Some of the best travel finds come when things don’t go to plan. When weather conditions prevented us from doing a helicopter trip to Franz Josef at the planned time, we were left with an afternoon for exploring. We decided to check out the small town of Okarito. The main attraction was the Okarito Wetland Walk which looked accessible in the photos we checked out online and proved to be a lovely easy walk in person.
OKARITO WETLAND WALK
The quiet town of Okarito is home to approximately 30 residents but was once a booming town during the gold rush era in the mid-1860’s. Incredibly it is said that in the 1860’s 500 men arrived in Okarito in one day, hopeful of making their fortune.
Like many towns which boomed in the gold rush era, Okarito is now somewhat deserted. It’s lovely to see the residents that do call it home have ensured history has been preserved. Donovan’s Store, which is reportedly the oldest remaining commercial building on the West Coast of New Zealand, is a colourful building for lovers of photography.
Nature has taken advantage of the now quiet town and Okarito and Okarito Lagoon is home to 76 species of native birds, this provided us with a challenge to spot some while taking a walk.
We take any opportunity to head into nature and enjoyed the 20 minute return accessible Okarito Wetland Walk. Leaving the car park we took the path through bush before crossing the estuary on a curving boardwalk.
We didn’t spot too many birds but we were fascinated by the intricate spider webs which I now know to be called Nursery spider webs (thanks to Kim from Grab Your Wheels New Zealand). They are dotted throughout and look like mini white fairy floss (candy floss) from a distance.
The Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary backs onto the lagoon and is home to a rare Kiwi species called the Rowi. We weren’t staying till evening to check out the tours so I don’t know if they are accessible but I suspect not.
Although this is only a short walk, it’s such a joy to find such a level, easy, accessible walk to enjoy as a family. Parking is available near the start of the walk and there’s even accessible bathroom facilities available.
If visiting the Okarito Wetland Walk make sure you don’t leave without stopping off at the waterfront to check out the Okarito Wharf. Although old and somewhat rickety it’s been preserved and has ramp access.
The wharf and surrounding area is a photographer’s dream. I’d love to be here at sunrise or sunset to see the reflections in the water.
If you are travelling to Franz Josef and the surrounding areas you may also be interested to check out the accessible chalet we booked in Franz Josef – Franz Josef Alpine Retreat.
The highlight of our stay in Franz Josef was taking a helicopter to Franz Josef Glacier and getting BJ out on the glacier with the help of a sit ski. You can read about our experience in this blog.
We also had fun doing a tour with Across Country Quad Bikes where BJ rode in a buggy making it accessible for him. You can read how we did this experience as a family in this review.
And lastly, you can read our general New Zealand travel tips here.