Hokitika is a cool, little town situated on the West Coast of South Island in New Zealand. My partner and I were supposed to be here for a week and ended up staying for two months. Hokitika (affectionately known as Hoki) has this energy that draws you in- it is a magical spot on the beach ideal for recharging your soul, taking in some jaw-dropping scenery and meeting some great people along the way.
Free Things to Do in and Around Hokitika
Snag a Photo with the Hokitika Beach Letters
Have you actually visited Hokitika if you haven’t gotten your own photo of the signature Hokitika letters spelled out in driftwood on Hokitika Beach? Snag yourself this iconic photo and have some fun walking up and down the beach searching for greenstone/pounamu.
Iconic photo with the Hokitika driftwood beach letters
Welcome to Jade Country
Hokitika is jade country, known for its cache of New Zealand jade also known as greenstone/pounamu. Beachcombing is a free activity and you have the potential to find these gorgeous bits of glittering jade secretly set on the sand by the waves waiting for someone (you) to come along and rediscover it.
Combing the beach for greenstone/pounamu
Lake Mahinapua Scenic Reserve
Lake Mahinapua is located about 10 minutes south from Hokitika and it is stunning. On a clear day, there are mind-blowing views of the mountains mirrored in the reflection on the water. Entrance and parking are free and if you’re feeling outdoorsy you can take a walk on the Mahinapua Walkway and complete your day by setting up camp at the DOC campsite at the reserve. Bookings are not required and the 100 non-powered campsites are first-come, first-serve costing $15 NZD per adult.
Lake Mahinapua on a clear day
Take a Walk to the Top of Hokitika
There are countless free walks/hikes along the West Coast but the one that tops our list takes you to a lookout point with 360-degree views of Hoki via the forestry road off Pistol Club Road. There is a gate blocking motorized access to the forestry road which means you’ll need to find some side-of-the-road parking before ducking under the gate to head up top (the owners of the land encourage exploring the area by foot). There is a road off to the right marked by a kayak as soon as you get under the gate, if you take this road you are going the wrong way. Your destination is heading up the road until you see what looks like a golf ball on a tee, the weather station. It should be about a two hour round trip walk depending on your pace and how many photos you stop to take along the way and at the top, although there aren’t many reasons to stop until you hit your panoramic views.
One of the views from the weather station
Watch the Glass Blowers
Hokitika Glass Studio is open 7 days a week until 5 pm with shorter hours on Saturday and Sunday, located close to the center of town. The drawing feature here other than the beautiful glass pieces for sale is the opportunity to be mesmerized by the glass artists creating works of art in front of you! Viewing is free but donations always show appreciation for the opportunity and experience.
The Hokitika Gorge is a must-see and it’s even more beautiful because it’s free! The water is glacier-fed and can be seen several shades of blue and turquoise due to rock flour giving it a bit of milkiness. There are signboards posted with information about the area and gorge along with a map then it is a short walk to get to the gorge. You will cross a cool swing bridge that is photo-worthy and arrive at a mass of rocks that visitors like to take the opportunity to climb on for classic Hokitika Gorge photos (climb at your own risk).
Live Music at The Woodstock Hotel
The Woodstock Hotel is a cool and cozy pub about 10 minutes out of town where you can find locals unwinding from their day over a pint of Woodstock Brewing Co beer brewed in house. This gem is known locally as “The Woody”. Sundays are jam nights where you can often find the locals on stage with the opportunity to get up there and show off your skills, free of charge! Do you know what else is free at The Woody? Camping in the car park! Plenty of campers roll up and make their home for the night in the car park, The Woody staff just ask that you check-in at the bar so they can give you the lay of the land like which toilets to use and where to wash your dishes. There’s a beautiful verandah off the pub as well overlooking the mighty Hokitika River- my recommendation is to make sure you’re hanging out here for the golden hour as the sun is setting because it’s mystical.
Woodstock Brewing Co/Woodstock Hotel
Watch the Sun Set on the West Coast
Speaking of the sun setting, if you do nothing else in Hoki, catch a sunset on one of these wild and rugged West Coast beaches! Hokitika Beach is walking distance from all of the things you’ll be doing in town making it the perfect spot to settle in on the rocks for Mother Nature’s free nightly show: the sunset.
Sunset on the West Coast of New Zealand
Yummy Places to Eat on a Budget
There are plenty of places to eat in and around Hokitika but I am highlighting my favorite three because we enjoyed them so much we kept going back!
Ramble and Ritual
Ramble and Ritual Cafe on Sewell St across from the police station is a vegetarian cafe serving gluten-free options, fresh salads and delectable treats, both sweet and savory, made in house by the owner herself. The early bird gets the worm here: the cafe sells through what is displayed for the day and rotates daily. The only things that stay constant are the cheese scones sent from heaven itself, the delicious barista-made coffee that keeps regulars coming back day after day, and the sparkling staff.
Hokitika Sandwich Company
This hotspot for locals and visitors alike also often sells out of made-to-order sandwiches stuffed with wonderful ingredients hand-selected by the owner and served on fresh bread. It’s located just down the street from the Hokitika Beach Access sign making it a quick few minutes walk from Hokitika Beach. While the sandwiches are not considered one of our free things in Hokitika they are hefty and filling, my partner and I splitting a “full” sandwich and feeling content, make it a great thing to go for if you are on a budget and looking for a satisfying meal. Top tip: The shop closes early afternoon so grab a sandwich and head to the beach for a picnic on the rocks watching the waves roll in!
The Woodstock Hotel
In addition to jam night fun and good beer, there are some great deals on food to be found at The Woody! The chefs at this pub pay special attention to detail and deliciousness. Mondays mean “Monday Madness” which offers select dishes for $15 NZD each and Tuesday is “Two for Tuesday” which means you get to mix and match a select menu to take advantage of two entrees for the price of one. Gluten-free and vegetarian menus available as well. Now that sounds like a delicious deal!