View of the Ōkārito from above

Image: Andris Apse | ©


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.


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


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


In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Ōkārito area

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.


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.


Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 752 0360
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   69 Cron Street
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Postal Address:   PO Box 14
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Hokitika Office
Phone:   +64 3 756 9100
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   10 Sewell Street
Hokitika 7810
Postal Address:   Private Bag 701
Hokitika 7842
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