Know what amused me most about Hokitika?
Tourists picking up handfuls of sand off the beach and placing it safely into a plastic ziplock bag, presumably to take home. Cute.
Okay, and maybe the armchair sitting in a puddle.
So, what’s Hokitika all about?
It’s a small seaside town on the West Coast, between Greymouth (north) and glacier country (south) – Franz Josef and Fox Glacier – the kind of place that’s a lunch stop or overnight stop for most visitors. (It’s also known for its end-of-summer Wildfoods Festival.) And lately, it’s been enjoying a burst of attention thanks to its inclusion in Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker-winning novel, The Luminaries.
Here’s what we got up to in Hokitika.
Getting to grips with greenstone
I learned some fun new facts while in Hokitika, touring one of the local greenstone shops. Greenstone (or pounamu in Maori) is nephrite jade and it’s highly prized, yet if you do happen to find any on the west coast beaches of the South Island (only in these areas, though!) you can collect it and bring it home with you. There is a 5kg limit in place when it comes to taking greenstone out of New Zealand.
And did you know that we actually import a lot of greenstone – from Canada, Asia, and other regions? If buying a local greenstone product – a carving, a necklace, etc – is important to you, look closely to see if it’s genuine New Zealand pounamu. Or, if in doubt, ask.
So, head to one of the many, MANY greenstone shops in Hokitika. See if you can take a tour and see the master carvers at work.
Walking through the treetops
The west coast is the wettest region in New Zealand, so it stands to reason that the greenery here is particularly lush. At Treetops just south of Hokitika, one of the newer attractions around, we went for an amble through the forest – 40 metres in the air.
I always seem to forget/underestimate just how afraid of heights I am. These bridges are engineered so that they do sway and flex under pressure, which was mildly terrifying even on a calm sunny day with nobody else around. That aside, it was a nifty thing to have experienced. If that’s your kinda jam, remember: Treetop Walk!
Alas, I’ve still yet to visit the Hokitika Gorge, which is a total stunner in photos. Next time?