A small, remote settlement on the West Coast of the South Island, 20 minutes north of the busy Franz Josef Glacier, Ōkārito is 10km off the main highway down a side road that leads through the pristine lowland forest of Westland Tai Poutini National Park, to the rugged shores of the Tasman Sea.
With a permanent population of about forty people, Ōkārito has no shop or restaurant; it’s a simple, quiet and unspoilt town, one of the few places where natural quiet and light still exist.
Nightlife is the booming of the sea on the beach, or if you’re lucky, the call of the Rowi/Ōkārito Brown Kiwi – all lit up by stars to the horizon.
Park the car. You won’t need it. Everything in Ōkārito is within a few minutes walk; get lost, and, well, just follow your ears to the sea, or ask a local.
Bring all supplies with you – we’re locally famous at Okarito Kayaks for our espresso coffee and home-made ice-cream, but everything else should come with you.
Still, that doesn’t need to be much here – sausages & marshmallows for cooking over a small simple beach campfire; bait for the fishing line & a torch for those cloudy nights where you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Slow down. You’re here.
There’s more than just the incredible kayaking on the lagoon to explore here.
The rugged, driftwood-strewn beach is easily accessible for fishing, relaxing by a small, simple campfire, or just exploring on foot. Beautiful forest walks lead up to the Ōkārito Trig viewpoint, or further along the historic pack track to Three Mile Lagoon, both breaking out to stunning mountain views.
Fishing, hunting, bird-viewing, walking – even upping your tennis skills coping with the erratic bounce at the Ōkārito Tennis Court – as well as regular music gigs at the historic Donovan’s Store – Ōkārito offers a simple, laid-back & genuinely Kiwi experience for all visitors, local and international.
For a small, uncommercial little town, there’s actually some really good accommodation options.
Ōkārito Campground is a peaceful, great low cost option to stop and stay a while, for those with a campervan or tent. The campground is operated by the local Community Association, & all funds raised by the campground go towards paying for local facilities. No booking is required; just rock up and say g’day to the hosts.
All other accommodation in Ōkārito can be found online, on either AirBnB or HolidayHouses.co.nz – from cosy little cottages, to full size houses sleeping up to eight people. Accommodation does get pretty busy through the most of the summer especially, and with a limited numbers of places to stay, can often be fully booked. Franz Josef Glacier town, just a twenty five minute drive away, has dozens of commercial accommodation options, & literally thousands of beds – even these though can end up fully booked at times, given the natural beauty of the region that attracts visitors.
Erm … limited.
You won’t find a lot to spend money on here in Ōkārito … but there are a couple of hidden gems; local craft items like the beautiful, individually handmade Ōkārito Design fabrics made by local artist Mel, that are available at Okarito Kayaks.
Ōkārito is also home to the Ōkārito Sandfly Repellent factory, hosted in our friends Ed & Rich’s spare room – this great, child and environment-friendly product is essential for the occasional cloudy, still days that sandflies love.
You can peruse the limited number of these items over a legendary elusive slice of Gemma’s home-made Carrot Cake, on the rare day it hasn’t all disappeared by 10am. The same legendary status applies to the home-made ice-cream available, that locals drive 60km round trips to get.
Soak up this stunning natural environment. Hire a kayak to independently explore these ancient waterways at your own pace or let one of our experienced guides take you on an intimate tour through pristine wilderness.
Options available for all ages and any fitness level.