The birthplace of Pounamu
Made in the heart of the earth, shaped by countless rivers, carved by master craftsman, Pounamu - also known as New Zealand jade or greenstone - is at the heart of Jade Country. The area teems with galleries due to the large artisan community and also boasts some unique attractions including the "must do" West Coast Treetop Walkway and the Hokitika Gorge. Hokitika is a cool beachside town with two nearby lakes and if you fancy an easy cycle, the new West Coast Wilderness Trail traverses historic trails through the interesting townships of Kumara and Ross via Hokitika. Harihari has an aviation history with the first trans-Tasman flight mistakenly ending up upside down in the local swamp.
Jade Country includes Kumara and takes in Hokitika, Pukekura and HariHari.
Best places to visit in Jade Country
Conveniently located half way between Greymouth and Hokitika you will find the historic town of Kumara. As an entry or exit point to the new West Coast Wilderness Trail, Kumara has enjoyed a recent revitalisation. The local community has spent much time and effort in creating historic attractions which bring the rich history of the area to life for visitors. The area is known for its West Coast hospitality and has a history of sawmilling and gold mining, with a large gold dredge once working the nearby Taramakau River. There is a gas station, dairy and a lovingly refurbished hotel which offers dining and accommodation in Kumara.
There are several short walks to historical sites in Kumara to do. Londonderry Rock is worth a visit. This walk passes over tailings and old gold workings, ending with a view of Londonderry Rock - a huge boulder too large for miners to move or break. Visit the old Swimming Pool where groups used to gather to swim and play in the 1930s.
Gold mining history is evident in areas just south of Kumara including Goldsborough and Stafford.
Being near the Taramakau River and the ocean, Kumara offers many activities for such a small town.
Fishing is popular on the river and at the river mouth and hunting is available in the nearby mountains, kayaking on the nearby Kapitea Dam is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon and a gloworm dell is situated in the town centre.
Visit the town as an overnight stop or start/end point of your cycle on the four day, easy West Coast Wilderness Trail – a good place to rest that saddle sore butt!
Kumara hosts some of the West Coast's largest and most popular events. including the annual Kumara Horse Races. Thousands don fancy hats and flock to town for a bet and a bit of family fun. Kumara Beach is the starting point for world premier multi-sport race Speight’s Coast to Coast. It is a real buzz to watch the race start at dawn on such a picturesque beach.
Find out all of the events currently on in the West Coast
Situated right on the beach, the cool little town of Hokitika is the main centre in Jade Country. There are a multitude of shops, galleries, services, dining options and accommodation in Hokitika. There is also an airport in Hokitika with direct flights from Christchurch. Your first stop is right at the entrance to town at the Hokitika iSite Visitor Centre.
It's not hard to get a feel for how it used to be from the many historical places and attractions in Hokitika. A self-guided heritage walk takes in the most memorable historic sites or you can go high tech and use augmented reality to view old images on your mobile phone. The Hokitika Museum has excellent displays of pounamu, mining and whitebait and offers a tour with a interesting historical character as your guide. There are many historical walks in Hokitika including the Lake Kaniere Water Race Walk and Rimu Lookout and the local cemetery and lighthouse at Seaview offer interesting places to stop.
The beach is at the heart of Hokitika. Keep an eye out for a piece of pounamu washed down from the rivers as you beachcomb. On a good day you will get stunning views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook and the sunsets are legendary.
You can also wander around town to watch world-renowned pounamu carvers at work in their studios or even carve a piece yourself. The arts and crafts community in Hokitika is large and includes photographers, painters, gold and silver smiths, glass blowers, sculptors, wood turners and potters.
An interesting wildlife attraction in Hokitika is the National Kiwi Centre where you can see live kiwi, feed some very large eels or admire the ancient tuatara. An easy walk, the Glow Worm Dell at the north side of town offers a great light display. Make sure you go at night!
Hokitika is an entry and exit point for the new, easy West Coast Wilderness Trail. The sections around Hokitika go through rainforest, by lakes, historic water races and provide amazing views of the surrounding mountains. For the more experienced, head to the hills for some great mountain biking trails at Blue Spur.
Hokitika is lucky to have two lakes within short drives of town. Visit Lake Mahinapua for a wealth of family friendly walks including the Mahinapua Walkway and some good swimming in the warmer months. Just past Lake Mahinapua, you will find the "must do" West Coast Tree Top Walkway and Café. The 20 metre high steel platform gives you a birds-eye view of rainforest, the lake, surrounding mountains and the sea. It's a New Zealand first. Lake Kaniere is a stunning spot for picnicking, water skiing, kayaking, and fishing. Good walks at Lake Kaniere include Lake Kaniere Walkway gives great views of the lake and the more adventurous can tackle Mt Tuhua for 360 degree views.
There are some unique and iconic events in Hokitika. The strong link to the arts is reflected in the annual Driftwood & Sand – a festival where people make amazing sculptures out of materials they find on the seashore. These are left for all to admire until the tide reclaims them. And you can challenge your taste buds at the legendary Wildfoods Festival where huhu grubs, kangaroo and possum can all be found on the menu.
Just south of Hokitika is Ross, famous for being the spot where New Zealand’s largest ever gold nugget was unearthed - the “Roddy Nugget”, weighing a massive 3.1kg.
Learn about the town's heritage and hire a gold pan to try your hand at the Ross Goldfields Information Centre – you might just find your own “Roddy”. Alternatively, head to the river where there is also a public gold fossicking area.
The Ross Historic Goldfields walks offer a range of fun with mine tunnel entrances, mining relics and an historic cemetery on show. They are great fun for the family. There is even a curio room available for free viewing.
Near Ross is the Totara Valley, a good place for an easy half day mountain bike.
Between Pukekura and Harihari
Pukekura - population of 2! This small town is world famous for its Possum Pies and the Bushman Centre, where a you can see a film about ‘How the West Coast was Tamed’.
Like many lakes in this part of the Coast Lake Ianthe was hollowed out during the dying stages of the last great ice age 14,000 years ago. There are two beautiful picnic spots and a Department of Conservation camping ground here.
Hari Hari has the widest main street in the South Island and is a great money earner for police with their speed detectors! It is a little known fact that Hari Hari is the landing site of the first solo Trans-Tasman flight. Australian Guy Menzies went off course during his 1931 flight and 11 hours 45 minutes after leaving Sydney crash landed upside down in the La Fontaine swamp. There is a replica of his biplane on the main road. The 2.5 hours Hari Hari Coastal walk here is well worth the effort.
Travel Distances and Times
For place names, hover over the yellow dots. Click on them to check for travel distances/times from Hokitika (in red);
More Information on Jade County area