direction.  There’s plenty of parking on site and the creek is not far from the road. From there, you can head to the eels or explore other parts of Hokitika.

Is it Actually OK to Feed Eels?

Feeding eels is an old-school Kiwi kid pastime and according to the Department of Conservation, you’ve got the green light to do so.

Wild eels can be hard to spot, so many wildlife parks and zoos have ‘tame’ eels you can get up close to and sometimes even feed. It’s a great way to educate the whole family about how special and unique New Zealand’s freshwater eels are.

Dozens of wild eels, swimming up onto the bank.
Masses of wild eels at our spot in Hokitika. Photo: Alisha Welsh, NZTT member.

How lucky is the West Coast to have so many gorgeous spots that provide shelter to these extraordinary creatures (and how lucky are we to be able to pay them a visit)?

Just be careful to keep your fingers well clear of them when feeding them – you can never be too safe.

A man wearing black sweatshirt feeding eels on a small creek.

What Should I Feed Them?

Freshwater eels are carnivorous and, in the wild, eat ‘live’ food.  Fortunately though, you don’t have to take live food along with you to feed these NZ fish.

Instead, pop down to the supermarket and buy some minced meat, beef that is cut into smaller pieces (what you’d use for a stir fry) or ox heart. They’ll even happily eat mixed vegetables.

Eels swimming in the pond near the rocky river banks.

Be Kind – These Eels are Friends, Not Food

Though some people in New Zealand do eat eels, these ones are strictly for you to enjoy in their natural habitat.

Enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, it’s important that these guys are left in peace after you’ve fed them.  They’re relatively tame and beautiful in their own odd way, so let’s leave them there for everyone to enjoy.

A black eel on dry rocks.

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