Hokitika is one of the larger towns along the West Coast, with the pounding ocean before it and bush-covered hills behind. It's a place of simple pleasures: scouting the craft galleries, taking a bushwalk, enjoying the seafood, and looking for evocatively shaped driftwood on the often stormy beach. Hokitika is central enough to take a day trip to Punakaiki or Arthur's Pass. During the height of the gold rushes in the 1860s, Hokitika was New Zealand's busiest port, and had more than 100 hotels. Pick up a Hokitika Heritage Walk brochure (50 cents) from the i-SITE Visitor Centre and explore this rich heritage, along with more recent colonial history. Start with a walk along the Quayside Heritage Area at the southern end of Tancred and Revell streets, and walk along to Sunset Point Lookout. See the old Custom House and river mouth; on a clear day you'll see Mt. Cook across the sea. West Coast rivers are the source of pounamu (jade), which has long been a precious resource for the South Island Māori people, Ngai Tahu. Hokitika is recognized as the center for artists and carvers who create stunning jewelry, from pounamu and other mediums. The town is filled with studios and galleries where you can watch the artists at work, and perhaps take home something special. Wood carvings, pottery, textiles, and photography are also showcased in the galleries, mostly found along Tancred and Weld streets.
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