Nature and conservation
Okarito Lagoon showing reflection of the Southern Alps in the water, Westland
Stunning and diverse scenery dominates the small coastal settlement of Ōkārito - windswept coastline, tidal estuary, lagoon, sea cliffs, lush rainforest and unsurpassed views of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.
Thousands of native birds (more than 76 different species) visit the Ōkārito Lagoon and many make their home in the vicinity, including the famous kōtuku/white heron and royal spoonbills.
Royal spoonbills on Ōkārito Lagoon
The kōtuku is sacred to Māori and its only New Zealand breeding colony is north of the Ōkārito lagoon on the bank of the Waitangiroto River.
The breeding site is a nature reserve, open from late October to the end of February and requires an entry permit. White Heron Sanctuary Tours, based at Whataroa, operate trips into the colony.
Pingao, Ōkārito coastline
A small population of the rare rowi kiwi exists in a 98 square km area where DOC is involved in a kiwi recovery programme.
Get more information about rowi.
Drive 15 km north from Franz Josef Township on State Highway 6 to an Ōkārito Forks turnoff signposted on the left. Drive 13 km along a sealed road to Ōkārito.
If you'd like to visit Donovan’s Store, it is on ‘The Strand’, the main street in Ōkārito, approximately 130km south of Hokitika.
Know before you go
Many lives have been lost to quick sand and swift flowing water along west coast beaches. It is extremely dangerous to attempt to cross river mouths or lagoons running out to sea.
As well as comfortable footwear you are advised to carry wet weather gear on all West Coast walks. You will need insect repellent for the ever-present sandflies in this area.
There are no shops or service stations at Ōkārito so make sure you have enough food and fuel for your visit. Coffee is available at one of the local businesses.