Hokitika was our first visit to a beach in New Zealand and it didn't disappoint. We had a very long travel day from Wanaka to the west coast of the South Island and then made our way up the stunning coastline. Hokitika is a town of about 3,000 with a main street just a block off the beach. It was founded in 1864 as part of a gold rush in the area and The Luminaries is set here.
The surf is rough and the beach is strewn with driftwood, shells, and rocks. We lucked out and our cozy beach cottage had a deck and a huge lawn that led directly to the beach. It was perfect for enjoying morning coffee and for doing "hammock," Blythe's favorite activity (see photo below).
Like every place in New Zealand, there is hiking nearby. My parents walked the Hokitika Heritage Trail one afternoon while Blythe (miraculously) napped and I read, but mostly we relaxed, puttered around town, ate good meals (pizza at Fat Pipi's), and enjoyed the yard and beach. The water was too rough for Blythe, but Rob and I fought the current and had fun splashing around. The beach is unique - it's strewn with driftwood and perfectly round gray pebbles. At the end closest to town, the large Hokitika River joins the ocean. The water temperature is definitely invigorating - we aren't in Kauai anymore!
Blythe played in the yard and a tiny, gray cat who we nicknamed "Lady Gray" befriended us and enjoyed sitting on our deck. One night, we all piled in our minivan after dark and visited the Glow Worm Dell, which sounds touristy and is, but for a reason - at night the dell alights with the larvae of the glow worms, which hang down in strands. It's eerie and beautiful and worth the 2-minute drive out of town to reach the dell.
We had spectacular weather when we were in Hokitika, but apparently this isn't the norm (which people in town told us over and over). It's definitely a sleepy spot, but sometimes that is just what you need.
It seems to be a town in transition - from a booming gold rush town to an industrial spot (there is a large dairy plant here) to a beach destination. It felt like we stepped back in time about 40 years, but in a good way. After having been in Queenstown and Wanaka, Hokitika was a welcome break from tourist hot spots and we loved our two days here.