Why Hokitika Gorge is a Must-Visit
Picture this: You wake up to the gentle sound of the Tasman Ocean on the West Coast of New Zealand. Just a thirty-minute drive from your cosy accommodation at Lake Mahinapua Hotel awaits one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions: Hokitika Gorge. This natural wonder is a must-see on your Hokitika bucket list. Before you set off, don’t forget to grab your morning pick-me-up from our onsite coffee bar and snacks from the cabinet!
You’ve seen the pictures online – the vibrant floury-blue glacial waters, giant moss-covered rocks, sheer-walled white granite cliffs, and lush age-old native rainforest that characterise Hokitika Gorge. Its stunning natural beauty, along with the pleasant Hokitika Gorge Walk through the pristine podocarp rainforest make it a travel destination you don’t want to miss.
What to Expect at the Hokitika Gorge Walk
The Hokitika Gorge Walk is an unforgettable 1.2km (one way), 45-minute bush walk that caters to adventurers of all levels. The well-maintained track, fantastic viewpoints and close proximity to the river make it an exhilarating outing.
Starting from the west side of the parking area, a gentle 15-minute stroll through an enchanting mature forest leads you to a viewpoint offering breathtaking views of the river and the expansive farmlands of the upper Hokitika Valley. Continuing another 250 m along the meandering trail you’ll encounter the Upper Hokitika Gorge Suspension Bridge. Embedded within lush Rimu, and Kamahi forest the bridge spans a flood channel and an island before crossing the primary channel of the Hokitika Gorge. The bridge presents unparalleled and incredibly photogenic views of the gorge, surrounding mature forest and the foothills of the Southern Alps.
Photo credit: Fraser Clements
Following the river from the bridge, a curved walkway offers additional river vistas, the impressive structure of the Upper Hokitika Gorge suspension bridge and a mountainous backdrop. After a leisurely 5-minute walk the trail crosses Elf Creek where you can observe how the water has intricately sculpted the granite bedrock. Further along, another viewing platform provides more opportunities to admire the river and the gorge’s steep walls.
As the trail continues to wind through the mature forest, boardwalks guide you past small waterfalls offering glimpses of the turquoise river through the trees. The trail extends another 200 m through the bush, crossing a small bridge to a second viewing platform showcasing the gorge’s upstream and downstream views. There’s also access to a small beach here. Simply retrace your steps and follow the clear signage to return to the parking area.
Preparing for a Self-Guided Hike
The journey from Lake Mahinapua Hotel to Hokitika Gorge and your ensuing hiking experience is straightforward. We have collated a few key tips to help make your half-day adventure effortless and absolutely epic!
Directions from Lake Mahinapua Hotel to Hokitika Gorge
If you have cellular data, you can easily navigate to the Hokitika Gorge by searching for it on the Google Maps app. If you prefer to follow written directions – from Lake Mahinapua Hotel head towards Hokitika on State Highway 6 and turn right onto Stafford St (at the first roundabout just after you cross the Hokitika River) which becomes Kaniere Rd, then Kaniere-Kowhitirangi Rd. South of Kokatahi, the road turns sharp left, then sharp right. Turn left into Johnston Rd, right into Nielson Rd, and left into Whitcombe Valley Rd.
West Coast Weather
After heavy rain the gorge water can temporarily lose its brilliant turquoise blue color – although it is still beautiful. We recommend checking the weather before heading to the gorge. If you are planning to be in the area for a few days, try and line up your visit to the gorge on a fine day or even a day or two after rain so as to increase your likelihood of encountering it in its bluest form.
If you’re wondering what you may need for your Hokitika Gorge Walk, here’s a quick checklist:
Water: A water bottle is a must.
Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days the New Zealand sun can be harsh.
Snacks: Energy bars or fruit to keep you fueled.
Camera: You’ll want to capture the surreal beauty of one of New Zealand’s most popular Tourist Attractions.
Walking Shoes: Make sure your shoes are comfortable and made for a day of walking on various terrains. The rocks around the river can be slippery!
Weather Proof Jacket & Warm Clothes: The weather on the West Coast of New Zealand is changeable at short notice, so it pays to take a rain jacket and a warm layer of clothing!
Insect Repellent: Venturing inland amidst the West Coast bush and close to rivers, especially around dawn or dusk, you may find yourself batting off pesky mosquitoes and sandflies so be sure to pack a good sandfly and mosquito repellent.
The Lake Mahinapua Hotel as Your Adventure Base
Why is the Lake Mahinapua Hotel such a great starting point for your adventure? You can engage in recreational activities right on your doorstep such as bush hikes, swimming at the lake, bird watching, kayaking, petanque, yoga, bonfires and sunsets at the beach, helicopter flights, spa pool and sauna, glow worms, jade carving, and more. Not only this, but you will find the vibrant little town of Hokitika only a 10-minute drive north of the hotel, home to an array of guided tours and more hiking and adventure opportunities. After your day’s adventure, return to your accommodation at Lake Mahinapua Hotel and tuck into our West Coast-infused all-day menu either at the onsite Bar & Eating House, alfresco in the beer garden, at the lake, or beach!
Stay at Lake Mahinapua Hotel
Lake Mahinapua Hotel truly embodies quintessential Westland New Zealand hospitality. This iconic hotel has been welcoming travelers since its establishment in 1905. The hotel offers not just a diverse range of holiday accommodation options but also an authentic West Coast experience. After a day of exploration, unwind in our shared spa pool, outdoor shower, and sauna area and satisfy your hunger at the onsite bar & eating house.
There is Something for All Travelers
From the rustic charm of the Miners Huts to the comfort of private cabins and family-friendly abodes – there’s something to accommodate everyone at Lake Mahinapua Hotel. For those who are exploring New Zealand on wheels, camper-van parks and lockable bike racks are also available.