Hokitika, the home of greenstone and treetops

Hokitika - Driftwood sign on the beach

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.

Hokitika - Driftwood sign on the beach - plus couch

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.

Treetops walk near Hokitika

Treetops walk near HokitikaTreetops walk near HokitikaTreetops walk near HokitikaTreetops walk near Hokitika

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?

8 thoughts on “Hokitika, the home of greenstone and treetops

  • Reply The Asian Pear December 2, 2014 at 08:37

    Note to Self: Visit Hokitika.

  • Reply Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog December 2, 2014 at 09:27

    I love that driftwood name on the beach – gorgeous. And yep, who doesn’t love an armchair in a puddle?

    The treetop walk looks incredible, too, though I think I’m a bit like you – I don’t quite remember how afraid of heights I am until it’s too late to do anything about it! Not that I’d want it to stop me. I would definitely do the treetop walk if I go back to that part of NZ – I’d just cling frantically onto the edge while doing it!

  • Reply Kara December 2, 2014 at 09:32

    I’m not a sand collector, but I try to find a nice, smooth rock to bring home with me to add to my kid’s rock jar. Rocks are much cleaner than sand, especially if you have to jam it into a suitcase.

  • Reply Sense December 2, 2014 at 19:56

    Oh, you simply have to go to the gorge! It is…gorgeous. It is on my list of top sights to see on the S. Island.

    Also, we did a treetop walk in Illawarra in Ozzie and it was really fun. I wonder if the same company did both? Kept seeing this one advertised in Kaikoura…was so disappointed that to find out it was so far away.

    We almost went to Hokitika yesterday but it was a bit too far for us to travel. Weird. 🙂

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank December 3, 2014 at 23:44

    Hokitika seems to be a great place to visit! The pictures are very inviting!

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 4, 2014 at 06:18

    Weird that people would take sand home. And do what with it? I love that hike…what a cool idea! And yes, it does look somewhat scary.

  • Reply Funny about Money December 4, 2014 at 06:56

    What an amazing place!

    Montana’s pretty, as you mention elsewhere. But NZ defies belief.

  • Reply Robyn Lynch December 7, 2014 at 19:22

    Just home after three days in Hokitika. We arrived on our bikes after completing the West Coast Wilderness trail starting in Greymouth. Firstly what a fantastic three days riding. The track is excellent. In Hoki we did the Tree Tops walk – awesome and drove to the glaciers for the day. Hokitika is a lovely wee place.

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