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Hidden Hokitika Tree Top Walk


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Hokitika’s cool town cachet is well deserved with its artsy vibe, annual Wild Food Festival and rugged West Coast scenery. But the town’s most popular attraction is poised peacefully above your head in a native forest canopy, just south of the Bella Vista Motel.  

Guest blogger, Liz Lyons, shares her family’s experience on the West Coast Tree Top Walk, one of the best things to do in Hokitika. 

Entertaining two teenage boys on a South Island road trip can be a challenging task. The distances are long, the fast-food chains are few, and the Wi-Fi dead zones are parental purgatory. Announce that you’re taking them on a ‘Hokitika tree top walk,’ and the backseat groans are deep and long.  But once my two Neanderthals had sprinted up a 100-step spindly tower to breathlessly take in one of the best views on the West Coast, my reputation as ‘fear factor Mum’ was restored. And best of all: they had no idea this aerial canopy walk even existed. 

It was a rare blue-sky day, when we stepped on the West Coast Treetop Walk, an aerial Meccano-like series of interconnecting steel bridges and viewing platforms, just 15 minutes south of Hokitika. The walkway’s design came from the same team behind four popular canopy walks in Australia, and is now regarded as one of the top things to do in Hokitika, drawing visitors from all over.  

The nearly half-kilometre walkway starts with a gentle ascent into the canopy of Jurassic-looking Rimu and Kamahi trees. Along the way, are informative panels on the rainforest eco system, Hokitika history and the native birdlife. 

The big boy magnet is the ‘Hokitika Tower’, a long spiral staircase leading up to a 40-metre viewing platform, which can sway in the high West Coast winds. 

Luckily the day we visited, the weather played ball and we enjoyed expansive views from a motionless Hokitika Tower, of nearby Lake Mahinapua, the wild Tasman Sea and the snow-capped Southern Alps. The boys even consented to a family photo without pulling faces; a miracle in itself.  

Back on the lower level, the next intrepid stop is the Mahinapua Springboard, a cantilevered viewing platform, which the boys joyfully stomped across, quickly clearing the deck of anxious visitors. The black swans and white herons, gliding peacefully across the serene lake below, ignored the shrieks from the deck above. The boys’ Dad, no less. 

Afterwards, over cheese toasties and C4 coffee at the adjacent Tree Tops café, one of the best outdoor places to eat in Hokitika, my lads boasted about conquering the highest manmade tree walk in New Zealand. While the highlight for their Mum, was getting up close to giant trees and viewing these timeless treasures from the ‘top down.’ Who knows if future generations will get to hover above beautiful rainforest like this? All the more reason to add the Hokitika Tree Top Walk to your ‘Hokitika to Do List’, as this was a memorable experience we’d repeat in a heartbeat.  

More information:  

  • The Hokitika Tree Top walk is a leisurely 45-minute canopy walk along a high steel viewing platform, over 450 metres long.  
  • Pricing: Adults $32, children $16, or $77 for a family of four.  
  • Opening hours: Summer Hours: 9am – 5pm, Winter Hours: 9am – 3:00pm  
  • Fully accessible apart from the narrow tower stairs. A special motorised wheelchair is available on request.  
  • Open rain and shine - umbrella hire and ponchos for sale. 
  • Visit treetopsnz.com 

Getting there: A 15-minute drive south of Hokitika