Planning your West Coast Itinerary

Initially I thought I would write a post called something like ‘The Ultimate 1 week West Coast Itinerary’. Certainly I have come across many similarly titled blogs. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that the components that make it the ‘ultimate Itinerary’ for me, won’t necessarily be the ultimate for you.


I was in Italy 2 years ago and while I liked Italy, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. This has nothing to do with Italy, it’s an incredible place, but more to do with the activities I planned. We did all the art galleries and historical sites, you know, all the things that you do when you go to Italy, but the truth is, art galleries are not really my thing (although seeing the statue of David was quite an experience). I like a bit of history, but I’m not a history buff.

Then we got to Slovenia and we fell in love. The crystal clear waters, snow capped mountains, rolling hills. That’s my thing. If we had spent our time in Italy in the Lake District and Dolomites Mountains, I am almost certain that I would have also fallen in love with Italy.

So I wanted to share our West Coast itinerary with you, but also leave you this piece of advice, this is by no means the only things you should see and do, pick and choose from it, the parts that get you excited and give you wonderlust. Craft your own epic adventure.

Overview

Here is the route we took.

  • Day 1: Wellington to Picton by ferry, then onto Punakaiki via Nelson
  • Day 2: Short day trip up to Charlestown with a side trip to Westport
  • Day 3: Punakaiki to Frans Josef
  • Day 4: Day in Franz Josef
  • Day 5: Franz Josef to Hokitika via Okarito
  • Day 6: Day in Hokitika
  • Day 7: Hokitika to Mt Lyford via Lewis Pass
  • Day 8: Mt Lyford Lodge to Wellington via Kaikoura and Picton

Wellington to Punakaiki

Ferry Crossing: The first part of our journey involved crossing the Cook Straight. As we had a vehicle (our motorbike) we had 2 options, Bluebridge or The Interislander. If you are a foot passenger, Bluebridge may be a better option for you as it is located across the road from the train station so is really convenient. I have also found that Bluebridge tends to be a little cheaper. The reason we have used The Interlslander the last couple of times is because of the Plus Lounge, a fully catered, adults only lounge with guaranteed seating. It’s a really relaxing way to start or end your journey and your meal, drinks (and snacks) are taken care of.

The Route: We didn’t take the most direct route to Punakaiki. Being on the motorbike we always look for the scenic coastal routes and twisty roads, trying to stay of big main highways. I would highly recommend Queen Charlotte’s Drive that starts in Picton, taking you around some gorgeous coastline with stunning views, taking you all the way to Havlock.

Food: We carried on to Nelson and stopped for a bite to eat at Burger Culture. Simply scrumptious food. If you’re in the mood for a sugar overload, they have a delicious selection of donuts. And milkshakes, topped with donuts!

Accommodation: We stayed at Te Niaku Lodge which was gorgeous. Our lodge was nestled into the forest, our windows looked out across the canopy. You feel like your in a tree house here. There is also easy access down to the beach where you can watch the setting sun.

Link: Check out this post I wrote, ‘Heading for the West Coast’

Tip: Check your map for directions. We didn’t, we just assumed we were on the right track and ended up taking a rather large detour that added on a fair amount of time.

Charlestown & Westport

The Route: After a long riding day the day before, I had scheduled in a late start. I spent the morning down on the beach, breathing in the fresh ocean air before we made our way to Charlestown for our activity. It’s only a 30 minute drive but the road is sensational. We pretty much had it to ourselves, twisting and turning along the coast enjoying the incredible views. After our activity, we headed another 20 minutes north to Westport to get some petrol before enjoying the great drive back.

Activities: We headed to Charleston for a caving, tubing and glow worm experience with Underworld Adventures. This was a 4 hour tour that was super fun. Caving is such a unique experience and this cave was particularly special, being very much in it’s natural state (no built walkways, hand rails, lighting etc) It also has the most incredible glow worm colony I have ever seen. Honestly, words can’t do it justice, it was out of this world mesmerising!

Food: We loved The Punakaiki Tavern, we had breakfast and lunch there. The hosts were really friendly. The food is what I would describe as simple, hearty, home cooked meals and the outside garden is the perfect place to enjoy the last bit of warmth from the sun before it says goodnight. In Westport we popped into Jimmy’s Restaurant and Bar expecting to grab a quick bite to eat but ended up staying for a couple of hours chatting to a local over some good food and drinks.

Link: Check out my previous post ‘Caving in Charlestown’

Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on your petrol. There’s a station in Westport and Greymouth but nothing in between. They are an hour and a half apart. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself out of gas!

Punakaiki to Franz Josef

The Route: We headed from Punakaiki to Franz Josef, initially along the stunning coast and then through some beautiful rainforst. We made stops in Punakaiki and Hokitika for some activities.

Activities: We didn’t have any planned activities for the day as it was a riding day, but it was a leisurely ride so we were able to make some spontaneous stops along the way. The first being a walk at Pancake Rocks. The rock formations are quite unique as well as the blow holes. We also stopped at Hokitika Tree Top Walk and experienced the forest from birds eye view. In Franz Josef I also managed a short walk along Terrace Walk track which is through some lush, green glacier rainforest.

Food: We had a rather nice dinner at Monsoon Restaurant & Bar located on site at our accommodation. The buffalo cauliflower was delicious and even my carnivorous husband loved these.

Accommodation: Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef has been on my bucket list for a long time so I was really pleased to finally stay here. They have a range of accommodation options to suit every budget. They are in some beautiful grounds – lush rainforest, and centrally located. We also were given a room upgrade when we arrived which was a lovely surprise.

Tip: The blow holes at Pancake Rocks is tidal. If you can time your trip with high tide you will see it in it’s most impressive form. But, even if you can only visit at low tide it would still be worth checking out. At the time of writing, Hokitika Tree Top Walk is on Book Me, so if this is something you are able to book in advance then you should be able to get it at a discounted rate.

Link: You can read more details in this blog ‘Franz Josef Bound’

Franz Josef

Activities: It was a last minute booking through Book Me but we were able to spend the afternoon quad biking through some rainforest, sand dunes and across rivers. It’s a great wet day activity. We did this through Across Country Tour.

Food: The power was out for a while so we weren’t sure if we would be able to get brunch anywhere, fortunately SnakeBite was well prepared. They have a really cool atmosphere, mouth watering counter food and an extensive menu. A great place to sit and watch the world go by when it is pouring with rain (or the power has gone out)

Tips: Even if you are traveling in Summer, go prepared for rain. The West Coast is a very wet place (but it makes the rainforest smell incredible) If your looking for a deal in Franz Josef, be sure to check out Book Me. Or you could even just go for a stroll along the main street, I saw a lot of different deals being offered.

Link: Check out ‘Quad Biking in Franz Josef’

Okarito and Hokitika

The Route: We started heading back up the island, again through the spectacular forest and later along the coast, heading for Hokitika. It’s simply stunning

Activities: Okarito Kayak has been on my bucket list for a long time so I made sure to plan in this little detour. It did not disappoint. The lagoon was mirror like, reflecting the glacier forest and mountains. It is also the breeding site of the Kotuku (White Heron) It was a privilege to get so close to these majestic birds. In Hokitika, take some time to have a wander around the town, check out the beach and take a look at the Hokitika Driftwood sign down on the beach.

Food: We were rather famished after our 3 hour kayak trip so we made a stop in Harihari, a small, rural settlement. We had lunch at the Pukeko Store and Cafe. Filled with some deliciously tempting home baking, pies and friendly service, this was a delightful little stop.

Accommodation: In Hokitika we ended up staying at Mountain Jade Backpackers. I couldn’t find any accommodation that wowed me, at a price I was happy to pay, so we went budget and central. It was a great location, clean tidy facilities and perfect for our requirements.

Tips: Take insect repellent if you go to Okarito Lagoon. They will attack you in thousands!

Link: Kayaking with Herons

Hokitika

Activities: Of course you could buy your own greenstone souvenir, but why buy a pre made one when you can carve it yourself. At Bonz ‘n’ Stonz you create your own piece to take home. Everything you need it provided and there are excellent tutors on hand to help you every step of the way. This was a most excellent day.

Food: If your a pizza lover like me, head to Fat Pipi Pizza. Fresh, simple ingredients, delicious food and a lovely outdoor courtyard. Also try Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen if you are craving a sugar hit.

Tips: Make sure you allow time to sit and watch the sunset. Hokitika is famous for its gorgeous sunsets. Even on an overcast day like we had, it was still a beautiful sight.

Link: Read more about my greenstone carving experience here.

Lewis Pass & Mt Lyford

The Route: This is where we left the West Coast. We could have gone back up country through the West Coast but it would have been a lot of back tracking. Instead we headed over to Canterbury to My Lyford, via Lewis Pass. Its a pretty well known route and a nice bit of road.

Activities: Check out Hokitika Gorge before you leave. You will be wowed by the incredible colours of the water. Its an easy walk too, suitable for all fitness levels.

Accommodation: We splashed out a bit here and stayed at Mt Lyford Lodge. Nestled into the mountains with a couple of spa pools, it was the perfect place to soak away the aches of being on a motorbike for a week, while breathing in the fresh air, watching the sun slip behind the hills and enjoying a drink or 2 at the bar.

Tip: Just be alert on Lewis Pass. It’s a popular road with tourists (along with many other South Island roads.) We drive on the left hand side. There are instances where tourists will get confused and drive on the wrong side. Or sometimes just stop on a blind corner to take photos of the beautiful scenery. A lot of our highways are not like highways you may be familiar with. Narrow, single lane and twisty. Make sure you allow a lots of time.

Link: Turquoise Water, Swing Bridges and Pool.

Kaikoura

The Route: First you will do the inland route to Kaikoura. If your on a bike, just watch out for gravel, there was quite a bit on the road when we did this ride as well as a year ago when we were down that way. From Kaikoura to Picton you get to enjoy more coastal road, this time along the East Coast. Keep an eye out for seals which you can easily spot from the road while driving (Only do this if your a passenger! Eyes on the road driver.) You will see them on the rocks or frolicking about in the ocean.

Activities: If you are in Kaikoura and an animal lover, Kaikoura Seal Swim is outstanding. Don’t go near seals on land, they can be very aggressive. But in the water, just wow. I have heard them be described as dogs of the ocean and they really are. They are playful, curious and so much fun to watch. This experience was a real highlight.

Link: Want to know more about swimming with seals? Read my previous post here.

A few other things

There were a few activities we didn’t get to do on this trip for various reasons, but I want to still mention them here as I think they would be activities that are well worth while.

  • The Wild Kiwi Center in Franz Josef. We ran out of time for this one. Here you will be able to see Rowi, the worlds rarest kiwi, and tuatara, often described as the oldest living dinosaur.
  • Lake Matheson – a glacial mirror lake that is picture perfect. But you want to see it on a nice day to get the full impact of the lake. I have tried to get here twice now. Hopefully it will be third time lucky.
  • In Franz Josef we were booked in for a glacier nature tour with Glacier Valley Eco Tours. This was unfortunately cancelled due to the weather. We were prepared to get wet, but DOC had closed the walking track. We were in the West Coast back in 2012 and were able to do a tour of Fox glacier. It was such a unique experience and I am definitely keen to do something like this again. The difference being that now, if you want to walk on the glacier, you need to do it by helicopter, you can no longer walk in. The tours with Glacier Valley Eco Tours don’t go on the ice but do offer views of the glacier, along with expert knowledge of the area.
  • I was hoping to book in a nighttime kiwi spotting tour with Okarito Kiwi Tours. We unfortunately missed out as they closed up from 2nd Feb, but they reopen again in October so make sure you check them out.
  • At the top of the West Coast is a place called Karamea, home to the Oparara Basin Arches. These natural limestone arches were formed by the Oparara river and sound really impressive. The main reason this one didn’t make it onto our itinerary is because access is down 13km of gravel road. Gravel road is not fun when your on a sports bike.

So there you have it. Some suggestions on how to spend your week on the West Coast. I am sure that you will, like me, fall in love with this part of the country. The people, the forests, glaciers, wildlife, it feels pure and untouched. The glacial rainforest had me captivated. They made me swoon. The vibrant colours, the ancient feel from moss covered trees, it’s unlike any other forest I have experienced before. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Planning a West Coast itinerary? What parts will you be including in your epic adventure?

Discovering Hokitika

Hokitika.

A coastal town in the West Coast of the South Island with a population just under 3000.

We didn’t really know what to expect when coming here. I booked us a couple of nights because it was a convienent stopover point on our way back up the country and I found out you could do greenstone carving here which I thought would be fun.

What we discovered was a delightful town with lots of crafts, great sunsets and fun activities. It’s a place we would both certainly visit again and I feel this town deserves it’s own post

Here are 10 activities we really enjoyed while here:

Greenstone Carving

This is the reason we came to Hokitika. Although a rather pricey activity, Bonz ‘N’ Stonz was a really cool experiance. You begin by selecting your stone and drawing out a design and work through all the different processes, carving, contouring, sanding and polishing to create a unique piece to take home. It is very hands on with excellent tutors to help you along the way and give guidance on how to use the machines and tools. I wrote a whole post on this activity which you can check out here if you would like to know more.

Art Galleries

Turns out, Hokitika is a bit of a crafty town. I had an afternoon free so I took to the shops to check out the local talent. Of course, there is a lot of jade, stone and bone carving jewellery which you can buy if you don’t have enough time to do a workshop like mentioned above (or if crafts are just not your thing.) But there is much more than just this. There are beautiful artworks, lots of painting and photographs of gorgeous West Coast scenery. Hokitika Glass Studio is also a great place to visit and watch the glass blowers in action. It’s a fascinating process to watch.

Fossic for Stones

At fist glance, this may not seem like the most exciting activity, but I probably spent a good hour (a very enjoyable hour I might add) doing just this. Greenstone, while precious, is also quite common. You can find it down on the beach or along the river banks. Take a stroll along the shore and keep a look out for any interesting stones, you never know what you might find. Once you have collected your treasures, you can take them into Bonz ‘N’ Stonz and they will identify them for you.

Hokitika Sign

No trip to Hokitika is complete without a visit to the beach to get a snap of the famous Hokitika driftwood sign. This huge sign perched right on the beach is made entirely from driftwood. It’s creator, Don Neale, made it a few years back as an entry into the town’s Driftwood and Sand competition which happens every January. It has been a permanent feature ever since. With the mighty Tasman Sea as it’s backdrop, make sure you check it out at different times of the day as the light changes behind it.

Watch the Sunset

Hokitika is pretty well known for it’s epic sunsets. Head down to the beach, pack a picnic and watch the sun slowly slip down below the big blue ocean. After a day of fun and excitement, it’s nice to be able to sit back, relax and marvel at how awesome this world is.

Go to the Flicks

I am not usually one for suggesting you spend your time shut away inside, but if the weather is bad or you are wanting a relaxed evening, why not check out the local cinema. It’s in the center of town in a beautiful heritage building. It was built and opened in the 1930’s and still oozes the charm of the art deco period. It seats nearly 400 people and when we went, we nearly had the place to ourselves.

Fudge

Did someone say fudge? Yes please. Yes, I have a rather sweet tooth and just couldn’t resist making a stop at Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen. It is bright and colourful, the cabinets lined with an assortment of tempting treats. (So hard to choose) So why not grab yourself a slice (or two, you naughty thing!) to enjoy while you walk on the beach or wander around the shops.

Mamma Mia Pizzeria

I do love a good pizza. If you do too, then head to Fat Pipi Pizza’s located pretty much on the beach. Dine inside and enjoy the ambience or outside in their delightful courtyard. Or get take away and have a picnic on the beach or enjoy in the comfort of your accommodation if it’s been a long day. Wherever you dine, their freshly made pizzas are sure to be a delight to your taste buds.

Hokitika Gorge

You will need a car for this one as it’s a bit out of town, but if you want to go exploring and stretch your legs, it’s a really great walk. We did a loop walk that took us about half and hour (wearing bulky motorbike gear) along a well maintained, easy walking track. There are lots of viewing platforms looking out at the gorge and your eyes will be treated to some amazing milky blue and turquoise water.

Hokitika Tree Top Walk

Get up high into the canopy and experience the forest from a different perspective. Enjoy walking along side giants and looking down on canopy, experiencing the forest with a bird’s eye view. Walk along 450 meters of platforms, 20 meters up in the air. For those who are brave, climb the tower, 47 meters above the forest floor or head out onto the cantilever and sway in the wind like a tree. You will need a car to get out to Hokitika Tree Top Walk but its a lovely way to spend an afternoon. We did this walk, you can read about our experience here.

Whatever you decide to do in Hokitika, I am sure you will find the town just as delightful as we did. Did I miss something? What have you loved doing in Hokitika?

Greenstone Carving in Hokitika

Today we are stepping out of the box and doing something a bit different.

Greenstone carving.

The Te Reo name for Greenstone is Pounamu. It’s a beautiful stone, found in the South Island. It is highly valued in New Zealand and carvings made from Pounamu play an important part in Maori culture.

I am really looking forward to carving my own stone today which I can take home with me.

We arrive at Bonz ‘n’ Stonz and I take a quick look around the shop at the pendants on display for some last minute inspiration. I have been thinking about this for a while and know I would like to keep it simple and make a drop pendant, but even then, there are so many options it’s a bit overwhelming. Daniel hasn’t given any thought to what shape he will make.

We are introduced to Steve and Niko who are our tutors for the day. The first task is to draw out our shape and choose our stone. These two tasks kind of work simultaneously. The other guy in our class has a picture of what he wants to make. We are not so organised. Both Daniel and I begin flicking through google images to try and decide what we are going to make – it’s a big decision!

I settle on a tapped, rectangular shape which I later am told is called Toki and symbolises strength, determination and courage. (Pretty awesome!) Daniel decides to carve his pendant into the head of a spanner.

There are a couple of containers filled with bits of pounamu so I start looking through it, picking out stones I like the look of and finding the ones that speak to me. It’s quite different to what I am use to seeing. The finished products are always so vibrant and glossy, in it’s natural form it is quite dull and unassuming. There are quite a range of shades, from light green through to very deep, green. There are even some in various shades of brown. It’s hard to choose when they are looking so dull, but if you wipe it with a damp cloth, you get a good indication of what it will look like when it’s polished.

I find a beautiful dark green piece with dark, almost black lines running though it with some lighter highlights. This will make a nice feature. Daniel selects one of the brown stones.

I draw my shape out on paper – a few times. I want to make sure it is symetrical, but also testing out different sizes. I draw it out on the stone in pencil and once I am happy with it, I commit and draw in the line with a marker. One of the tutors then roughly cuts it out, chipping away the stone closer to our drawn line.

Then it’s tool time. We are given aprons and ear muffs and given a quick demonstration on how to use the first tool. It’s like a belt and we have to use it to cut away the stone to the shape we want to make. Some of mine chips away (I am told the stone I picked is very hard) but it doesn’t matter, these will get smoothed away later in the process. Once we have the basic shape, it’s time to contour it. It’s challenging to get it all even, but after some time and perseverance (and some help from Niko) I get it looking pretty good.

The next task is to drill in a hole and make some indentations in the top to make room for the twine to sit. A new tool is required to do this with (a bit like a drill) so again, I am back to learning how to use it. Starting very slow and getting a bit faster as my confidence grows. There is lots of chiseling to do, bit by bit, slowly taking away bits of stone. It’s intricate work but slowly it starts to take shape.

Next it’s time to start sanding. At the start, our tutor told us that he probably spends just as long sanding as he does carving. When I see the 7 sanding blocks in front of me with their various grains, I know I am going to be here a while! I work my way down the blocks slowly so I can get a beautiful finish. Daniel is still carving his spanner – I know we will be here for a while longer so I am in no rush. I think I actually spend more time sanding than I did carving. It’s a slow processes. The stone needs to be wet to sand it, but the scratches and imperfections are easier to see when it is dry, so it’s a repetitive process of wetting, sanding, drying, inspecting then repeat. It’s a mindless task, but I am enjoying seeing the colours and lines start to appear more vividly in my pounamu. It’s getting smoother and smoother beneath my fingers and is starting to look quite stunning. Daniel and I both have trade backgrounds. He was a welder, now mechanic and I was a pattern maker and seamstress. I am really enjoying working with my hands again.

At one stage during the sanding process, a small part chips off. Steve is quick to the rescue and with his masterful skills and 20 years experience, he is able to fix it for me.

After 2 hours of sanding, I decide it’s time for waxing. I move onto the next machine that buffs the stone with wax. I thought it was looking pretty good after the sanding but wowzers! The wax transforms it again. It’s a pretty exciting process to watch.

The next task is to give it a gentle scrub with a toothbrush and some detergent to remove any wax build up and then it gets a quick dip in some baby oil. The twine is added next. It’s a very intricate and complicated processes, wrapping it, weaving it. It needs to be wound tightly and accurately so Niko does this part.

Then, Voilà!

My gorgeous toki pounamu pendant is completed. What a special souvenir to be able to take back home with me. I love the colours in it, and the best part is that I created it. From start to finish, a labour of love. Daniel has done an excellent job with his spanner, shaping it and contouring it, it wasn’t an easy project.

This has been such an amazing and memorable experience. It has taken us 5 hours, but 5 hours well spent I say. If you are ever in Hokitika, make sure you book in a carving workshop with Bonz ‘n’ Stonz. It’s been a real highlight of the trip!

Kayaking with Herons

The mist is hugging the hills. The lush green forest flowing out from beneath it. Once again, I feel like I am on the set of Jurassic Park.

There is no rain today. There is even a patch of sun breaking through the clouds, beaming down on a snowy mountain.

Surely I live in the most beautiful place in the world.

A short, 30 minute drive and we are at our next stop.

Okarito.

I have wanted to come here for a long time. Finally we are here. Today, we will be kayaking on the lagoon, which is home to the Kotuku (White Heron)

We are warmly greeted by our hosts. Again, it is just the two of us on the tour. They have kindly allowed Daniel and I to have single kayaks! Whenever we have been on kayak tours we get put in a double kayak, it’s so nice being able to have our own for a change. I have never seen kayaks like this before though. They have a small rudder at the back with pedals in the front that you control with your toes. I’m potentially going to be going round in circles. It might take me a while to get the hang of this!

Before long we are out on the lake, with a million sand flies. They are everywhere and feasting on my ankles for breakfast! Our guide, Gemma, assures us that they only hang out at the lake shore and will leave us fairly soon. Thankfully they do!

Once we are free from the hungry mouths of sandflies, I am able to start enjoying the perfect conditions. There is not a breath of wind. It’s a bit misty and drizzley, but really, this just adds to the atmosphere. The lake is so flat. It’s like a mirror, beautifully reflecting the land.

Absolute magic!

Not far into our expedition, we spot our first heron. It is magnificent standing there on it’s long, slender legs. It launches into the air and flies right past us, so silently, so elegant and graceful, until it open’s it’s beak. The honking, squawking sound it makes does not match the gracefulness of this bird!

The lake is so silent, the stillness is unreal. I am so used to city noise, but here, there is nothing. Peacefulness washes over me.

We continue our journey up river. It’s very green here. The native forest is filled with rimu, kahikatea, vine rata, wild orchids, flax, manuka. Gemma is very knowledgeable, pointing out all the different trees and answering my many questions about native flora and fauna. I love learning about my country, it’s history, wildlife and plants. This is why I often opt for guided tours over self guided. It costs more, but the experience is so enriched with the knowledge of a local guide.

Paddling further up river I spot little fish hanging out among the river plants. There are kereru (wood pigeon) and the gorgeous, cheeky little piwakawaka (fantail) that flitter about in the low tree branches. This is so incredibly peaceful and I delight in just floating along, listening to all the birds. In the distance I can hear the roar of the ocean.

While paddling back, we spot 2 more herons. They aren’t bothered by kayaks so you can get quite close. Gemma takes us on a different route so we can get closer, but warns us that the water here gets pretty shallow and we might get stuck. Worth the risk I say. The water does get shallow and in the end it is far easier to push yourself along using your hands against the mud bed rather than the paddle. We then run aground and have to get out and drag them. It’s kayaking at it’s finest!

We do manage to get pretty close to the herons though. They are not bothered by us so we enjoy watching them for a while. Totally worth getting wet feet!

Okarito is a very small settlement, a place probably not many people have heard of. I imagine so many would just drive straight by and not even know it was there. They are missing out. This kayak trip was all I had hoped it would be; peaceful, magical and so very special. If you are in the area, make sure you check out Okarito Kayaks.

It’s a breathtaking experience.

We have begun making our way back up country now. Tonight we are staying in Hokitika. It’s 2 hours away so we saddle up and carry on, driving through some splendid rainforest.

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Lunch is in a small rural settlement called Harihari at the local cafe. For such a remote place, I am pleasantly surprised to see they have a vegan kumera and cashew pie on the menu. I also couldn’t resist sampling one of their homemade yoyos. I have to say, it was all pretty delicious.

We arrive in Hokitika, check into our accommodation and then I am straight out to explore the town. There are a lot of art and craft shops, particullary ones selling New Zealand Jade which is quite abundant in the area. I then head down to the beach – I want to see the Hokitika Drift Wood Sign.

A stroll along the beach is next on the agenda. Its a long beach, the sand seems to stretch on for ages. The sand is dotted with many fascinating stones. I collect a few to take home. You can even find pounamu (greenstone) right here on the beach. I pass quite a lot of time, fossicking about, looking for anything that might be greenstone.

I make sure I am on the beach for sunset. It’s not as spectacular as images I have seen of this beach, but it is a bit overcast today. Regardless, it is still lovely to sit on the beach and watch the fading sun as I reflect on the awesome day I have had.