Flights to Hokitika
After you land in Hokitika, the West Coast beckons with hiking, biking and caving in the north and kayaking, glacier walks and river safaris in the south. Between the two, you'll find spectacular sightseeing at Punakaiki and Hokitika Gorge.
Within and around your adventures, there'll be time to enjoy hearty West Coast cooking, locally-made boutique gin and craft beer, and accommodation options that make the most of the region's magical landscapes. Coasters, as the locals are known, are a friendly bunch who'll always find time to pass on their tips for a terrific West Coast holiday.
About our flights to Hokitika
Air New Zealand offers non-stop domestic flights to Hokitika airport from Christchurch. For flights from Queenstown to Hokitika, Auckland to Hokitika and Wellington to Hokitika, you'll transit at Christchurch airport. With all Hokitika airfares you can choose seat, seat+bag, flexitime or flexiplus fare types. Christchurch to Hokitika flights take around 45 minutes.
The Oparara Arches near Karamea have to be seen to be believed. Formed by river action over millions of years, the arches are easy to reach on foot.
Where to go and what to see on the West Coast
The days you spend on the West Coast will lead to travel stories you'll tell for the rest of your life. While this region accounts for nearly 10% of New Zealand's land area, it has less than 1% of the country's population. In other words, there's a lot of untouched beauty here. Fall into nature's fierce embrace and you'll emerge as a more adventurous person.
Adventures in the West Coast wilderness
The number one reason to visit the West Coast is untamed natural wilderness. There are few easily-accessed places on the planet that rival the landscapes you'll find as you journey through the region. In total there are three national parks, two immense glaciers, seven lakes and more than a dozen significant rivers to discover. Make sure you're equipped to take it all on (proper hiking boots are a must!).
In the far north of the West Coast, the town of Karamea is your base for hikes and caving expeditions in the Oparara Basin. You can also do a day walk into the immense Kahurangi National Park, famous for its incredible range of terrain types.
If you love a wild time on a mountain bike, book yourself into the Old Ghost Road for a couple of rollercoaster days through the rainforest. Or paddle a kayak upstream from Punakaiki into the wilds of the Paparoa National Park. And if you want to take your photography to a higher level, go heli-hiking on a glacier and gaze into blue crevasses that defy the imagination.
Extraordinary West Coast sightseeing
The West Coast isn't just about intrepid adventures. You'll also find some easily-accessed sightseeing opportunities that only involve a short stroll.
Close to Hokitika is the super-pretty Hokitika Gorge Walk, which involves a short hike through the forest and across a swing bridge. From the bridge you get a spectacular view of the gorge with its surreal opaque turquoise water (caused by suspended 'rock flour').
Another must-see is Punakaiki's Pancake Rocks, created by nature to wow your Instagram following. These outrageous rock formations involve layers of hard sediment interspersed with mud layers. Washed by rain and ocean waves, the softer layers have eroded away to leave the look of stacked pancakes. And that's just part of Punakaiki's magic; there are incredible blow holes here too.
The Oparara Arches near Karamea have to be seen to be believed. Formed by river action over millions of years, the arches are easy to reach on foot. You'll also be entranced by the beauty of the Oparara River, which is often tinted a rich orange colour by the natural tannins of the rainforest.
Unique West Coast food and drink
In between your West Coast adventures you'll have the chance to explore the region's hospitality. After landing at Hokitika airport, don't leave town until you've had lunch at the famous Hokitika Sandwich Company. These aren't everyday sandwiches; each one is a work of edible art featuring exceptional New Zealand ingredients.
Next on the list of unique West Coast flavour experiences happens in the town of Reefton. There you can check out the Reefton Distilling Company, where they make fine gin infused with botanicals from the surrounding rainforest. For lunch or dinner, check out the hearty menu at Dawson's Hotel. And if it's coffee and cake you're craving, Reef Cottage Café can introduce you to a wicked selection of home-baked favourites.
Another special West Coast cuisine experience can be found at the Rough and Tumble Lodge Café, when you can tuck into tasty favourites and sip on a West Coast Brewery craft beer while you gaze at a magnificent view of the roiling Mokihinui River. Or find your way to the Kingfisher Restaurant and Bar on the shores of beautiful Lake Brunner - their burgers are legendary.
Top 10 things to do on the West Coast
1. Walk through rainforest to the Oparara Arches
The Oparara Basin is home to original rainforest, tannin-tinted rivers, huge limestone arches and a vast network of limestone caves. You can hike the easy native forest trails to visit the arches or book a guided tour with The Oparara Experience to explore the basin's remarkable, restricted-access caves.
2. Experience the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blow holes
Discover nature's own artworks on the Punakaiki pancake rocks walk, an easy 1.1km loop trail. Once part of the ocean floor, the limestone formations at Punakaiki were thrust upwards, then carved and sculpted over millions of years by the sea and rain. Today the ocean swells push inland through limestone caves sending plumes of spray whooshing up natural chimneys within the huge stacks of rock pancakes.
3. Fish, hike or swim at Lake Brunner
Fed by glacial waters and often darkened by natural tannins, Lake Brunner reflects the surrounding landscapes in a spectacular way. Fishing Lake Brunner for its legendary brown trout can be done any time of year and there are boats for hire. You'll also find some great Lake Brunner walks to explore, ranging from one to eight hours.
4. Snap the river at Hokitika Gorge
Carved by ancient glaciers, Hokitika Gorge contains an impossibly turquoise river, which is why it's also known as 'the blue gorge'. The vivid, milky blue colour is due to suspended white 'rock flour' created millions of years ago. It's a breath-taking scene you'll want to photograph from every angle.
5. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are must-visit attractions on the South Island's West Coast. To get out on the ice and experience ice caves or ice climbing, just book a guided walk. Or you can view the glaciers from a helicopter before landing on snow at the top for the ultimate photoshoot.
6. Haast World Heritage Area
Covering 2.6 million hectares, almost 10% of New Zealand's land area, the vast Te Wāhipounamu -South West New Zealand World Heritage Area is full of beautiful lakes, valleys and fiords carved by glaciers. The area is home to countless rare plants and animals, and some of the most spectacular walking and hiking trails you'll ever experience.
7. Cycle the West Coast Wilderness Trail
The magnificent four-day 139km West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail follows old bush tracks, tramlines and railways through rainforests, wetlands, river valleys and friendly historic towns. It's one of the smoothest cycle trails in the country. Each section involves about four hours riding; how many sections you tackle is entirely up to you.
8. Old Ghost Road
Early gold miners tried to put a road through this exceptional landscape but the landscape won, leaving four ghost towns behind. More than a century later, volunteers completed the 85km route as a hiking and mountain biking trail with four bookable huts. Both ends provide great one-day in-out experiences; the fabulous Rough & Tumble Bush Lodge offers retreat-style accommodation at the north end of the trail.
9. Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track
New Zealand's newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track in Paparoa National Park, opens 1 December 2019. Purpose-built for hiking and mountain biking, it climbs through limestone landscapes, native podocarp and beech forest to tussock-covered ridges with beyond-awesome views.
10. Heaphy Track
Recognised as the most gentle of New Zealand's Great Walks, the 82km, four-to-six day Heaphy Track comes with completely different scenery every day. If you're visiting Karamea, you can sample the track on a day along Scotts Beach and up to Scotts Hill lookout, then back again. You'll be wowed by coastal rainforest and native nikau forests along the way.
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Best time to visit Hokitika
Hokitika is warm in summer and autumn, with similar sunshine hours to Auckland. However with rainfall spread throughout the year, it's always wise to bring a rain jacket. Don't be afraid to visit in winter or spring - temperatures are surprisingly mild, days are often beautifully sunny and crowds are few.
How much will it cost?
This will depend on your tastes and what you want to do. As a rough guide, not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $100 to $150 a day per person for food and entertainment.
There are no mandatory vaccinations required for visitors to New Zealand.
Auckland (AKL) to Hokitika (HKK)
Wellington (WLG) to Hokitika (HKK)
Christchurch (CHC) to Hokitika (HKK)
*Flight times are based on the fastest route available.
**Indirect flights may also be available for this route.