On The QT

Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika

Blogger: Breada Cahill – Christchurch, New Zealand.

From Northern Hemisphere to Southern; this Kerry lady’s journey began, like many good stories, in Ireland and has so far led to life in Abu Dhabi, San Francisco and now Christchurch. Breda loves photography, good food (and wine), Dr. Seuss quotes. live music and meeting new people. It’s not Dr. Seuss, but this Helen Keller quote is certainly one to bear in mind; ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all’.


It’s not every day you get to eat Huhu Grubs and Mountain Oysters in the sunshine. Welcome to the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika. This festival happens in March every year in the small seaside town of Hokitika on the West Coast of New Zealand. The very first festival took place in 1990. The brainchild of local Hokitika woman, Claire Bryant. Wildfoods is a combined celebration of the spirit of Hokitika and the tastes of the wild West Coast. That first festival in 1990 drew a crowd of 1,800 and the number of visitors has grown steadily since with this years event seeing 15,000 attendees.

I am currently taking up residence in the fine city of Christchurch on the East Coast of New Zealand so we had a bit of a trek to reach our destination. I’ve always heard ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’ and though it is a little out of context here; it certainly resonates. This was a fantastic opportunity to see a great cross section of the NZ landscape. I can only describe it as Ireland on steroids! The hills are towering mountains, the fields are plains and the streams are rivers. It has many similarities to the Irish landscape but on a much larger scale. Though one commentator did note that it wasn’t quite as green as expected which I would agree with.




Costumes play a huge part in the proceedings with everyone and anyone getting on board so as soon as we had unloaded and prepared camp we got all dressed up. As with any dress-up opportunity you will see the mad, the slutty, the funny and those few whom you have no idea what they are supposed to be. Our group decided to go for a Mr.Men and Little Miss theme. Group costumes pack a real punch at this kind of gig. The concept, it must be said was hit and miss with our Kiwi friends – some readily recognising these childhoods favourites and others left bewildered at this colorful concoction of madness.




This years festival offered us the chance to sample such delicacies as wasp larvae ice-cream, cucumber fish, sheep milk cheeses, wok fried clams, mountain oysters (bulls testicals in case you didn’t know) and huhu grubs.


But the food is only one small part of the Wildfoods Festival! Taking place in a setup not unlike any music festival at home in Ireland, there are a whole range of food and drinks stalls – some showcasing the more extreme and many providing more conventional sustenance for party goers. Entertainers take to the three stages where a variety of acts entertain the masses in the festival arena.


The main event wound up at the main site at 6pm so it was time to find a perch and settle in for the evening. You have two options here – head to the bars in the town or head back to the campsite. Now, as much fun as it is to head to the bars and mix with the locals, the call of the waves and bonfires on the beach was stronger for us. Evidently, it was for many others too as there were bonfires and revelers lined up and down the beach. Fortunately, our campsite was ‘beach adjacent’ so it was all too easy to grab the beers and deck chairs and head on down to the water. I’ve always had a certain grá(love) for hanging out on the beach, particularly at night so watching the sun go down by a roasting bonfire was my own personal nirvana.




QT Tips and Tricks for Wildfoods

1) Dress up: Ditch your six inch heels and mini skirt and get a fun costume. If for no other reason then costumes are a great conversation starter! Add an unusual accent and you have a deadly recipe for banter.

 2) Wear Protection: Sunscreen is not the preserve of a funky Baz Luhrman song. It is a necessity which one cannot overlook, particularly in New Zealand where there is a hole in the ozone layer. As you lie, stretched out on the grass having a few beers and the odd shot of Moonshine it’s all too easy to forget to reapply your SPF… if only it were so easy to forget as you spend the week sleeping on your back and lathering on the aloe vera.

 3) π: That’s pie to you and I. If you are going to the West Coast from Christchurch as we did you should plan to make a pit stop to refuel in Sheffield. Here you can visit ‘The Famous Sheffield Pie Shop’. Having heard great things about this place we made it our one stop on the way and we weren’t disappointed. They have a whole range of savoury and sweet pies and long story short – it’s well worth the stop!

 4: Say YES: This tip is not specific to the Wildfoods festival but more to adventures in general. I set off on the four hour drive to the festival having arrived from Ireland very late the previous night. I had just 3 hours sleep and would have given anything to stay snuggled up in my bed instead of getting up to go cross country. BUT my god I’m glad I did.

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