Ruggedly beautiful landscapes, abundant local resources & a laid back lifestyle has inspired the growth of a talented artisan community on the West Coast.
The West Coast is one of the best places in the country to purchase a quality pounamu (greenstone/jade) piece, pottery, glass art, paintings and more.
The pioneering, self-reliant culture and history of the West Coast strongly influences the artists that live here. The 'Coast' - as locals call it - is steeped in Maori culture and legend, which inspires a lot of the stories and styles behind carvings, painting and art work. In 2013, the book 'The Luminaries' - set in the 1860's West Coast gold rush era - won the Man Booker prize, helping to put this region well and truly on the map.
Instead of busy streets or malls, you'll find charming boutiques, artists’ workshops, inspiring galleries and live pounamu carving demonstrations.
Visiting Hokitika is like stepping back in time - the small town was first settled after the discovery of gold in the mid-1800’s, and many of the old buildings still remain.
When it comes to authentic New Zealand souvenirs, this is the place to be. Gold jewellers, wood turners and boutiques full of one-off pottery pieces line the streets; but it is pounamu (greenstone) that this town is famous for. Many arts and craft stores have working carvers who will tell you about the stone they are working with, where it came from and the story behind the design they are carving. Maori tradition says it is bad luck to buy Pounamu for yourself, so make sure you have somebody there who can purchase it for you.
Westland Greenstone produces a wide range of pounamu jewellery, sculptures and ornaments, and Mountain Jade Hokitika has a great retail shop with plenty of carvings and sculptures on display. If you’re more interested in experiencing the source and history of pounamu in Hokitika, get in touch with Arahura Greenstone Tours to take a tour on the Arahura River, one of the richest sources of pounamu in New Zealand.
Two of Hokitika's high-quality bespoke jewellers, inspired by kiwi flavour, are TP Goldsmith and The Gold Room. An awesome range of Possum products can be found at Possum People in Weld Street, and beautiful creations made of stones can be found at William Steyn Stone Painter and Stone Mats.
Find a range of locally made goods and tasty treats at the Hokitika Market, held every Saturday year-round. Discover woodwork, honey, pounamu jewellery, candles and delicious treats. Held at the Information Centre during summer and Hamilton Street in winter.
A town similar to Hokitika but larger in size, Greymouth also has a history of jade hunting, gold mining and an arty community. There are plenty of galleries here specialising in Pounamu - visit Garth at Garth Wilson Jade for live pounamu carving demonstrations and the chance to hear the stories and history behind the stone.
Rock Box Gallery and Left Bank Art Gallery both display the works of talented local artists. For unique photography that reflects the culture and landscapes of the West Coast, head to the Stewart Nimmo Gallery.
Every Sunday year-round you'll find the local Greymouth Market, where you can meet the locals and discover handmade jewellery, woodwork, knitting and plenty of tasty artisanal treats. Held at Tai Poutini Polytechnic all year from 10am - 2pm.
When you visit the iconic Lake Matheson, make sure you visit ReflectioNZ Gallery(opens in new window), offering a range of quality wares with a distinct New Zealand flavour. If you're driving through Kumara Junction, the Junction Cafe and Honey Centre is worth a stop - take their bee tour while here. The small West Coast town of Okarito is home to limited edition New Zealand images from internationally-renowned landscape photographer Andris Apse.