45km (28 miles) S of Greymouth; 147km (91 miles) N of Franz Josef Glacier

As you drive into the quiet, rather forlorn-looking township of Hokitika, you'll find it hard to believe that it was once a boisterous "Goldfields Capital," where more than 35,000 miners and prospectors patronized more than 102 hotels and kept the dance halls roaring. As many as 80 boats would be docked at the wharves, many of them waiting to transport gold out of the area.

Sadly for Hokitika, the gold supply was finite; when the rush died, so did the wild, carefree days. The economy took a downward turn, and the livelihood of most of today's 3,500 residents is based on farming, forestry, and tourism. But the town is renowned for the Wildfoods Festival, held each March, and it is the place to buy crafts on the West Coast. During the summer months, it's probably the cheeriest and busiest of the West Coast towns. It has 1,850 sunshine hours annually and 2,783 millimeters (110 in.) of rainfall - keep your wet-weather gear handy if you're staying for any length of time.