One of the main purposes of us trialing this trip, along with following and checking the itinerary we had already prepared on a paper, was to discover new places and hidden gems that we hadn’t heard of and seeing how we could then fit them in! We knew we were going to find some real ‘not to be missed’ places either by chance of by recommendation from people we met along the way and so far we have found 2.
Okarito being one of them. Situated on the West Coast, 127km south of Hokitika, this small town is home to around 30 residents and is located right at the southern end of Okarito Lagoon at the mouth of the Okarito River.
We were blown away by the serenity of this place, especially as we were told and shown how the past weeks storm had broken down the big sandbar at the mouth of the river and almost flooded the town. We saw evidence of large trees that had become lodged in the picturesque historic wharf building (apparently one of the most photographed buildings in the South Island)
Here was where we took the morning eco cruise out onto the lagoon with Okarito Boat Tours run by Paula and Swade. A stunning 2hr boat cruise where we saw an array of wildlife and breathtaking views. We have also been told that there are 360-degree panoramic views of the Southern Alps and native forests if you complete the 4.2km Trig Walk from the township. We definitely want to do that next time.
So, we thought we have to include Okarito on our itinerary, so let’s make it happen. On a recommendation from Paula we walked the 200m from the boat business and found ourselves at the community campsite. What a wonderful place. Run and managed by volunteers of the community, there were tent and motor home pitches, a kitchen and lounge area and even hot showers! The location is idyllic and exactly the sort of place we want to show off to our visitors as we believe this is a place not many international traveller’s would see.
Lake Hawea, being the 2nd little gem. We were headed to Wanaka and had prepared for a 2 night stay there, however 15km before arriving from the north we stumbled across a beautifully scenic campsite located right on the southern end of Lake Hawea. We couldn’t not stay. A huge grassy campground with all the facilities, yet with the peacefulness of not being in the centre of a town. Surrounded by hills and mountains there were plenty of tracks, walkways and cycleways and some stunning swimming spots. Close enough to get into Wanaka town too, and experience its’ Lake, ‘that famous Wanaka tree’ and all that Wanaka has to offer.
We loved staying at Lake Hawea and felt very relaxed there.We will definitely be including this on our itinerary!
We’re looking forward to discovering more interesting and beautiful places.
CHECK OUT OUR SNIPPETS OF LIFE ON THE ROAD IN THE VIDEO BELOW!