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The Luminaries shines a light on New Zealand's wild West Coast

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New Zealand is a pretty inspirational place, just ask Eleanor Catton, the 28-year-old Man Booker Prize recipient who has been awarded the prestigious prize for her sophomore novel The Luminaries.

New Zealand West CoastSet in the coastal town of Hokitika, and its surround goldfields on the rugged West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, during the 1860’s Gold Rush – the book paints a beautiful picture of the spectacular setting.

"It feels like a victory for New Zealand and I feel so proud and pleased that so many readers will now be going to Hokitika…..metaphorically speaking," Catton told Television New Zealand.

But ‘going to’ Hokitika and its surrounding area is worth doing in reality as well.

The West Coast region is a spectacular destination, including a world heritage site and five of New Zealand’s 14 national parks.

Native wildlife and vegetation flourishes along the coastline, in rain forests and up onto the icy slopes of the Southern Alps, where renowned Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are among the region’s biggest attractions.

Within easy reach of Hokitika is a wealth of the best of the ‘great outdoors’. In 15 minutes find yourself walking a native New Zealand forest to the turquoise waters of the Hokitika Gorge and rugged green Kowhitirangi farmland. In contrast, the Arahura and Styx valley is a 2-4 day hike on winding tracks that were constructed in the late 1860s in an attempt to connect the West Coast Goldfields with Canterbury.

The West Coast Wilderness Trail is another outdoor adventure that incorporates gold rush fever. This ride is part of Nga Haerenga - The New Zealand Cycle Trail - with trails of varying length and terrain across the North and South Islands.

The four-day West Coast Wilderness Trail promises to take cyclists over several historical gold and rail trails between Greymouth, Ross and Hokitika - with wetlands, rainforest, wild black sand beaches and New Zealand wildlife to encounter. This four-day Great Ride will offer some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes, combined with an illustrious history to be found in New Zealand.

It wouldn’t be New Zealand is there weren’t some adrenalin sports on offer, and with its diverse landscape the West Coast is the perfect destination for some thrills such as heli-hiking on glaciers, skydiving and rafting.

Visitors are discovering the diversity of an area that is becoming increasingly popular with hikers, cyclists and fishermen - who can find some of the best salmon fishing in New Zealand and an abundance of Rainbow and Brown Trout.

The town itself offers the opportunity to delve into its unique and colourful history. Visitors wishing to experience the thrill of the gold rush days don’t have to look far. Local historians offer guided tours or you can take your own tour along the heritage walk, around historically significant sites, buildings and statues.

The Hokitika Museum and nearby Ross Information Centre, are two other attractions that offer a more in-depth look into the past. The Hokitikia Museum is located in the lovingly restored Carnegie Building - one of more than 2,500 libraries around the world funded by US steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

There’s lots more to the town than history. On the second Saturday in March, Hokitika plays up to its ‘wild-child’

persona with the infamous Wildfoods Festival. This unique culinary festival has an ever evolving menu of some of the most challenging and distinct foods on the planet, including; seagull eggs, raw scorpions and horse semen shots, just to name a few.

The annual Hokitika festival, started by local woman Claire Bryant to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the town of Hokitika, in 1990, and has since earned a world-wide reputation for the weirdest and wildest menu imaginable.

It’s easy to see where the inspiration for The Luminaries comes from, and it is a place that needs to inspire you.

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