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Hokitika's Driftwood and Sand festival

Tasman sea is usually very rough and washes ashore wood that has been uniquely transformed by water, salt and rocks. This, after being scrupulously sorted by the artists, is turned into sculptures or representations. 

driftwood, Hokitika Beach
driftwood, Hokitika Beach

The drive around the New Zealand’s south island unearths what this new defined seventh continent most spectacularly hides in secret. The nature at its most interesting form: diversity. 

Fertile plains, snowy peaks, icy ocean crafted cliffs and pluvial forests follow each others as the kilometers scroll in the odometer. The most scenic and the best part of New Zealand, as defined and recognized by everyone, in terms of natural diversity and spectacularly, is an appealing destination for van-life loving. 

However, most of the tourists prefer the central and east side of this island, as offer blue turquoise lakes, memorable hikes and enos-gastronomic experiences. Certainly, you do not expect to find a festival that celebrates driftwood.

On the other hand, the West Coast is the least populated and spreads out for roughly 600 kilometers, from the UNESCO world heritage Haast area to the memorable Abel Tasman National Park. 

My only regret while reaching Haast from Wanaka through the Haast pass is not having refueled before. Haast is an incredible place for conservation and biodiversity but fuel is as expensive as nowhere, and this is not getting any better if driving north, until you reach Hokitika, 300 km north.

hokitika drifwood and sand festival
Hokitika drifwood and sand festival

Along this drive there are many places where to stop, breath and be grateful for what you are seeing. 

One peculiar stop is Hokitika. The city lays roughly half way from Haast and Abel Tasman and is mostly known for the aqua marine blue rivers Hokitika Gorge. 

However, once a year a very typical event brings people from all over the island to its coast: the Hokitika driftwood and sand festival. 

Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika beach
Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika beach

This festival is widely famous among kiwis and brings thousands of people each year, at the end of January, in the city. Artists are called to collect driftwood and assemble them to shape ideas and concepts.

But, who are the artists?

Basically everyone who feels inspired, but also who just wants to spend time or try something new, is invited to express itself. A quick registration at Sunset Point, near the shipwreck, makes the sculptures eligible.

Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika
Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika

I had the lucky of passing by Hokitika at the end of January 2024, exactly when this festival took place.

The sculptures are judged and prizes vary according to different categories: Most natural, most humorous, most ambitious, most avant-garde are just some of them.  Prizes are up to 300 dollars in cash. 

Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika
Driftwood sculptures, Hokitika


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