Once getting onto land again and doing a full day of driving we arrived in Westport and stayed at North Beach for one evening. The sunset was incredible, one I won’t forget.
Here is a picture of Peter’s washing line. He was so proud of it, I couldn’t not include it in the post.
After researching what we were going to do on the West coast we drove onward to Punakaiki where we decided to explore one of the caves.
One thing Peter and I were both keen to see in this area were the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. The limestone rocks received their name due to the stack like formation which is created over time by erosion from the wind and sea. What I find really interesting about New Zealand, is the vast range of foliage on this island. It looks like a jungle. I really I didn’t expect that! We managed to time it quite well so we captured the sunset too. It was a really lovely walk and generally, a very relaxing day outdoors.
We decided to drive onto Greymouth and spend a night there after walking round the Pancake rocks.
One activity we would definitely recommend doing whilst driving along the West coast would be to visit Monteith’s Brewery. We chose to have a tasting session where we tasted three drinks of our choice. We decided on two Ales and a Lager which were all very nice. Unfortunately the tour of the Brewery was out of our price range but the tasting of three drinks only cost $13 and were decent sizes so we were happy with the experience we had. There was some lovely notes written by other tourists at Monteiths, which gave us some ideas of places to visit along our way.
After the tasting we drove to Hokitika where we treated ourselves to a ‘scoop’ of chips. We didn’t try asking for ‘a poke’ of chips’ (Scottish term) not sure they’d understand what we’d mean. We ate them by the beach and they were glorious!
We knew the freedom camping in this area was quite restricted and after speaking to some locals ended up camping at Sunset Point which was quite a nice setting.
The next day it was pouring with rain! We’ve only seen rain like that a few times, it was gushing it down! We had planned on doing a gorge walk but it then started to thunder and lightening so we were concerned the weather would stop our plans. We decided to ask the i-site if the walk would be difficult in the rain and they confirmed that the weather was to clear up later in the afternoon so we should be fine.
The walk was actually lovely, although the water wasn’t quite turquoise (like it should have been), instead it was reflecting the very grey sky at that time but it was still quite pleasant. There was a swing bridge which we had a lot of fun on and later drove to Franz Josef town to find somewhere to camp.
We ended up having to pay for a nights stay at a Campervan site in Franz Josef because there are so many restrictions on where you can freedom camp in this area. So many ‘No Camping’ signs, which is understandable but frustrating when it costs an average of $39 for a nights stay! We decided if we had to pay anyways we might as well get a powered site so we wouldn’t have to worry about the battery for the van and could charge all our devices. There was also a hot tub which we probably spent about 2 hours in….getting our moneys worth!
A few long hot showers later we left the next morning to have a day viewing glaciers. We stopped at Franz Josef first with lovely sunny skies when we arrived but it then proceeded to cloud over and rain once we reached the viewing platform. It was amazing to see and read about how much the glacier has receded, even in ten/twenty years. My mum and dad visited these exact same glaciers, near thirty years ago and they were shocked at what they saw left of the glaciers from my photos compared to theirs.
We then headed over to Lake Matheson which is famous because when the water is completely still it creates a reflective image of the scenery. It’s just beautiful, and such a peaceful place. We walked round the lake, stopped to take some snap shots and then made our way to Fox Glacier.
The walk to Fox Glacier was about just under an hour and the weather wasn’t great but I personally thought it was a bit more spectacular than Franz Josef because we could see it better and there were signs as you entered to show where the glacier had previously reached which really put things into perspective. For example, the sign at the car park said the glacier had reached that point in 1935. The difference in the distance is insane!
That night we weren’t very successful in finding somewhere to freedom camp. Again, it seems there isn’t much available in this area. We were driving for quite a long time in the dark after quite a long day so it was a bit concerning. We drove through Haast but everywhere had no camping signs and the towns are so small. We actually ended up staying in a large lay-by at the side of the road because we didn’t know how long we would have to keep driving for and it was nearly 10pm. I was quite apprehensive about staying at the side of a main road where people couldn’t see you if you didn’t have any lights on but we didn’t really have any other option. I had a feeling we probably weren’t supposed to camp there and could be fined so was a bit worried about this so the next morning we woke up and literally left at 7am without eating or showering just in case someone from the DOC (Department of Conservation) reported us.
We stopped at Thunder Falls before stopping at Cameron Flat to eat some breakfast.
Wanaka was one of my favourite places in New Zealand. It was insanely beautiful as you can see from the photos below. We knew we wanted to do a hike so took a while asking around for suggestions and decided on Rocky Mountain which was actually right next to our campsite, bonus. So Peter was pretty certain it was 1.5 hour round trip. Of course that wasn’t the case at all. More like three hours! The walk up the mountain was quite steep and icy in places but there was plentiful views once the many clouds moved.
We decided to take the other routine down for a bit of variety…bad decision. The path was practically non-existent because it had obviously been very wet recently. It was definitely a lot trickier so we took quite a while to get down. Peter was only wearing his trainers so he was sliding on the wet mud. However, he came up with a new technique to basically swing from tree to tree so he didn’t have to move on the ground much and risk getting covered in mud. This was hilarious to watch, he was like an out of touch George of the Jungle!
The views from the top of Rocky Mountain were worth the muddy hike though!
Our drive to Pukaki took quite a long time because the clouds were hanging so low so it was really difficult driving conditions. We were meant to being going to Mount Cook the next day but the weather was so bad we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. Our camping spot that night was called Lake Wardell and it was very quite and calm.
For our Mount Cook trip we decided to walk the trail to Hooker Valley which took about three hours in total. The path was mainly flat and boy was there great views on the walk – such stunning scenery. So many snow covered mountains. When we got to the view point in the valley the lake was mainly frozen apart from the very edges where large chunks had broken off. It was just amazing to see.
We then went on to see the Tasman Glacier which again was spectacular. To see how massive the valley is, the amount of moraine and how much they’re receded. My inner Geography geek was super excited!
Our drive through the snowy mountains of New Zealand was magnificent! It stole our hearts!
Our last days in New Zealand finished in Christchurch. We went to see a photography exhibition on the restoration of the Arts Centre after the terrible earthquake in 2011 and in the afternoon visited the Canterbury Museum which was great! They had so many exhibitions which suited all ages and were all very informative.
We ended our NZ trip with a few drinks in the only open bar in Lyttelton which was a nice end to our NZ adventure.