Hokitika was established in 1864 at the start of the West Coast Gold Rush. Within two years, the town swelled to 25,000. After a few more years, the prospectors left in droves and Hokitika’s population plummeted. Today, the main industry is tourism. A popular activity is searching the shoreline for washed-up deposits of pounamu. Treasure seekers and jewelry lovers comb the rocks and sand for samples of the precious jade (greenstone). Also dotting the coastline are gorgeous pieces of driftwood.