New Zealand Jade (Pounamu) – A Special New Zealand West Coast Experience In Hokitita

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

Back on the road and having special experiences everywhere I go…

Now back on the road, I’ve been experiencing more of New Zealand’s South Island, focusing on the West Coast. When I arrived in Hokitika, close to Greymouth, I figured I’d see its Gorge, walk through another small touristy town, and then be off. Instead, I found friends, experiences I loved, and had such a special time I didn’t want to leave. 

I’ve been filming a video series about my travels through New Zealand. I’m simultaneously sharing my travels with you, reflecting on lessons from travel, and trying to support the local business owners I meet along the way. How I meet them is always a surprise, and Hokitika was no exception.

penguins in Ushuaia

The Hokitika Gorge.

I walked around town to film my episode of travels and found myself in front of one of the many jade stores in town. New Zealand jade is otherwise known as pounamu, and after you’ve been here a while, it can become an obsession! If you’re in the market for a greenstone pendant, there are so many jade stores in Hokitika, it’s like Starbucks in New York City – at least two on every street. But what caught my eye was the “carve your own” in the store name of “Bonz N Stonz”. “Carve my own jade?” I had to learn more.

I entered the store and met Steve. He was working on a macrame chain and I found out he’s from the Solomon Islands. I’ve never met anyone from there before! I wondered around the store and noticed someone drilling on jade in a workroom and asked about it. That’s when I learned you can, literally, carve and drill your own pieces of jade at the workshop. My interest was peaked, but then it got better.

“What I thought would be a simple excursion turned in to so much more.”

Hokitika sign on the beach. Photo by Heather Markel, Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved.

I was introduced to Tina, a lovely Maori woman with bright red hair who caught my eye right away since I love having red hair! Tina does tours to one of the nearby rivers, owned by the Maori, so that we can look for pounamu stone with their consent. To say that the situation with pounamu in New Zealand is complicated, is an understatement. From the brief conversation I had with Tina, I understood that her extended Maori family has gotten a formal, signed contract, that they officially own the land where pounamu can be found in the South Island of New Zealand. Essentially – you aren’t allowed to collect pounamu from Maori-owned land without their consent. They feel that pounamu is sacred and belongs to them. (More on this to come in my upcoming video walkthrough of Hokitika, as well as the beautiful story of how pounamu came to be.)

In any case, incredulous at my luck meeting Tina and having the chance to go look for pounamu stone, I agreed to meet her the next afternoon at the shop. I thought we’d simply venture to a river and look for the stones. Instead, I got an intimate Maori experience.

Tina’s dad joined us for the afternoon, as did her uncle’s dog, Lucky. As we drove, windows down, and lucky bounced off our laps to stick his head and paws out them, I feared he would jump right out of the car. (He didn’t.) We stopped at the remnants of a raised train track. There, we shared an intimate ceremony of introduction. I learned the point was to bring our land, our families, and ourselves into the circle and connect before all else. I was not allowed to film this because it was considered a private, and intimate exchange, just for us. That made it all the more special.

Next, Tina took us to sacred burial grounds and introduced us to some of her family before showing us their beautiful Marae – meeting grounds. Unlike the ones I’ve gotten accustomed to, which are red and black, this one is green and black, and absolutely stunning. More fierce and sensual than some of the other carvings I’ve seen.

Tina’s family’s Marae – printed with permission.

Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.

We then walked through the land on which Tina and her family live. We passed the chief’s home and she explained who lives in each place. There’s even a signpost, like those you see indicating how many thousands of miles away the nearest countries are, but with the names of family members.

At last, we arrive at the mouth of the river. We pick up a few stones on the dry land, and Tina shows us how important it is to rub them into your skin. Your oils show you whether there might be jade within the stone. This is why she said she prefers to seek the stones in water – when wet you get a much better feel for what type of stone they are.

We walk to the water, remove our shoes and enter to search for our stones. It’s a lot harder than I realized. I thought the green jadestone would glisten at us from everywhere. I quickly become an expert at finding serpentine. It’s often confused with jade, but isn’t jade. It does, however, have a beautiful blue color. I collect a number of stones that could be jade, but we won’t know till we’re back at the workshop.

Once there, I do the work of polishing my stones. Most are a bust, but one, amazingly, as I rub it, turns out to be dark green jade! It may be lower grade quality, but it is jade, nonetheless, and I found it. Like the store, I was drawn to this stone, and it to me. As I have traveled the world, it has traveled down mountains and through rivers. We found each other at the perfect moment, and will continue our travels together.

What To Do, Where To Stay, Where To Eat

In case you get to go to this delightful town, here are a few recommendations:

Stay at the Beachfront Hotel Hokitika if you want a nice, quiet sleep in a clean and comfortable room. Hostel options include Mountain Jade Backpackers and Stumpers.

You must eat at two divine places; Fat Pipi pizza is amazing – no crust on the pizza and loaded with your yummy toppings, including seafood! And, if you ever thought a sandwich is just a sandwich, get your mind and taste buds blown at The Hokitika Sandwich company.

Three not-to-be-missed activities are visiting the Hokitika gorge. If you’re without a vehicle, contact Rachel at Hokitika Scenic Tours. And, of course, go to Bonz N Stonz to carve your own new zealand greenstone pendant, and they can connect you with Tina for a tour!

PIN the article below…

Join me on my travels in New Zealand! Click below to travel with me on YouTube.

Learn about Heather and what set her on her world journey. She also explains why this life is not just for Millenials, it’s for anyone that wants to create a life around what they love most in life. 

Listen to an episode of the video interview series that will inspire you to follow your heart. Whether you want to travel full time or have another calling, this series is for you.

See the amazing people I’ve been meeting on my travels and the fun stories that go along with the meetings.

Check out my travel photos from around the world to see the world from wherever you are.

If you’ve been thinking that there’s got to be  more to life than work, or, you’ve lost your job, and wonder whether now is the time to do something you’re more excited about, this quiz will help you. Answer a few questions and get a free guide to help you know the areas you need to work on, followed up with inspirational and helpful tips to put your dreams into action.

Traveling the world full-time may sound glamorous and exhilirating. (In many ways, it is!) But, it’s not full-time fun. Before you decide to go, take this quiz to make sure you’re ready, and, if not, find out how to bridge the gaps.

This fun quiz helps you understand what your travel personality is, and how to make sure you indulge it when planning your next trip to maximize your enjoyment!

This one is pure fun – test your transcontinental travel trivia knowledge. Hit the button below if you dare take the quiz and see your score! 

If you enjoyed the first quiz, see how you do on the second one! More fun, more tricks, Click the button below to test your knowledge!

If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!

In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.

Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.

I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.

Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.

At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.

If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.






Costa Rica


New Zealand








8 + 11 =

Want more in-depth information about travel? Trying to figure out how to afford full-time travel (or, doing what you want to do, full-time)? Check out these items!

Looking for a photo or a travel-related item to reconnect with the spirit of travel? Check out this page to see some of my photos and where you can find them as prints and various photo-gifts..

Trying to create a more fulfilling life? Want help with planning out how to make your mark in the world? Check out this page to see how Heather can help you!

Ready to start a more fulfilling life but can’t figure out the money part? This eCourse may be your answer! Click here for more details.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
%d bloggers like this: