Kia ora: Hokitika

This West Coast gem is wild at heart, finds Elisabeth Easther.

The Hokitika main beach lights up on the eve of the Wildfoods Festival. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Hokitika main beach lights up on the eve of the Wildfoods Festival. Photo / Richard Robinson

Name: Hokitika.

Origin of name: In an area rich in greenstone, this name is Maori for "place of return".

Where is it: The West Coast of the South Island, 40km south of Greymouth.

Population: 3078 in 2006. In the 1860s and during the gold rush, it was one of the most populated spots in New Zealand.

Best reason to stop: The natural beauty, plus the work of local artists.

Best place to take kids: The Glow Worm Dell; a paddleboat cruise on the Mahinupua waterways; the Treetops walkway.

Best pub: The finest watering holes are said to be Stumpers Hotel and The Beachfront Hotel.

Best food: Cafe de Paris, and the Royal Mail Hotel at Woodstock offers a jam session and a roast on Sundays.

The town slogan: Yet to be formally sloganised, but Westland calls itself "The Last Best Place".

Most famous local: Richard John Seddon, New Zealand's longest-serving prime minister.

Most prominent local business: Tourism is huge. Dairy farmers are also big movers and shakers, with Western Milk Products going from strength to strength.

Best flat white: The Clock Tower Cafe.

Best bakery: The Backhouse on Revell St.

Best local website: hokitika.org

Best museum/art gallery: The Hokitika Museum; the Carnegie Building alone is worth the trip. Its treasures includes millions of dollars worth of stuffed birds. Town is filled with pieces by local artists, using glass, copper, rocks, driftwood and greenstone.

Best walk: The Heritage Trail, a self-guided walk past sites of historic significance, Hokitika Gorge Walk, the Goldsborough Walks and Lake Kaniere.

Town competitions: The Sand Dune Classic (January), Take a Seat sculpture competition (August), the Driftwood and Sand Sculpture competition (January) and Speight's Coast to Coast (February).

Best view: On a clear day you can see Aoraki (Mt Cook) from the main street. Sunset Point is also popular.

Best park/playground: Cass Square has a beauty for letting off steam, excellent sports fields too.

Here for a short time: Visit one of the pounamu factories, the product is amazing. Also check out the monuments, Signal Station Lookout, the Seddon Statue, the Shipwreck Memorial and the Statue of Summer.

Best swim: The Hokitika Public Swimming Pool, with lap lanes and spa facilities, or enjoy the rugged ocean. Lake Kaniere is naturally popular.

Best wildlife: The National Kiwi Centre's residents.

When a local has visitors staying, they go to: The Wildfoods Festival, Seaforth Gardens, the beaches, the scenic loop drive to Lake Kaniere and the Rimu Lookout, or Cowboy Paradise to shoot guns.

Thanks to Mike Keenan (fourth-generation Coaster and organiser of the Wildfoods Festival) for the inside knowledge.

- NZ Herald

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