View of the Ōkārito from above
Image: Andris Apse ©

Introduction

Ōkārito is a coastal settlement bounded by ocean, estuary, sea cliffs, lush forest and unsurpassed views of the Southern Alps. This small village is now home to around 30 permanent residents, but it was once a gold mining boom town.

Highlights

Be sure to visit Donovan’s Store and the Ōkārito wharf to learn more about this town that almost reverted into the wilderness – take the time to explore and imagine what it was like in days gone by.

Place overview

Activities

  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Walking and tramping

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Ōkārito area

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Heritage sightseeing

The small town of Ōkārito was established in October 1865 during the West Coast gold rush. Now home to around 30 permanent residents, it was once a gold mining boom town.

Visit Donovan's Store, or stay at the Historic Ōkārito School House.

Kiwi Guardians programme

Take your family on a Kiwi Guardians adventure. Kiwi Guardians is a free, fun and easy way for 6-10 year olds to get to know this special place - grab a map, go and explore, and earn a reward! More about Kiwi Guardians

Whitebaiting

Whitebaiting at Ōkārito. Photo: Wayne Costello.
Whitebaiting at Ōkārito

Whitebaiting is very popular in Ōkārito and in season there are often good catches to be had at the mouth of the Ōkārito Lagoon. Make sure you obey the regulations.

View the whitebait regulations

Kayaking and canoeing

A great way to explore the lagoon and view the surrounding landscape.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    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.

    White heron/kōtuku

    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.

    Rowi

    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

    Getting there

    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.

    Contacts

    Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 3 752 0360
    Email:   westlandnpvc@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   Co-located with Franz Josef i-SITE
    69 Cron Street
    Franz Josef Glacier 7856
    Full office details
    Hokitika Office
    Phone:   +64 3 756 9100
    Email:   hokitika@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   10 Sewell Street
    Hokitika 7810
    Full office details
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