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Nature & Wildlife

Top picks for families & friends in Hokitika

  • 4 minutes

Hokitika, West Coast

‘Cool little town’

Find places to go from the strikingly beautiful Hokitika Gorge to quietly glorious lakes where swimming, boating and recreational water sports flourish. Things to do include an exhilarating tree top climb into the forest canopy or viewing the rare West Coast kiwi. Spend hours exploring the wild driftwood strewn Hokitika beach. Hokitika is reimagined from the rowdy gold mining era into a hospitality hot spot. Enjoy Hokitika, a cool little town.

@National Kiwi Centre & Aquarium
@National Kiwi Centre & Aquarium


  • Driftwood galore for your Hokitika beach art installation. Remember to take a selfie
  • West Coast Treetop Walk get yourself and the kids eye to eye with the forest canopy
  • Find a suspension bridge and extraordinary views at Hokitika Gorge walk
  • Observe the rarest kiwi (bird) in the world only 300 + in the wild at the National Kiwi Centre
  • Spend time at the picturesque Lake Kaniere, swim, picnic and water bombing from the local jetty


  • Fossicking among the black and pebbles for flakes of pounamu (jade) storm washed debris
  • Create a driftwood sculpture
  • Sunset selfie with Aoraki Mt Cook in the background
  • Watch intrepid surfers, lycra clad as they brave the elements

The Hokitika boardwalk & beach is a top pick for things to do. There’s a funky Hokitika sign made of driftwood and even an annual festival promoting driftwood as a material for arty crafty souls. The town and beach merge together with sand drifting across into the main street. This is a beach town with a difference. The beach is not really for swimming with the kids.

Recycled driftwood Hokitika beach sculpture and town identity
Driftwood on the beach at Hokitika

West Coast beaches have dangerous rips, currents and wild untamed surf. Here’s a beach to walk along, build amazing sandcastles with driftwood accents. Enjoy striking orange hued sunsets with a bonfire sizzling sausages on your newly acquired driftwood spikes and relish a beach where there is plenty of space for everyone.

Fossicking treasure on the Hokitika beach is a rite of passage for tourists. Just north of Hokitika lies the Arahura River and its turbulent waters carry pounamu and alluvial gold flakes washing up into the ocean. Join Arahura Greenstone Tours, river guardians and hear stories about the cultural significance of New Zealand jade.


You might spot a Little Blue Penguin but please respect their space.

Leave the driftwood on the beach, it could be a home of intertidal marine life.


And it just gets better with outdoor activities and places to go wrapped around two lakes, the mountains and interesting cycling / walking trails. Hokitika eptimoises an outdoors holiday experience for family, friends and couples. For more ideas what to do and see in Hokitika check out Hokitika travel guide for holiday inspiration.


  • Lake Kaniere the place to go to swim, boat and walk to Dorothy waterfall
  • Lake Mahinapua yachting and bird watching
  • West Coast TreeTops enjoy forest canopy views
@West Coast Treetop Walk & Cafe
@West Coast Treetop Walk & Cafe
Hokitika Gorge, West Coast, New Zealand. Beautiful nature with blueturquoise color water and wooden swing bridge.
Hokitika Gorge


An instagram favourite with its staggering beautiful glacial blue waters, cliff faces and suspension bridge easily accessible from the large car park. The vivid turquoise water surrounded by lush native bush is a must-go for visitors.

Hokitika Gorge Walk is managed by the Department of Conservation. From the car park, follow the walking track for a few minutes through dense podocarp/hardwood forest before emerging onto a viewing platform. From here you can look down to the stunning Hokitika Gorge and out to the lush farmland of Kowhitirangi. This part of the track is accessible for wheelchairs.

From the viewing platform, continue for another 6 minutes along the curving boardwalks and you will reach a swing bridge. From here there are excellent views of the blue-green waters of the Hokitika River as it makes its way through the rock sided Hokitika Gorge.

For good views further up the gorge, cross the swing bridge and when you come to the end of it turn left (straight ahead leads to private farmland). The track continues for another 200 m (10 minutes) through the bush, crossing a small bridge to a second viewing platform with looking out to the gorge upstream of the bridge. Access to a small beach is also available here. Be sure to take time to read the warning signs and close the gate after you.

Hokitika gorge walk

  • Length            2 km
  • Duration          30 – 40 minutes loop track

The second longer 90 metre suspension bridge is very stable creating a great family friendly, fitness challenged walk. The bridge crosses the main river, and over an island full of trees, meaning you’ll stroll through the forest canopy.The rest of the walk is an easy 30 minute wander through native bush back to the start – ending the family-friendly loop.


Department of Conservation safety warning. The Hokitika River is swift, cold, and dangerous in all conditions. Swimming here is dangerous and people have died because of swimming in the river.

The gorge was ground out by the Hokitika River showcasing the impressive power of water to erode rocks over thousands of years. The intense blue is glacial flour, or minute particles of rock. In heavy rain the blue intensity is cloudy due to increasing water flow.



  • Jetty for water bombing, jumping off,
  • Fishing for brown trout and salmon
  • Water skiing in the calm sheltered lakes
  • Dorothy waterfall is easily accessible and suitably impressive at 64 metre cascading drop
  • Original native forest
  • Camping in a picturesque native reserve with bird song heralding the dawn.

Lake Kaniere is a quiet counterpart to the wild tumultuous coast with small sandy lakeside beaches, clear crystal water and plenty of easy walking trails. There are designated picnic spots with toilet facilities, boat ramps and even a Department of Conservation campground. Check DOC resource for up to date information.

Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve @DOC / Shellie Evans
Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve @DOC / Shellie Evans


The trail is part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail. The meandering track follows the water race of the historic power station. There are plenty of options to walk short distances or enjoy the entire 9.5 km. This walk is part of the Unforgettable walks in New Zealand .


This is a walk suitable for all fitness levels at 650 metres ending at a sandy sheltered lakeside beach you pass towering groves of dense stands of rimu and kahikatea forest to a sheltered sandy beach. There are picnic tables and facilities.

Dorothy Falls, on the edge of Lake Kaniere in New Zealand
Dorothy Falls, on the edge of Lake Kaniere in New Zealand


Plunge into the waterfall pools and enjoy the sight of a magnificent waterfall that consistently flows throughout the year. Nothing like high rainfall to keep the falls in full flood.


Another short 250 metre walk from Dorothy falls to the lake edge.


Where to go to find virgin forest is solved with this awesome short 600 metre loop walk, The walk ambles alongside the Sunny Bight Creek and passes through virgin Kahikatea forest before returning to the picnic area via a boardwalk over a flax swamp.


For couples, families and friends who enjoy the challenge of serious tramp. There is a steep ascent onto the open tussock of Mt. Tuhua (1125 m). This hike is suitable for fit people onlyThe track is marked with orange triangles for its entire length. Check weather and track conditions before setting out.

Camping is free in the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve. Check for latest information on Hans Bay – Lake Kaniere Campsite on entry conditions.

Get inspired with the Department of Conservation youtube clip



  • Bird watching for waterbirds, black swans, ducks, bittern and white herons (seasonal). The bush canopy is home parakeets, tui, bellbird, kereru pigeon
  • Yachting with the Lake Mahinapua Aquatic Club | Yachting New Zealand
  • Mountain biking tramline trail
  • Short lakeside walks
  • The lake is a popular recreational fishing destination. For fishing tips check out Lake Mahinapua

Bird watching hot spot in the coastal dune lake with its shallow waterways, reed filled coves and clear crystal water. Black swans, grey and mallard ducks congregate on the lake and shores. Occasionally you will witness the rare bittern and seasonal white herons (October to March). Flax and rushes dominate the vegetation on the lake edge providing sheltered sites for swans and the ducks to breed. The shy fern bird can also at times be heard and sometimes seen flitting in the swampy wetland.

Mahinapua Scenic Reserve: Hokitika area places to visit are fascinating with its mix of a historic tramline, birding and surrounding bush. The vegetation is a combination of coastal podocarp and hardwood species such as miro, matai, totara. Visitors will observe rimu and kahikatea closer to the lake, with sub-canopy species such as kamahi, mahoe and quintinia being common. The flourishing forest provides consistent food resources for parakeets, tui, bellbird and pigeon.

Wooden jetty bridge at Lake Mahinapua, a shallow lake on the West Coast of The South Island, New Zealand. It is roughly 10km south of Hokitika and near the small town of Ruatapu.
Lake Mahinapua

There is a scenic Department of Conservation campground, short walks and the lake is popular for swimming. The shallow lake is less than 2.5 metres in depth. The lake is the aquatic water sport arena for Lake Mahinapua Aquatic Club, there are boats available for hire.


Historically Lake Mahinapua was a main access waterway up and down the coast using paddle steamers. Today West Coast Scenic Waterways organise guided pontoon tours as well as transport for bikes to various trail exit/entrance points.

Lake Mahinapua is very close to the sea. The Mahinapua River which drains the lake travels parallel to the beach for several kilometres to join the Hokitika River.


Exhilarating to walk among the magnificent tree tops with the canopy within touching distance. The safe raised boardwalks are 20 metres above sea level and over 450 metres long. For family and friends who want a challenge, the adrenaline open sided spiral staircase ascending over 40 metres above the forest floor is a must-do. There is an onsite cafe and gift shop. The al fresco cafe is nestled in the bush. The polished stainless steel feels and looks very sturdy with high barriers so there is no chance of daredevil kids antics. Enjoy the views of Lake Mahinapua, the Tasman Sea and the forest layers.


Visitors can catch a close up look at kiws, tuatara (mini dinosaur), and giant eels. The Centre is conveniently located in the centre of town meaning getting there is not an issue. Feeding times are 10:00 am, 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm every day. There is an entry fee. National Kiwi Centre where the rarest kiwi has found a refuge. West Coast kiwi there are an estimated 345 birds in the wild. The bird centre is within walking distance of the town centre.

New Zealand glowworms in Hokitika
Glowworms in Hokitika

A popular visitor attraction with free entrance, and being very close to town (10 minutes walk) the 50 metre track leads to a glow worm dell.


State Highway 6, northern entrance to Hokitika. The Dell is well signposted and there is parking. The Dell is wheelchair accessible.


West Coast Mountain Bike Club has got visitors sorted at Blue Spur Forest. All are within easy biking distance of Hokitika township. Information on these tracks and the maps are available at Hokitika Cycles & Sportsworld – Fishing, Camping

  • Fully equipped Bike repair workshop with certified Shimano bike mechanic.
  • Top Quality bike hire, both hardtails and E-bikes.
  • Information, maps and knowledge about the West Coast Wilderness Trail and local single tracks

West Coast Wilderness Trail links Hokitika to Greymouth and Ross. If you don’t feel like a multiple day bike trip, cycle out to Lake Mahinapua. A choice of bike hire encourages visitors to give cycling a go. Shuttle services are available for the entire 139 km trail.



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