The town of Okarito began life in the gold rush years of the mid 1860’s. It supported a local population of up to 4000 interesting characters. Heritage sites and buildings from the period still remain and the historic Wharf building and Donovan’s Store contain fascinating displays about Okarito’s history.
The area is a bit quieter now. Okarito’s population varies through the seasons but in winter we probably have only 20 hardy souls living here. It is a beautiful time of year with the deserted beach, often clear but cool weather and snow covering the mountains in the distance. It’s extremely rare to get snow here in Okarito. A few frosts every now and then, but the ocean on our doorstep keeps the temperature from dropping too low.
Summer is much busier, especially after Christmas/New Year. Many New Zealand families visit for a week or two, enjoying the unspoiled simplicity of the place, there is good swimming and fishing in the lagoon. Maybe around 40 or so people reside here throughout the summer. It’s rare to not be able to find somewhere to stay and what feels like a busy day for us is still pretty quiet compared to most South Island towns.
We’re also lucky that the weather in Okarito is often much better than elsewhere on the Coast, being away from the base of the mountains. Frequently, it will be clear and sunny in Okarito when it is raining in Franz Josef township. But, hey, this is the West Coast, so pack a raincoat as well as sunglasses.
To learn more about life in Okarito, check out Our Stories from time to time.