Hokitika was first settled in 1860, after the discovery of gold on the west coast. It was an important river port, but many ships came to grief on the notorious ‘Hokitika Bar’ – a sandbar that shifts with every tide. There are some lovely old buildings on the town’s historic walk. You’ll also notice galleries specialising in pounamu jewellery and art works. The Arahura River, which enters the sea just north of Hokitika, is a traditional source of pounamu (greenstone). Gold jewellers, wood turners and potters provide other souvenir opportunities. Hokitika’s icon event is the Wildfoods Festival, which is held at the end of summer. Functional facts: Approx. population 3100, i-SITE Visitor Centre, good range of shops and services.