The Wild Foods Festival attracts bold appetites to a great town, writes Anna Leask.
The first thing that catches your eye when you approach Hokitika is the rugged coastline, waves crashing against black sand from the thunderous Tasman Sea.
The horizon is electric blue, offsetting the lush green of the native bush that lines the other side of the highway.
It's not a big town and it's not flashy, but Hokitika has everything for a great getaway.
My latest visit was for the annual Wildfoods Festival, an iconic event for the Hokitika area, that draws punters from across the country - and even overseas.
Held each year since 1990, the festival is touted as a celebration of the West Coast's wildest food. From the moment you walk through the entry gate, your senses are bombarded with a plethora of nature's finest nibbles.
Accompanied by a group of girlfriends (all dressed as 80s and 90s aerobics instructors as per the festival's tradition of dressing in costume), we hit the stalls. In neon sweatbands, leg-warmers and blue eye-shadowed to the hilt, we fitted in well with the other weird and wacky festival goers.
After a refreshing Monteith's beer or two, it was time to get among the creepy crawlies. First up — huhu grubs.
I'm quite a fan of these little wrigglers. They taste like peanut butter and usually are served warm on a toothpick. Some of the others were less taken with them than I was.
For the next couple of hours, we sampled live crickets, snails, also known as Westcargots, kangaroo, crocodile, shark, venison salami and the obligatory and mouthwatering West Coast whitebait patties.
Nobody was game enough to try the mountain oysters — bulls' testicles — but we were happy to watch as other willing participants slurped them down.
The day was stinking hot, so it was only right to quench our thirst with cold beverages. From the divine Tohu sauvignon blanc to the gorgeous Yealands sparkling wines, we were happy to test as much as we could. And then there was the kava ... looked like mud, tasted like mud, but worth the experience.
We decided to forgo the official Wildfoods Dance that night to sample Hoki's night life, starting with the West Coast Wine Bar. It's a cosy wee bar tucked nicely into the main street and boasts an eclectic and unique array of wines, spirits and tasty cocktails and cigars for those looking for something a little bit special.
The outdoor area was full of lovely locals enjoying a brew well away from the bustling pubs filled with festival revellers. As the sun set over the seaside town, we tested some of the cocktails and relaxed into the balmy night.