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Situated in Hokitika in the midst of old gold-mining territory, we guessed that Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation was named after an astronomically huge nugget – like the 99-ounce ‘Honourable Roddy’ found in nearby Ross in 1909.
As it happens, Shining Star was named by its founders in a moment of inspiration, for their love of the land they’d just bought and the new life it would bring them.
Migrants from Holland, they would lay down firm roots here on the West Coast, and establish one of a new generation of New Zealand holiday parks.
The Shining Star has shot up on a steep trajectory. It can take decades to create a holiday park with a lived-in feel, to build up facilities and establish mature gardens. In this case it has taken just 15 years.
This is a well-planned park, and one with some unique features, too. A series of drive-on campervan pads, chalets, apartments and cabins are arranged in a pleasing arc around a central hub comprising amenities block, barbecue area and ‘animal farmlet’.
There’s Betty the Auckland Island pig with a face only a mother could love, Zeus and Ali-Khan the Alpacas, and a peep of chickens who’ll try charming you for crumbs.
And when we visited there was a rather contented-looking horse grazing in the front paddock.
Shining Star is just 50 metres from the beach, right on the northern edge of the Hokitika township. It feels peaceful, rural, and organic – and that’s not just down to the whiff of chickenfeed on the breeze.
It’s the log-cabin architecture throughout the park that gives the Shining Star its distinctive atmosphere.
There’s something quite special about these handcrafted buildings in their parklike surrounds. If the aim was to build accommodation in a style that would sit harmoniously in this natural setting, they are a great success.
Our pick are the beachfront chalets. They’ll sleep up to three, but we think they’re just perfect for a couple – their sea views and privacy certainly add a little romance!
Other options include executive apartments, and motel units suitable for families. Thoughtfully designed and showing off plenty of bare wood – both inside and out – all the accommodation feels light, natural and warm.
The interiors are comfortable and stylish, with quality fittings and linens.
The central amenities block is similarly appealing, featuring top-notch appliances and hardwearing surfaces. It’s attractive and homely, with the kitchen and patio particularly conducive to socialising.
The tenting area and campervan pads are all close by, with plenty of grass and picnic benches. The four-acre grounds are attractively planted with natives throughout.
Foot-sore grown-ups will love the infrared sauna and private spa room, with bi-fold doors opening on to a pleasant courtyard.
This is an unusual level of luxury for a holiday park, but we can certainly attest that it’s was a lovely optional extra.
There’s a playground for the children, and a glowworm dell to visit at night.
The beach is just over the fence, but don’t expect Copacabana. Rather, it’s a typical West Coaster, dramatic with crashing waves and piled high with driftwood.
There are ocean sunsets to set your soul alight, while the snowy peaks of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman rise equally impressively in the south. Pure magic.
The Hokitika area has natural wonders left, right and centre. Lake Kaniere is one of our favourites, about 20 minutes drive inland.
It’ll take your breath away, and that’s just the swimming! (Actually, it’s not that cold.) There are picnic areas, forest walkways, and a steep, day-long return tramp to the summit of beautiful Mt Tuhua (1125 m).
Then there’s the Hokitika Gorge, wedged into the foothills of the Southern Alps and reached by a 40-minute drive that is picturesque in the extreme.
This is a classic granite gorge with milky green-blue pools, bounded by vertiginous cliffs and rimu forest. There’s a short walk with viewpoints and interpretation panels.
The Hokitika township (population 3078 at last count) is a total charmer. Packed to the gunwales with local art and craft, it is the unparalleled pounamu capital of New Zealand, luring lovers of jewellery and sculpture from afar.
The best of this fine-looking and durable stone – also known as greenstone, New Zealand jade or Nephrite – is hand-fossicked from the Arahura River Valley, to the north.
As for food and drink, well there’s ample to choose from.
Our picks are breakfast at the Cheese & Deli, a drink or two at the bar of the Beachfront Hotel, and Dulcie’s delectable fish & chips enjoyed at Sunset Point – the perfect way to sample Turbot, the Coast’s most famous fish after whitebait.
Hokitika’s a great place to visit any time of year, and that reputation for relentless rain is largely undeserved. It has almost as many sunshine hours as Wellington and Auckland, and 300 more per year than in London.
Hoki does get almost three metres of rain annually, but as the locals may tell you, it falls ‘mainly at night, in very big drops.’ Winters here are surprisingly mild compared to the rest of the South Island making it a fine time to explore the region.
Crisp days of settled weather and blue skies provide arguably the best views of mountains and there’s much less tourist traffic on the roads.
We reckon Hokitika’s a terrific town, and the Shining Star’s simply stellar.
Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation, Hokitika, West Coast
0800 744 646, 03-755 8921