Ōkārito is the sort of place where you can just relax and unwind; or get active and go exploring. Watching the sun set on the ocean from the beach is incredibly special, as is seeing birds in their natural habitat or taking in the stunning wilderness scenery.
Choose from beach wanders or national park tracks. Climb up to the Ōkārito Trig (158m) for expansive views – Tasman Sea to the Southern Alps. The historic Three Mile Pack Track is another great option including one way walking through kamahi, kahikatea and rimu forest; Three Mile Lagoon, and a return along the coast (low tide only). A short drive away, Pakihi Track traverses swamp and forest to a viewpoint – a favoured location for hearing kiwi calling at night. Guided walks and small group tours can be arranged.
Ōkārito Lagoon, surrounded by native forest and sand spit, is New Zealand’s largest unmodified coastal wetland (3,340 ha). Sheltered waterways can be explored by watercraft – local operators offer boat tours or hire a kayak and paddle independently. Drifting beneath forest canopy on a misty day is mesmerising as are the incredible views of Aoraki from the lagoon when the sky clears.
Ōkārito is a bird watchers paradise with over seventy species of native birds including kōtuku (white heron), fernbirds, bittern, kea, and falcon. Migratory birds are welcomed springtime arrivals. In the campground wake to the song of tuis or bellbirds. At dusk listen to ruru (morepork) or join a local operator for a guided kiwi tour and see rowi (Ōkārito brown kiwi) – the rarest of all kiwi species.
Favourite local swimming places include Ōkārito and Three Mile Lagoons; and Lake Mapourika. (Note: Due to undertow and rip currents it is dangerous to swim from the beach or near the Ōkārito Lagoon mouth)
Surf casting at Ōkārito Beach and trolling or fly fishing in the lagoon and nearby lakes are some of the opportunities available.
Art, Craft and Coffee
Andris Apse photographic gallery in Ōkārito with its limited edition prints and books will inspire you. Check out Ōkārito Kayaks and Glacier Valley Eco-tours if you are looking for local crafts or crave a coffee.
Ōkārito has a fascinating past. Following early Māori settlement; Ōkārito briefly became a gold mining boom town in the 1860’s. To find out more, go for a village stroll and view the interpretive signage at the old boatshed on the wharf. Also look out for Donovan’s Store (the oldest building on the West Coast) and the historic hostel (School House).