A Few Lazy Days in Hokitika

hokitika driftwood sign on hokitika beach
When you’re on the road for a while, travelling can start to become a chore. Eventually you need to stop for a breather, which is how we found ourselves lazing around in on New Zealand’s west coast.

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to Hokitika. It’s like many of the other west coast towns. A small downtown area with a sprinkling of hundred-year-old buildings and plenty of cafes and souvenir shops for tourists. Nothing amazing sticking out.

When people come to New Zealand, I doubt Hokitika is at the top of their list of places to go. For good reason. It looks much like everywhere else and sits just close enough to other significant attractions (Arthur’s Pass and Franz Josef glacier) that people often only spare a few glances at the town when stopping for a bite to eat.

Once you explore the town though, you find there’s plenty to see and the area insists on not being forgotten. Especially if you’re lazy.

Hokitika Driftwood Beach

hokitika beach sculpture of stars in sky
Just two minutes walk from the main street is a long sandy beach beside a river mouth. Nothing too memorable. But each year the town holds a driftwood contest. People in the area create temporary sculptures on the sand, which are constantly changing and being replaced. This turns the beach into a sculpture park, which is not easily forgotten.

hokitika beach sculpture of fish
Best of all, it’s so close to town that you barely even have to exert any effort to get there. Perfect for a lazy day.

hokitika beach sculpture of baby growing up
Total walking time: 10 minutes
Lazy Stars: 3/5 – It can be hard to walk on sand!

Hokitika Gorge

couple sitting by hokitika gorge
Around 30 kilometers out of town sits a small gorge carved out of the hills by the Hokitika River. Two minutes from the car park you get a view of the loveliest blue water, created by sediment from the nearby rocks and ice. On a sunny day the water is an unreal colour of turquoise.

A few more minutes of walking and you find yourself on an old swing bridge, which quite frankly sways too much for my liking. Whenever I’m on one of these bridges, I do my best to get to the other side as quickly as possible. Although I did see a couple of idiots jumping off it, so I suppose the chances of me falling to my death were pretty small.

hokitika gorge swingbridge
Over the bridge you’re soon down to some rocks where you can dip your feet in the cold water. Although you’ll probably only last for 20 seconds at the most because it’s ice cold.

Total walking time: 10 minutes
Lazy Stars: 5/5 – So good I felt guilty for not having to do any work to see it.

Kokatahi Hotel

lazy cat in kokatahi hotel
After our short drive and even shorter walk to the Hokitika Gorge we were getting hungry and the pull of coffee and free wifi found us stopping in the middle of nowhere at a pub named the Kokatahi Hotel.

Now, I don’t want to give off the impression that this is a local landmark. It’s anything but. This is simply a pub right out there in the boonies. When you’re travelling around New Zealand you’ll find yourself in plenty of pubs and cafes, but more often than not they’ll not be very authentic. If you pull off a main highway and go to a cafe you’ll just be eating with other tourists.

stuffed animal with gun in kokatahi hotel
This place seemed truly Kiwi though. A pub that only exists to cater to the nearby farmers. Stepping through the door was like getting in a time machine and going back to the 80s. Old, gaudy carpet on the floor, jukebox in the corner and a couple of weathered farmers sitting at the bar drinking pints. For some reason MTV was on playing 80s songs, making the time warp even more pronounced.

It doesn’t seem like this place has changed in 25 years and I’m sure everybody will be happy if it doesn’t change in another 25. A perfect slice of Kiwiana – with kitsch paintings on the walls and quirky figurines everywhere you look.

The best way to celebrate our find was with a toastie and a thickshake. A thickshake being a milkshake with ice cream. A milkshake being flavoured milk.

Total walking time: 0 minutes
Lazy Stars: 5/5

Lake Kaniere

lake kaniere in hokitika from jetty
After a high fat lunch, the guilt was starting to set in, so we headed to a nearby lake to go for a walk. Burn off a couple of calories.

In the end it literally was a couple of calories as we were too lazy to walk very far despite the high number of amazing hikes in the area. Instead we sat by the lake, skimming stones and doing a little paddling.

daniel paddling in lake kaniere
Total walking time: 5 minutes
Lazy Stars: 3/5

Sunset at Hokitika Beach

sunset at hokitika beach
With a lazy day ending, nothing beats a sunset. Especially if you don’t even have to leave your car to see it. There’s a point at the end of Hokitika beach where the river meets the beach and fortunately some genius decided to put a car park there.

daniel on a boat at hokitika beach at sunset
Just drive on up, park by the sea, and watch as the sun comes down. Beautiful and easy.

Total walking time: 0 minutes
Lazy Stars: 5/5

The Cool Little Town

Hokitika seems to live up to its motto then of being a “Cool Little Town.” At first it doesn’t seem like much, but spend a few days there and you may find yourself surprised. A perfect stop along New Zealand’s west coast.


  1. says

    I’ve spent a bit more time than average in Hokitika as it’s where my family emigrated to, but haven’t seen some of the sites around it, like that lake which looks really pretty. I did go over the swing bridge though, it was awful for me but my visible terror gave some German tourists a laugh.

    • Anxious Travelers says

      So you’re a coaster? The lake is only 20 minutes from town! Although it is much like any other New Zealand lake. Water with lots of trees. I think I’m starting to take all that beauty for granted!

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