Hoki Hoki Hoki. You are as wild and rugged as the people who grace your land. Your black sand beaches are covered in driftwood that has journeyed far, ending their journey on the beach as firewood for bonfires late into the night. Your people hunt, fish and hike, preferring to live off the land. These are are rare breed, and I love them.
The Gold Rush brought much attention to this area, making it the capital of New Zealand for a few brief years. The Coal industry was bigger than big and the folks of the coast were thriving.
The end of the gold rush and major decline of the coal industry brough silence to this area. I read in an old Lonely Planet guide book that the West Coast has about 85 percent of the South Island’s land and only 2 percent of it’s population. The towns on the West Coast are smaller than small and you will completely miss them if you blink when driving through. Hokitika is the third largest city on the West Coast, sporting a population of under 4,000 (including it’s rural surrounds.) The police and firemen here are voluntary. If you hear an alarm going off at any hour, that is the call for the volunteers to gather and act. Around New Zealand, when I mentioned I lived in Hokitika, I would get a surprised look that coincides with the stereotype that those who live here are bogans.
Land and houses here are cheaper than anywhere else in New Zealand due to the lack of industry. I find this extremely ironic, as to me and most travelers I’ve met, the West Coast is the most beautiful part of the country. In fact, the drive along Hwy 6 is considered to be one of the top 10 ocean drives in the world. I had a bus driver once say that the Great Oceans Road in Australia was such a great disappointment to him, as he was expecting more ocean and less land. The people who live on the West Coast mostly rely on tourism to keep themselves afloat. And of course, there are the Jade Carvers.
The winters along the West Coast are brutal and the summers are beautiful. I’m talking beauty and the beast here folks. Being the rain forest of the country, this area gets a LOT of rain. But it also has a lot to show for all that rain. The summer is a completely different place. When the sun is out, the people are out. There are markets, smiles places I’d never discovered before that were closed or inaccessible during the cold, wet winter months.
During the summer, the Tasman glimmers with a color blue that I would expect to only see in Pacific Islands like Fiij. The dolphins swim and the locals jump in with them. (If you are not a local, do not attempt to wet your feet in this wild Sea. I’ve personally lost a phone, and have worked with people who have lost many a bits of skin to the raging waters. It’s really a locals only surf spot due to the unpredictability of the waves that crash any which way they want to.)
Being a small town, everyone knows everyone and everyone talks. It’s impossible to get a taxi after 10pm, as the one cab driver will have gone to bed and wont answer her phone for anyone. (Well, maybe some – as my friends and I desperately had to find that someone one night we were stuck by the lake. That was an expensive and grumpy ride.)
I much prefer Hokitika to the larger town 40 minutes north, Greymouth. Greymouth is ugly and the people don’t smile as you pass by on the street. Art and culture still comes to little Hokitika, as the Regent Theater brings in the shows and movies that Greymouth doesn’t.
Hoki ignited my soul, taught me to dance again, to love again, to trust in myself again. Hoki Hoki Hoki will forever be in my heart and the wild sides of my soul.
Hokitika Travel Guide
Porkys, Stella, Fat Pipis, The Beachfront, Clocktower Cafe
Wine Collective, Stumpers, The Pioneer
Bones & Stones
Hokitika Gorge, Lake Kaniere, Bike from Ross to here along the West Coast Cycle Trail, Eat a picnic lunch at sunset point on the ship, have a beach bonfire, Kayak lake Mahinapua, Hike Mt. Brown, Glow worm dell
Drifting Sands B&B!