11. West Coast: Hokitika

I found the highway up the West Coast between Franz Josef and Hokitika to be a bit of a mixed bag. I didn't see anything too much dramatic along that stretch of road, but then I didn't really take the time to explore around either. The mountains to the east remain ever-present along the drive, though for me they were obscured by cloud for a lot of the time. Perhaps its a matter of the peaks of the mountains being shrouded in mystery.

The other distinctive feature was the rivers. As with elsewhere around the mountain region, the river beds are wide and look like they could carry a lot of water at times. Even as it was, with the fast flow, they were still carrying a lot of water from the mountains into the sea.

Whataroa region
Te Taho region


Just short of Hokitika I took an impulsive decision to turn off following a sign to Lake Mahinapua. The lake was... well... a lake, and pretty much like the many other small to medium lakes dotted along the west coast. On the way out though, the scene at rejoining the main struck me as having a character.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel a sense of openness, freedom and movement. Besides that, the colours were pretty...



I distinctly remembered Hokitika from my previous trip. The clock tower roundabout and railway line are defining elements, and served as an anchor in my memory. Together with that I recalled the desolate windswept beach and the sailing boat replica that marks a memorial to the ships lost at sea in that area.


There was one huge difference between this trip and the previous one. Last time it was overcast, windy and rainy. This time I had blue sky and sunshine. It makes a big difference. The beach still looks desolate, but now it has colour, character and openness.

Hokitika Beach

Driftwood and Sand

As I was walking along the beach and casing out the various shapes of driftwood for photo opportunities, I noticed some strange shapes off in the distance. They were just a bit too contrived to have appeared there naturally. It was as if people had been out there messing with the driftwood.

Sure enough, on reaching one of the arrangements I saw next to it a small sign placed indicating it as an entry in the “Driftwood and Sand” contest. Looking further up the beach, there were many more, and some of remarkable creativity and ingenuity.

Sculpture Contest, Hokitika Beach
Hokitika Beach

Even in the rainy weather, Hokitika showed itself as a town of interest and character. With the sun shining, it was even more so - and worthy of more time than I'd allocated to it this time.

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