Image Credits: (2) Hokitika Derek Smith and Maclean Barker Photographers, (3) Gibson quay, Hokitika, 1867, Hokitika, by John Tait. Purchased 1991. Te Papa
In Hokitika you can explore fascinating history with a walk around the heritage part of the town and a visit to the museum.
Visitors to the arts and crafts area of the town will see skilled crafts people working with glass, paua shell, pounamu (greenstone), gold, silver and wood.
In the surrounding district you can retrace the steps of the pioneers while enjoying the natural beauty of Hokitika Gorge, Lakes Kaniere and Mahinapua.
If you’re travelling to the Coast in early March, check out the date for the wild food festival. Accommodation bookings are essential as over 1800 visitors descend on Hokitika to experience bizarre offerings such as huhu grubs, worms and snails, as well as the more traditional delicacies of whitebait and venison. Another growing event is Agfest, the annual celebration of the agricultural base of the West Coast.
** HERITAGE **
How the West Was Won! Nothing populates a wilderness like gold, it’s been said. Although the Government had bought the Coast for a mere 300 pounds in 1860 when local Maori reluctantly signed the Arahura Deed, few Europeans were attracted to the inhospitable region.
With the discovery of payable goldfields at Kaniere, Blue Spur and Goldsborough, the rush was on. In two years Hokitika exploded into a town of 6000 people and 100 pubs - more than 80 of which were in Revell Street.
In 1867 more overseas ships visited the river port than any other port in the country, with over 60 overseas and coastal vessels berthing each month. As gold was discovered elsewhere in the district, Hokitika became the commercial centre servicing the goldfields to the north and south. A punt operated on the river taking horses, coaches and carts south to Ross. The main rush for alluvial gold lasted some three years, but a few diggers stayed on sluicing for gold. In its turn, sluicing declined and dredges took over the search. At the turn of the century over 50 dredges were still working the coast.
A memorial to soldiers of the Boer War, the tower also commemorates King Edward VII’s coronation.
The beach behind the town is a special place. Listen to the audio-guide. See the related page for a great informative walk around Hokitika Town Centre.
The atmosphere in nineteenth Century gold-rush Hokitika is vividly captured in Eleanor Catton's 832 page, Man Booker Prize winning novel "The Luminaries".