16 of the best things to do in Hokitika

Join us as we share the very best things to do in Hokitika – one of our favourite towns on the West Coast.

Hokitika, situated on the West Coast of the South Island, is known as the ‘Cool Little Town’.

With historic walks, art galleries, stunning landscapes and plenty of great places to eat, it’s no wonder this place is so popular.

There are also plenty of awesome adventures waiting for you just on Hokitika’s doorstep.

Whether you’re looking to see some of New Zealand’s native wildlife or learn about the local culture – there is something for everyone in this awesome spot.

We love this beautiful town, and we know you will too!

The Top Things to Do in Hokitika

We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Hokitika so you can truly make the most out of your stay.

This charming town has so much to offer.

Choose to relax on the beautiful Hokitika Beach, walk the West Coast Treetop Walkway, or visit the National Kiwi Centre.

Whatever your preference there is plenty to do on the West Coast, so let’s dive right in!

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A woman standing in the middle of a footbridge looking at beautiful waters.
The Hokitika Gorge is a real highlight of the local area – there’s a lot more to this fabulous town though!

1. Soak Up the Scenery at Hokitika Beach

Have you ever heard the phrase “the West Coast is the best coast”?

Well if you have, you’ll understand why once you visit this spot.

Hokitika Beach is a beautiful little beach, that’s known for its driftwood and famous ‘Hokitika’ sign which makes a great photo opportunity.

If you’re lucky enough to travel here in January, you’ll also get to see the awesome annual driftwood festival.

This Beach is famous for its fiery sunsets, so you have to spend at least one evening here during your stay. Luckily there are plenty of coffee vans and eateries nearby too so you won’t be short of food options.

The township of Hokitika is right on the beach, so it’s a particularly accessible spot.

Sticks erected on the rocks during the sunset in Hokitika Beach.

2. Explore the West Coast Treetop Walkway

The West Coast Treetop Walkway is an east 15 minute drive from Hokitika and it’s perfect for families and nature-lovers alike.

The walkway is 450m long, floating high above the canopy. It takes around an hour to complete if you’re taking a leisurely stroll, and trust us, you won’t want to rush this one.

You’ll be wandering through the temperate rainforest canopy on this walkway, so keep your eyes peeled for some of New Zealand’s native birdlife.

You can also climb up their tower for breathtaking views of the ancient rainforest, snow-capped peaks, and the Tasman Sea.

Walking the West Coast Treetop Walkway is one of the best things to do in Hokitika so don’t miss out on this one!

1128 Woodstock-Rimu Road, Hokitika 7812

Tourists spiraling down the stairway of Hokitika Treetop.
Photo credit: West Coast.

3. Marvel at the Hokitika Gorge

Hiking the Hokitika Gorge Walk is an experience not to be missed!

The bright turquoise blue waters, lush forest, and unique rock formations will honestly take your breath away.

It’s the perfect activity for families as the walk is only 15-minutes long. After an easy stroll you’ll reach the famous Hokitika Gorge Swing Bridge.

As you take a walk over the bridge, ignore your fear of heights and you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular views.

This is one of the most popular attractions in the area, for good reason.

420 Whitcombe Valley Rd, Kokatahi 7881

A couple standing on the rocky gorge separating a beautiful river in two.
The stunning Hokitika Gorge. Photo credit: Fraser Clements.

4. Visit the Hokitika Museum & Clocktower 

If you’re looking to learn more about the area’s culture and history, you’ll want to visit Hokitika Museum.

The museum covers the town’s past in detail — right from the early pioneers. You’ll get to learn about the days of the gold rush era, the town’s flourishing whitebait industry, and the charm of the famous greenstone (jade).

Even the building’s architecture is incredible as the museum is located in the historic Carnegie Building.

During your visit here, you can also head to the clock tower which is a 3-minute walk from the museum.

The clock tower serves as a South African war memorial and was revealed in the early 1900s.

Hokitika Museum – 17 Hamilton Street, Hokitika 7842

Check to see if the museum has reopened. As of early 2022, it was closed for earthquake strengthening.

Clocktower – 6 State Highway 6, Hokitika 7810

A woman wearing yellow stripe clothes and a jumper, spread her arms while the Hokitika Clock Tower stood behind her.
Photo credit: West Coast.

5. Enjoy Lake Kaniere & Dorothy Falls

Taking a trip out to Lake Kaniere and Dorothy Falls is a must for all nature-lovers.

Lake Kaniere is one of the most beautiful lakes in the area, plus, there are plenty of great hikes you can enjoy whilst you’re visiting.

If you’re looking to camp in the area, this is also the perfect spot to pitch up.

This scenic lake is a 25-minute drive outside of Hokitika, and this is where you’ll find Dorothy Falls too.

Dorothy Falls is only a short walk from the car park, and trust us, you’ll want to take your camera along for this one.

This multi-step waterfall is situated in a secluded spot within the lush forest, making it super photogenic.

592 Dorothy Falls Road, Kokatahi 7881

Couple sitting back-to-back on the edge of a pontoon while watching the calm waters of Lake Kaniere.

6. Explore Lake Mahinapua 

Lake Mahinapua is another place that needs to be on your list, and as it’s only a 10-minute drive from Hokitika, it’s very handy.

You’ll find it within the Mahinapua Scenic Reserve, where there are also plenty of awesome walking trails.

The most popular hike is the Mahinapua Tram Walkway which follows the old logging tramline along the lakeside.

This hike takes about two hours in total and will take you through forestry and along boardwalks. Plus, you’ll even get to see an old eucalyptus tree plantation.

Lake Mahinapua is another popular camping spot, and is famous for its sunsets.

So, if you’re looking to save some cash whilst visiting Hokitika, this is the perfect spot to stay.

7. Cruise Hokitika’s Waterways

If you’re keen to see Lake Mahinapua from the water, you can do so on board West Coast Scenic Waterways‘ boat.

Our favourite time to head out on the lake is as the sun sets. In fact, they’ll even allow you to take a bottle of wine and/or takeaway dinner on board, elevating the experience to something even more special.

Enjoy the birdsong tranquility as you take in the stunning scenery all around. Marvel at the mirror-like lake, amid ancient rimu and kamahi trees, all whilst looking out to snow-capped mountains in the distance.

This really is the perfect way to relax after a busy day of adventuring in Aotearoa.

389 Ruatapu Road, Hokitika, Ruatapu 7883

Did you know? They also rent out kayaks so you can explore the lake on a self-guided eco adventure, should you choose.

A young lady and an elderly woman taking a picture of a swan flapping its wings while on the river.
Photo credit: West Coast.

8. Pay a Visit to the National Kiwi Centre & Aquarium

Visiting the National Kiwi Centre is one of the best things to do in Hokitika if you’re visiting from abroad.

This is an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with New Zealand’s most famous bird – the kiwi.

The centre is home to a wide range of native NZ wildlife including the tuatara, whitebait, and giant eels. However, it’s the famous kiwi that takes the spotlight!

During your visit to this awesome wildlife centre, you’ll get to see these endangered birds and learn all about them from their keepers.

If you’re keen you can even choose to feed the giant eels during your visit!

Whether you have kids, or you’re a wildlife lover, visiting this place is a must.

64 Tancred Street, Hokitika 7810

A brown Kiwi bird pecks its beak on the ground.

9. Carve your own Greenstone

Carving pounamu (greenstone in te reo Māori) is one of the most unique things to do in Hokitika. This distinctly kiwi activity needs to be on your itinerary!

Hokitika is often referred to as ‘Jade Country’, due to the amount of greenstone found in the area.

There are a couple of greenstone stores in town (if you want something already carved for you), but you can also carve your own which is pretty exciting.

Bonz N Stonz and is one of the top spots to carve your own taonga.

Alternatively, head along to watch one of the many professional carvers in town. Jagosi Jade, Blue Spur and Waewae Pounamu are all great options, but you can’t go wrong.

A hand holding a green gemstone.
Photo credit: West Coast.

10. See Glow Worms for Free at the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell

The Hokitika Glow Worm Dell is one of the quieter places to find glow worms in New Zealand, and best of all, it’s open to the public and totally free!

There are plenty of sites throughout New Zealand, but this place doesn’t seem to get the same attention. It’s more of a hidden gem and is definitely a site you’ll want to visit during your trip to Hokitika.

This spot is only a 10-minute walk out of town (or you can drive), and of course, you’ll want to visit once it’s dark outside.

With that said, make sure you bring a flashlight with you to get to the entrance and take your time. When your eyes have adjusted to the darkness again, you’ll notice the glow worms lighting up their bush homes.

Seeing glowworms in their natural habitat is a magical experience, and while capturing them in photographs can be challenging, it’s possible with the right set up.

State Highway 6, on the northern side of town. Keep your eyes peeled for the large sign.

Glow worms shining while hanging on the cave ceiling.

11. Check Out the Tunnel Terrace Walk

The Tunnel Terrace Walk is just a 15-minute drive out of town and is another of Hokitika’s hidden gems.

The trail is located near the Goldsborough Camping Area and dates back to the gold rush era.

It’s a pretty special hike as it takes you through single file tunnels and beech forest, and offers you the chance to spot some native flora and fauna.

The walk isn’t long, so is perfect for a family outing or a stroll.

If you visit after dusk, this is another spot where you might get to see some of New Zealand’s native glow worms!

Stafford Loop Road, Awatuna 7882

A wooden walkway on top of rocky ground in Tunnel Terrace Track.

12. Cycle Part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail

The West Coast Wilderness Trail is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful cycling routes, covering 132km in total.

Part of the trail runs through Hokitika so this is the perfect point to grab your bikes and go for a ride.

The whole trail takes about four days to complete and runs from Ross to Greymouth (or vice versa). Of course, you don’t need to cycle the whole route if you don’t want to.

To shorten it, you can just cycle to Ross and back which takes around 3 hours.

This way you get to explore the small coastal town of Ross, whilst also seeing some of the diverse scenery that this trail takes you through.

Blaketown, Greymouth 7805

Biking along the West Coast Wilderness Trail, which is also beside a river.
Photo credit: Wilderness Trail Shuttle.

13. Visit the Wilderness Gallery

The Wilderness Gallery is located in the middle of town and features the award-winning work of Juergen Schake – it’s a great place to stop off as you’re exploring.

Juergen’s photographs are simply breathtaking, and he’s often at the gallery too. He loves to chat with people about his exhibits and the beauty of New Zealand.

Take some time to wander through the gallery and enjoy his pieces, as they are really something else.

This gallery is also the perfect spot to grab a souvenir as they also showcase other arts and crafts from local artists.

29 Tancred Street, Hokitika 7810

Elderly couple holding a wooden bowl in the Wilderness Art Gallery.
Photo credit: West Coast.

14. Treat Yourself to a Sweet Treat

Is there anything better than a fresh fruit ice cream or frozen yoghurt on a beautiful day?

We don’t think so!

Swing by Sweet Alice’s for massive fresh fruit ice creams, along with homemade fudges, boiled sweets, brittles, rocky road, doughnuts and more.

We recommend asking for your sweet treats to go and popping over to the beach to enjoy them.

27 Tancred Street, Hokitika 7810

Holding a delicious ice cream of Sweet Alice's in Hokitika.
Photo credit: West Coast.

15. Feed the Local Eels

If you’re looking for free entertainment in town, why not head down to the creek to feed a group of friendly local eels?

Simply pop along to the supermarket to buy some luncheon or ham and then follow our instructions to find the eels.

A real kiwi pastime, this is a fun thing to do in Hokitika – whether you’re travelling with kids or not!

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

16. Enjoy a scenic heli flight

Last, but definitely not least on this list is a scenic helicopter flight.

With the best commentary we’ve ever experienced, Matt will take you up into the Southern Alps, where the mountains seem to stretch on forever.

You’ll spot alpine lakes, stunning coastlines and six different glaciers.

It’s amazing!

A red helicopter flying over a glacier lake, with a mountain valley behind it.

Hokitika is jam-packed with exciting activities, awesome hikes, and beautiful lakes.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a relaxing getaway, this town has it all!

Have you ever been to Hokitika before?

If you have, what is your favourite thing to do? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!…

And if you’re in the South Island during the winter season, check out these ski fields in Queenstown & Wānaka.

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