Hokitika – A Night In A Forgotten 1800’s Mental Asylum

I hope you are mentally prepared for this part of “Three Girls, One Car” tonight. Because we sure weren’t!


Passing through barely a town called Granity Village, with handpainted wooden door signs swinging in the sea breeze from posts, we were in for an artsy day.

“Art For Art Sake”, a cute little craft shop in Granity Village

“Art for Arts Sake” was scrawled across a home decor shop as we flashed past in Subie, managing to catch glimpses of the villagers’ outstandingly creative moves in the form of microwave mailboxes. A great idea if The Grottage ever wanted to find a use for the charred remains of our once beloved kitchen companion…

Hokitika Clock Tower

Hokitika was a noteworthy town to find fine craftsmanship in. Jade and Greenstone carving is very popular here, with some stores you can sit and carve your own pendant.

Fish Hook Greenstone Pendant

The greenstone pendant is a Maori tradition. Only received as a gift, otherwise it’s bad luck. So if you want a shiny nugget of purest green around your neck you’d better find a good friend 😉

They come in a range of symbolic shapes too. The circle, double helix twist, and fish hook all have their own meanings. Mine is representative of the “continual attempt to gather new knowledge and inspiration from our surrounding world.” The giver of mine got my drive and passion for understanding this world spot on.

No horsing around with this fella! The chilli sauce even came in a “special needs bottle”…

Nearby a stunning glow worm dell just out of the town centre, was a campsite recommended to us by a fun chap we met who gave us some sauce called “Bullshit”…

Sea View living room

Sea View, located on the top of a hill, was a $15pp campsite with incredible facilities. Warm showers, an indoor dining and living room with views of the sea, power and a fully equipped kitchen made this place too good to be true.

Sea View Dining Area


The catch?

It was a fully operating Mental Asylum until 2009 when it closed due to “unpopularity”…

Sea View Mental Asylum, 2017

This estate of blue and white painted wooden villas was founded in the 1800’s, and at its peak in 1955, was home to 564 patients. The site consisted of a nursing school, staff housing, a hostel, a prison, padded cells, the patient accommodation and a dining hall.

Sea View’s reception…

Numbers dropped drastically until only 22 people were left in 2009. It was sold to a property developer in 2002, most likely the old Asian lady we met at the cluttered reception with creepy dolls when we signed in.

The weirdest part of this place was that all this history was not mentioned ANYWHERE. CamperMate has kept it very quiet and this little old lady we met avoided Alex’s most blatant attempts to find out more about the place. She eventually told us that she owns the entire plot on the hill, the glow worm dell and that she has lived there for over 12 years… and that this place “keeps me out of mischief…”

Besides her, we were the only ones there. Like the Scooby-Doo mystery team, we decided to have a dig around after finding lots of suspicious “keep out” signs on the doors of the hostel…

Abandoned Huia wing of the Mental Asylum

At first glance, this dilapidated village looks like it is lived in. There are two horses in the front yard of one of the villas. As we approached each one, we found out that they were completely deserted. Every. Single. Villa.

Shaking from the intensity of how creepy it was there, we peered through the torn apart curtains from the dusty cobwebbed windows…


Ancient gym equipment rusting next to the vibrant 50s colours…

Trash and broken furniture were strewn around the rooms, holes punched out of the retro pastel-coloured walls and rusted gym equipment suggested that it had been a long time since anyone had been inside.

Sight of an old hospital corridor stolen through the villa’s windows

It was obvious that it was a mental hospital too, as the curtainless rails were still present on the ceilings, and there were even a couple beds still with crumpled sheets and straps on them…

Some were in better condition than others. One of the beautiful staff houses had burnt down, and an extremely haunting house at the back of the village had been trashed by violent vandals.

Hostel Bar

An abandoned hostel at the end of the village was quite well kept however. The bar decor looked recent…ish.

Hostel Living Room

Upon viewing the adjacent sitting rooms it became apparent that it had stopped operating in the 90s as the furniture reminded me of my parents house when I was a young kid. The VHS tape player underneath the huge box TV gave it away though.

Hostel in the Sea View Village

How bizarre that all of this was completely vacant! It was like being on the set of an apocalyptic horror movie. Feeling jumpy, I was fully prepared for some hoard of zombies to emerge after suffering some freak accident in the asylum.

A long-forgotten closed door…

Rumour has it though that some strange stuff used to go on behind closed doors when it was operating as an Mental Asylum. Experiments on humans and abusive treatment was unrecorded but talked about when chatting to some NZ locals. Suspiciously Sea View has no records of any odd behaviour happening here at all. Nowadays some of the spaces are used for warfare training with the New Zealand Army.

Sunset from Sea View over Hokitika beach

We returned to the untouched living room crowded with unmatched 50’s furniture (presumably collected from the other villas) and watched the sun set over the sea.

Darkness crept into the corners of the refurbished villa and we walked past the following eyes of some of the chilling oil paintings that hung on the walls to the kitchen to make dinner.

The house creaked and groaned whilst being uncomfortably silent as we told personal ghost stories to one another. What I heard from Lauren and Alex would have made most people a little uneasy, but I felt a different kind of ominous pressure being inside this building. Reading comments on CamperMate the reviewers said they felt the same, refusing to stay inside that building at night. I was compelled to get out as soon as possible. Alex could sense something too and quickly started to drink with Lauren to ease the tension…


Black eyes watched us in our tents as we slept…

…Crawling into our sleeping bags after a heart racing attempt of re-entering the building to turn a light off that was left on was enough for me on this evening. “It’ll be FUN!” drunk-Alex had said…

I passed out with the light of this window and that little boy’s eyes cast upon us.

Sleep tight.




20 thoughts on “Hokitika – A Night In A Forgotten 1800’s Mental Asylum

  1. Very nice write-up! Wish I could have been there with you girls (this is Jan, Alex’s mum writing)…I would have been in my element to tell you all of my ghost stories. No doubt Alex has passed on a few of them. I’m sure all of you will never forget that night spent there. Well done, warrior women!


    1. Oh my god. I did a clinical placement here in my second year of nursing in 2003. i was meant to be there for three weeks and lasted one. My friend and I were traumatised by what we witnessed there. Bath time was horrendous. Some of the staff had been there for decades and were very cruel to the patients. Lot’s of negative vibes in those walls. Creepy as hell.


    2. ok as some one who lived here just a couple of corrections. It closed because the government didnt want to upkeep it any more. It was one of the best asylums with very little if any abuse. Locals fight fiercely to keep it going. It was sold to 3 men at first then the two Christchurch men brought out the one. It was never ever owned by the little Asian lady. She was a alcoholic friend/bit on the side that one of the men shunted over to manage it. She was rarely sober after 6pm and had been arrested for drink driving on the hill so it didnt keep her out of trouble lol. She was there until 2018 when her ummm heart condition forced her to move back over the hill. lovely place full of history.


  2. When I lived in Hokitika one of my team had worked there for years as a nurse. He had lots of entertaining, unusual and some disturbing stories of his time there. All sorts of strange characters ended up up the hill at Seaview.


  3. Is there any underground part’s to the asylum? I’ve heard a few rumours about there being some hidden tunnels and underground torture chambers beneath some of the main buildings…


    1. I lived up there for years and explored almost every inch of the place, the closest I came to seeing tunnels was when I moved an old steel sheet covering an opening into the old demolished hospitals basement, there was an old flimsy rusty ladder that only I was keen on trying so we didn’t go down there. There’s possibly old boiler tunnels down there but don’t kid yourself about torture chambers it was one of the most advanced mental asylums in the world in its day.


  4. I’ve been there with a friend last year and I loved it! The only thing that creeped me out was a puppet boy that sat on a sofa. It creeped me out because when I went to the bathroom he sat on a chair in another room.


  5. Hey! I love your article. I just spent my holidays camping around the West Coast and checked into the Sea View. Your experience and impressions sounds eerily similar to ours! Great imagery and writing- I look forward to reading more of your blog 🙂 I’ll soon be posting about “A Comedy of Errors on the Wild West Coast” on my blog and I would love to include some of your descriptions/credit you/direct people here.


  6. My parents worked there through the 90s until about 2001, there’s not as much left up there now, you probably only saw one half of the hill. we lived in house 3 for a couple years. (burnt-out house in the pics) my heart was broken when i found out about it. Had walked through it a couple months before. though dilapidated and abandoned it still had solid bones and potential. The brick hostel building was the office building the other was one of the wards.
    My brothers and I explored all the buildings in our time. Never found any tunnels but i did get a glimpse into an old basement under the foundations of the old hospital and though I was keen on climbing down the flimsy rusty old ladder my brothers weren’t, maybe there were old boiler tunnels down there but I’ll never know now.
    It was a nice place in its day, don’t believe the rumors.


    1. Thank you Stephen for your insights and history, Its really great to hear a collection of connections to this place. You are right, there are a lot of rumours and the three of us travellers at the time were fully enveloped in the curious stories about these buildings up on the hill. It would be great to see these buildings restored in the future.


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