West Coast Whitebait

For the visitor it may be hard to understand why we get so excited about a tiny translucent fish but on the West Coast whitebaiting is a big deal. 


The tiny delicacy can be worth about $100 a kilo so it is big business. Primo whitebait stands have been known to change hands for as much as $70,000.  Most baiters are only interested in feeding the family and filling their freezers, but others survive an entire year on what they earn during whitebait season (between September and November). 

To see what all the excitement is about head down to the river-mouth to watch them scooping. It is usually a fairly relaxed affair but if the bait is running you will know all about it. The old timers can tell you about the time when a 2,000kg haul in a day wasn’t unheard off.

A Taste Delicacy

If you don’t have the patience to fish yourself then Hokitika’s many cafes and restaurants all have their own signature whitebait dish to tantalise your taste buds. One taste and you will realise what all the excitement is about.

More Information about West Coast Whitebait

Browse the listings below to learn more about West Coast Whitebait.

See & Do

The National Kiwi Centre
PH: (03) 755 5251 E:

Guaranteed viewing of kiwi in their nocturnal house and New Zealand’s living dinosaur, the tuatara. Discover West Coast creatures like whitebait, crayfish and many more. Participate in our giant eel feedings at 10am, 12 noon & 3pm. Kiwi feed after eels at noon. Catch & release a freshwater crayfish in our indoor lake area! Open 7 days, 9am to 5pm in summer & 9.30am to 4.30pm in winter.

West Coast Whitebait Season

Date : 1 Sept to 14 Nov 2016 inclusive
LOCATION : Hokitika Beach

Every spring on the West Coast the spawning native trout rush from the ocean back into the West Coast river systems. They are met by throngs of people who stand ready to catch as many ‘shoals’ as possible over the two months of the whitebait season. You can walk along the river banks close to the ocean and discover for yourself what the whitebait means to the local residents. It’s a little like gold fever when the whitebait is "running". Get a taste for it yourself at the many cafes in town. 

Hokitika Wildfoods Festival

Date : 10 March 2017
LOCATION : Hokitika Town

This is without a doubt a very unique food festival! Up to 11,000 people can descend on Hokitika for a weekend of fun and food. Tempt your tastebuds and challenge yourself. Each year a new range of exciting foods are up on offer including worm truffles, live huhu grubs and possum pie. But don't be frigtened there are some standard fare items as well including lamb, steak and of course whitebait! Entertainment is as good as it gets with multiple stages and there’s roving entertainment all day long.

Sunset Point - Walk and Scenic Lookout

LOCATION : Hokitika Beach

Time: 5 minutes walk from town centre.
Access: By foot, along beach, beach track, or Quayside section of Heritage Walk. By road via Sunset Point Rd.
Features: Sunsets, sunrises & starry nights. Hokitika rivermouth & beach. Lookout, views of NZ’s highest Mts. Cook (Aoraki) & Tasman (Horo Kawau). Tambo ‘shipwreck’. Information panels. Walks, picnicing, beach fossicking, fishing, & whitebaiting.

Beachfront Hotel Hokitika
PH: (03) 755 8344 E: FREEPH: 0800 400 344

Located in central Hokitika offering a wide range of quality accommodation. Full dining, conference/event facilities and Free Wifi. Bottle store, ANZ, ATM & bike storage available. Accommodation comprises three different categories - comfortable street-front Driftwood Standard, fully refurbished Driftwood Superior & modern, luxury Oceanview with an uninterrupted view of the beach. 


Fat Pipi Pizza

PH: (03) 755 6373

You haven't experienced Hokitika until you've tried the original whitebait pizza at Fat Pipi Pizzas. In the heart of the township, enjoy gourmet treats that extend beyond pizza and discover why this unique West Coast eating house has featured in the Lonely Planet travel guide for the past four years. 

ClockTower Cafe

PH: (03) 755 7737
‘Runner-up Cafe of the Year 2012/13 West Coast Region’ by Café Magazine and ‘Highly Commended’ in the 2014 NZ Pie Awards. Open 7 days from 6.30am, on main street opposite historic Town Clock. Extensive menu, including Gluten Free & homemade fare. Whitebait available all year. Awesome coffee, reasonable prices & great service. No surcharge on Public Holidays.

Ocean View Restaurant & Bar
PH: 03 755 8344 E:

Located at the Beachfront Hotel and elevated above the beach, allowing you to enjoy top quality dining whilst watching waves break on the shore. Make the most of this view of the Tasman Sea and relax with a wine or a beer before you dine in the restaurant. Also part of the complex is the casual Coasters Bar on Revell Street for true West Coast hospitality. 

View Your Trip
Hokitika Cool Little Town