Greymouth to Hokitika

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As you drive south from Greymouth to Hokitika, the scenery is spectacular especially on a sunny day. This part of the country is known as the West Coast or just the "coast" although more correctly it's Westland and Buller.

The colours on the coast are vivid on a sunny day and as you head south from Greymouth to Hokitika, you will have the lush green bush on your left, the blue of the Tasman Sea on your right and the snow-clad mountains of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Southern Alps ahead of you.

There is a wildness about the coast that we love. It often feels as if you've stepped back in time. The locals are very friendly and this is part of New Zealand that really must be visited, if not only for the experience of crossing the Taramakau Bridge - a one lane bridge that you share with the TranzAlpine trains!

Kumara Junction is where the road splits - take the first exit onto SH73 and head to Arthur's Pass and Christchurch or take the second exit and continue on SH6 towards Hokitika and Haast on the Glacier Highway, which we are going to do

Taramakau BridgeTaramakua One-Lane Train Bridge

Driving Tip

When driving across the Taramakau Bridge, drive on one side so one wheel is on the outside of the rails and one in the middle. This is easier than trying to straddle the rails

See and Do

  • Visit Shantytown - head inland at Paroa. You can pan for gold, take a steam train ride or just soak up the atmosphere of this replica gold mining town
  • Walk along the beach at South Beach
  • Get some honey at the Honey Cafe at Kumara Junction or just browse through the arts and crafts

Eat and Drink

  • Stop at the Bridge Bar & Cafe and soak in the atmosphere as you sit above the Taramakau River. If you haven't sampled the coast delicacy of whitebait yet, then get some here
  • Have fish and chips at the Paroa Hotel - you won't miss it as it's the impressive stone building on the main road. The food is great and the portion sizes are more than generous

Stop Awhile

  • Stay at South Beach Motel and Motor Park - this is right next to the beach

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Kumara Junction to Hokitika

Hokitika Beach at SunsetHokitika Beach at Sunset

From Kumara Junction the road heads towards the coast and then follows the coast (of the Tasman Ocean) with farmland initially on your left between the road and sea, and later on your right.

At the Arahura River, it's worth taking time to pull over to view the historic bridge and just take in the vista of the bush-clad foothills with the Southern Alps behind (sometimes even snow-clad in summer).

The Arahura River has significance in Maori mythology as it is the home of the precious pounamu, (also known as New Zealand jade or greenstone).


See and Do

  • Stop at the historic bridge at the Arahura River - this was a one lane bridge that doubled as the railway bridge which has now been replaced with a modern bridge. Like the Taramakau Bridge, this was one lane for 2 lanes of vehicles as well as trains.

Eat and Drink

  • Look out for vegetable stalls on the side of the road

Stop Awhile

  • Stay at the Beachwalk Holiday Park just after the Arahura River. As the name suggests, it's only a short walk to the beach

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Hokitika

Taramakua RiverTaramakua River

Hokitika was once a thriving gold mining town. Now it is more known for its arts, pounamu (jade) galleries and the annual Wild Food Festival - it's exactly that, a festival of wild food. If you're lucky enough to be in the region when its on in March, it's really worth the visit. If you aren't brave enough to sample all the food on offer, at least enjoy the carnival atmosphere.

If you want a detour on route to Hokitika, take the Blue Spur Tourist Drive that goes inland before the Arahura River and comes out in Hokitika on Hampden St.

If you have the time once you get to Hokitika, head inland and visit Lake Kaniere where you can walk around the lake or go mountain biking. The drive into Lake Kaniere is just beautiful as the road winds through native bush (rainforest).

Alternatively, drive up to the Hokitika Gorge, take a walk and marvel at the pale blue waters of the Hokitika River/

Hokitika has the main airport for the West Coast

See and Do

  • Visit the Glow Worms Dell, just as you enter Hokitika past the information kiosk. Obviously, this is a nocturnal activity. Take a torch to guide you up the path but you need to be in complete darkness to get the full effect
  • Drive to the Hokitika Gorge and take a walk
  • Visit Lake Kaniere and spend time walking around the lake or enjoy water activities or fishing

Eat and Drink

  • Have a special dinner at The Cafe de Paris. This restaurant is known throughout New Zealand and the food is delicious. You will have to book
  • If you love Indian, there is a Priya Restaurant in Hokitika - they do great eat in and take-away and we think they do the best garlic naan bread
  • Enjoy a meal or snack at one of the many arty cafes in Hokitika township

Stop Awhile

  • Stay at 252 Beachside Motels and Holiday Park - this is in Hokitika and next to the beach in a quiet location
  • Stay at the DOC (Department of Conservation) site at Hans Bay at Lake Kaniere. On a drizzly day, the lake has an erie beauty. The campsite has grassy terraces with good lake views. This is where we stayed and we recommend it highly

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