Days 23 – 27: West Coast (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Hokitika, Lake Mathieson)
The West Coast is one of our favourite areas of New Zealand, and having taken a wet and wild trip there back in October we decided it was definitely somewhere we wanted to go back to in the Spaceship. Last time we visited the weather wasn’t the best and so we had some unfinished business!
On Day 23 we drove up to the glaciers from Wanaka – which is a really beautiful drive. There are wonderful views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea on the way up. We also stopped at Boundary Creek for great views of the lake. The weather was really kind, and the views were amazing.
We made a few stops along the way, including Thunder Falls which looked pretty impressive because of the rain the previous day (there was a storm the previous night) and the gorgeous off-the-beaten-track beach at Ship Creek. We hadn’t found this gem on our previous trip but were delighted to walk just a few minutes from the car park to find such a beautiful place. We also stopped at one of our favourites – the wild and windswept Bruce Bay, where we took some photos of the awesome trees and waves. We soon arrived at Franz Josef after a pretty long drive and set about making our plans for the days ahead.
Over the next few days we had a wonderful time exploring the West Coast. We took a walk up to the Franz Josef glacier – another activity we had never done before. The weather wasn’t too bad as it was fairly cloudy but not raining and we still had good views of the glacier.
The walk starts at the car park, taking you through rainforest for about 10 minutes, and it opens out to the most wonderful view of the valley floor ahead of you. We were then able to cross the valley floor and walk all the way up to the glacier and get within 300m (the last part of the walk being pretty steep!). The views from there were brilliant. There are also some beautiful waterfalls just before you reach the last part of the walk. I only had my small older camera (due to the unpredictable weather) but still managed to get some good shots. We also enjoyed a nice hot chocolate at Full of Beans cafe in Franz later that day.
Another place we visited on our trip was Hokitika, and we really enjoyed the day and night we spent there so much I have decided to do a separate blog post about it – which I have added. Highlights included the Hokitika museum, Hokitika gorge walk, Pizza at Fat Pipis, Hokitika beach, Dorothy Falls and lunch by Lake Kaniere.
Following our trip up to Hokitika we then headed back down to Fox Glacier. This is quite unconventional I know as most people pass through either heading North or South (as we did last time), but we had made the decision a few days before that I would like to spend my 30th birthday (which is just a few days away!) in Queenstown so wanted to head back down there for that. So to Fox we headed and were rewarded with some wonderful weather there! The morning of Day 27 we awoke to stunning clear blue skies and quickly headed out to Lake Mathieson. After a short walk from the car park we came to the first viewpoint and we were completely awe-struck by the views here!
Last time we visited back in October the weather was quite poor so we hadn’t been able to photograph the amazing reflection. I have posted below two contrasting photos (not quite taken from the same spot) to show to the difference between our visit last year and this time around.
We then continued on the rest of the walk to take in more amazing views. It is a fairly long walk to complete the circuit – about 1 hour 30 mins but worth every second! This included taking the steps up to the ‘view of views’ and also walking down to see the views from Reflection island. This was honestly one of our favourite places we visited – with such amazing views and I was so happy to be able to take some great photographs. From here we then took the long drive back down to Wanaka. This is definitely one of our favoruite drives in NZ – as the views are gorgeous – heading both along the coast and inland through Haast pass and finally alongside the stunning lakes coming into Wanaka.
We ended a wonderful day with a walk along the shores of Lake Wanaka and a beautiful sunset.