Looking to hike the Hokitika Gorge Walk and discover the best things to do in Hokitika? You’ve come to the right place!

Please note that this blog post most likely contains affiliate links to products or services I use and love! If you click on the links, it means I get a little extra pocket money at no additional cost to you.
This is what keeps my website ticking over – thank you!

The Hokitika Gorge Walk was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I visited on New Zealand’s stunning West Coast. The short walking trail in Hokitika Scenic Reserve will mesmerise you, from the phenomenally blue waters to the winding forest pathways and iconic Hokitika suspension bridges.

Aside from the stunning podocarp forest, swing bridges, and vibrant blue-green water, Hokitika Gorge is also conveniently located near other West Coast New Zealand scenic gems, such as Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Paparoa National Park, and the wider Southern Alps region. 

The Hokitika Scenic Reserve itself is a 260-acre area of stunning rainforest alongside the rocky gorge and river. Aside from the stunning walk, there are some other fun activities and things to do in Hokitika, so it’s easy to spend a whole day enjoying the beautiful landscapes here.

This blog post contains all my favourite moments from enjoying the Hokitika Gorge Walk and some travel tips for your journey to Hokitika!

The Hokitika Gorge Walk

Beginning from the car park, the track winds through the native bush. This dense forest blocks the blue water from view, which only builds anticipation.

However, you will reach the first viewing platform after a few minutes. This is the only fully accessible part of the track, as the path has been maintained for wheelchair users.

Next, the track transforms into a pretty boardwalk which leads you to the first swing bridge.

Watching the Hokitika River flowing towards the gorge is a beautiful sight! And crossing the first Hokitika Gorge suspension bridge felt pretty exciting, with such gorgeous views all around me.

20220823 140951 01 1

On the other side, I walked about 10 minutes to another viewing platform. From here, I spent some time enjoying Hokitika Scenic Reserve by walking down to the little beach!

Although I was getting attacked by sand flies and a weird little bird who was either trying to attack me or mate with me, it was hard not to feel rejuvenated by the beautiful nature here. (Birds get a bit obsessed with me sometimes, did I ever tell you about the time I got stalked for weeks by a cockatoo?!)

wp 1669968296285
Paddling in the water of Hokitika Gorge!

After a very cold paddle, I continued around the curved boardwalk through the forest, looking over the stunning river when it came into view.

The following suspension bridge is 90 meters long, crossing Hokitika Gorge’s main channel and providing more spectacular views over the Scenic Reserve and beyond towards the Southern Alps.

The last section of the walk is largely more dense forest, though there are glimpses of the river and farmland as you look towards the upper Hokitika Gorge.

Tips for visiting the Hokitika Gorge Walk

How long is the Hokitika Gorge Walk?

The Hokitika Gorge Walk is 2km (1.3 miles) long and takes up to 40 minutes to complete.

It’s an easy and very well-maintained circular track. You may spend a little longer than 40 minutes if you walk down to the little cove in the middle of the track (the only part that requires walking down steps) or take extra photos.

How to get to Hokitika Scenic Reserve

Located between some fantastic New Zealand West Coast highlights, such as Franz Josef Glacier and Pancake Rocks, it’s already in a handy location to add to your South Island itinerary.

The track is just 33km east of Hokitika, the nearest town. The easiest way to get to the Hokitika Gorge is just to mark it in Google Maps and follow the road.

My route took under 30 minutes to arrive at the gorge from Hokitika by turning onto Kaniere Road and continuing on Kaniere Kowhitirangi Road. After remaining on this road for approximately 18km, the road became Johnson Road and then Nielson Road 2km later. Finally, 

Neilson Road turns slightly left and becomes Whitcombe Valley Road. I remained on Whitcombe Valley Road for the final few kilometres, which takes you directly to the Hokitika Gorge Car Park.

Thankfully, the whole route is signposted! So even if you have issues with your map, you’ll still easily find it.

Alternatively, you can also tour Hokitika Gorge through one of the many friendly West Coast New Zealand tour providers.

Address: 3679772, Kokatahi 7881, New Zealand

Facilities at the car park: Basic but clean flush toilets. Ample parking spaces (including large ones suitable for caravans and campervans). The Hokitika Gorge cafe is temporarily closed.

  • Take fly spray!! Sand flies are everywhere. If you want to walk down to the little beach and get closer to the water, this is where the sand flies are most hungry! So don’t let a lack of insect spray spoil your day as you get slowly eaten alive.
  • Take sunglasses, sunscreen, and a phone/camera – you’ll definitely want to take photos. 

What makes the Hokitika Gorge and River so blue?

The river and gorge are given their vivid hue from superfine rock flour!

Whether you describe the water as vibrant blue, green, or turquoise, we can all agree that the colour is quite unbelievable. 

And with many of New Zealand’s aqua-based attractions (such as these beautiful South Island hot springs), the secret comes from the Southern Alps. Here, the once-glacial environment has since eroded and eventually melted, and ancient majestic glaciers have become part of new creeks and rivers. With them, they bring rock flour, which has qualities that reflect back as a startling blue when viewed by us. 

Can you swim in Hokitika Gorge?

Swimming at Hokitika Gorge is not recommended. The gorge may look serene, but the river is dangerous and unpredictable, even in seemingly calm conditions. Sadly, people have died swimming here, so it’s not worth putting your life at risk (and the life of anyone who would try and rescue you). 

(You may have seen photos of people swimming in the gorge, but this was before experts advised against it following the accidents reported.)

wp 1669967656696
Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve and Lake Manihapua Scenic Reserve – two South Island hidden gems!

Things to do in Hokitika

There are many fabulous things to do near Hokitika Gorge Walk. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss – if you have time in your schedule, of course!

Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve

This stunning lake is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful hidden gems. It’s a great place to stop to camp, picnic, or enjoy one of the pretty bush walks that winds around the waterside. Alternatively, this is a unique spot to enjoy water sports.

While visiting Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve, don’t miss the multi-tiered Dorothy Falls. It’s just a 2-minute return walk from the Dorothy Falls car park. You can also swim below the waterfall in the summer, enjoying the cool waters of the plunge pool below. 

Lake Manihapua Scenic Reserve

This shallow lake was once the lagoon at the mouth of the Hokitika River. Today, this pretty spot is an excellent place for tramping, camping, and water activities.

Hokitika Beach

This long beach is best known for its charming ‘Hokitika’ sign, constructed from driftwood. 

It’s a rather rugged spot, better for becoming windswept than sunbathing. But it’s a beautiful spot for walking, surfing, and watching a spectacular West Coast sunset.

wp 1669967656665
Hokitika Beach and the Hokitika Valley

Glow-worm dell

It’s easy to spot signs of the Glow-Worm dell while driving through Hokitika. It’s a free spot to see glow worms along the 50-metre track. Visit at night to spot them, and remember to bring a torch! 

West coast treetop walk and cafe

Besides the Hokitika Gorge Walk, the West Coast Treetop Walk is probably the best thing to do in Hokitika! 

Your treetop adventure will take you through the rainforest canopy as you wander along 450m pathways and a 20m high platform. The main walkway is accessible for wheelchairs (including motorised wheelchairs) and prams and is completely enclosed for safety. Golf carts are also available.

Alternatively, the 47-meter high platform at Hokitika Tower is an excellent climb for beautiful views – as long as you’re not scared of heights. 

The National Kiwi Centre Hokitika

If you’ve been dreaming of seeing a kiwi up close, you can do so right here. The centre protects New Zealand’s famous flightless birds. It aims to not only educate but also help support conservation efforts in the hope that kiwis will be around for the next generation.

The centre also houses other iconic kiwi animals, such as Tuatara and giant eels.

West Coast Wilderness trail

The Wilderness Trail is one of New Zealand’s most popular and accessible cycle trails. It’s a four-day trail winding beside rainforest, lakes, glaciers, and historic architecture. However, choosing a short section of this trail in Hokitika is possible. It’s a great way to fully immerse in the West Coast landscape while remaining on a well-maintained cycle trail.

Where to stay near the Hokitika Gorge Walk

Lake Maninapua DOC Camping: a stunning and straightforward DOC campground with toilets and showers, costing $15. Located by Lake Maninapua, with stunning walks to explore on your doorstep. See the DOC website for booking details. DOC campsite passes can be used here.

Hokitika’s Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels: A friendly holiday park with powered sites for campervans, motorhomes, tent areas, or cute cabins. Accessible facilities, free WiFi, an equipped kitchen or BBQs, lounge area with TV, laundry, and bathroom with free and unlimited showers. Playground onsite and an 18-minute walk from the beach. Book here.

Rimu Lodge: A budget-friendly hideaway with family rooms available and exceptional views over the Hokitika River and mountains. There’s a shared lounge area with a fireplace and breakfast, and all rooms have toiletries and tea and coffee provided. You can also borrow bicycles to explore! Book here.

Big Heart Beach: A private apartment with convenient access to hiking and fishing nearby. Fully-equipped kitchenette, BBQ, living room with TV, and truly fabulous reviews – just look at the mountain and ocean view and the beautiful sunsets on the deck. Book here.

Hokitika Sunset Lodge: Beautiful units with truly amazing views. If you’re looking for 5-star service, they have accommodations with a hot tub and grill! Also, provide continental breakfasts, a sun terrace, and a shared lounge and garden. Book here.

wp 1669967692187

Written by


Hi, I'm Cassie, and I've been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I've backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside living in New Zealand and Australia. Current location? Mexico