I really loved this little town on the coast, mainly because of the amounts of sea wildlife that lives around the town on the cliffs and in the waters. If you continue along the main road through town and keep driving until you reach the ocean, you will find a sea colony on the rocks. The seals aren’t shy and you really need to keep your eyes open as they were sunbathing in the car park when we were there! Around the coast you will find South Bay, home to the largest red billed gulls breeding colony on the South Island. I began a walk along the cliffs in search of little blue penguins but was unsuccessful. Instead I caught glimpse of 6 baby seals sunbathing on the rocks (probably the reason the penguins were nowhere to be seen). Back in town the backpacker platter at the Strawberry Tree bar was delicious, a plate piled high with fresh seafood and shellfish.
From a roadside food trailer we had a mouthwatering crayfish which was very fitting as Kaikoura means food – crayfish in Maori.
The real highlight of our stay was Whale watch Kaikoura, which took us in search of sperm whales.
As we drove from Wanaka to Franz Josef we passed Jacobs river and of course had to stop and take a photo of Jacob next to the sign. We also made a stop at Haast for a famous white bait patty, I wasnt overly keen on it, and i can best describe it as fish in pancake batter.
Reaching Franz Josef we pitched our tent in the top ten campsite with the most amazing back drop of mountains and sat with a bottle of wine, steak and salad. As the night overtook the day, the stars came out filling the blackness with twinkling light.
We opted for the ice tour to experience the glacier and were up early to meet our team. Got kitted up in waterproofs and boots before walking over the road to the helipad. The trip in the helicopter was about 5 minutes, zooming over the forest and up into the mountain snow. As the helicopter dropped us on the ice we clipped on our crampons and started the 3 hr tour of the glacier. Blue ice, tunnels and huge formations met us which we climbed over and at some parts had to scramble through. With the benifit of the heli ride we were higher up on Franz Joesf than I had been on Fox, and the formations were more impressive which made the journey through the ice more interesting.
After the mountain we relaxed in the glacier hot pools, naturally heated pools of 36′ 38′ and 40′, the perfect way to finish of the day.
Waking up in Hari Hari to pouring rain we packed up the tent and with coffee in hand drove to Franz Josef, the rain didn’t let up all morning and the low clouds made for hazardous driving along the winding roads! With a quick and very wet stop off in Fanz Josef we continued to Fox, only to be greeted by more low dark clouds. We decided to try our luck for the glacier tour the next day and spent the night praying to Mother Nature.
Mother heard our prays and we woke up to beautiful clear blue skies, a complete contrast from yesterday and the perfect day to climb a glacier!
After a breakfast of beans and egg on toast we made our way to the boot room for our walking boots, crampons and rucksacks. A 10 minute drive brought us to the glacier car park. Fox glacier is the only place in the world where rainforest meets and surrounds a glacier which made for an amazing bus journey! A 15 minute walk up lose rock took us to the edge of the ice where we clipped in to our crampons. Our group of 12 followed Finn, our guide. As we walked in single file across paths axed out that morning by the rangers, I dug my crampons hard into the ice and was guided around formations and caves in the ice. We were on the ice for around an hour before making our way back down. The glacier is a frozen river and very hard to predict, it grows and drops in size without pattern and can move up to 1.5 meters each day! In 50-100 years this amazing natural sight might be gone!
Whilst in Fox a drive to Lake Matterson is a must, a lovely walk around the lake takes about an hour and boasted amazing views of Mount Tamzin. In low light the lake mirrors the mountain perfectly, which makes for a great photo.
Wanaka must be one of the Worlds most beautiful locations for a town, snuggled in between Mount Aspiring’s range and the lake, every direction you look in hits you with the most incredible views. The town itself has a real friendly vibe and there are cafes and shops leading to the lake, perfect for a wander around. A trip to Paradiso cinema was something I had to do as my uncle had gone with my sister and her husband about 12 years ago and always raved about it! We watched Django sitting on a sofa with a beer in hand, the front half of a car was another use of sitting. The interlude consisted of a delious lamb burger and home made Moro ice cream ( moro is like mars bar). The drive back to our tent on the far side of the lake was filled with wild life, the full beam of the headlights showed up dozens of hedge hogs and at one point I saw the entire cast of farthing wood crossing the road!
Wanaka was also location to the best desert I have ever tasted and I’m big on desert! In Relishes Cafe on the water front I had Assiette of chocolate – salted caramel brownie, white chocolate and mint parfait, chocolate hazelnut praline, triple chocolate cookie and milk sobert. It was absolutely divine.
Lake Tekapo is a quite and peaceful place, the lake is a brilliant milky blue, the milky look comes from rock powder in the water reflecting off the sun. A picturese historic church sits on the waters edge – the church of the Shepard, along with a mormarial for the Corley dogs which help around the alpine area on search and rescue. The campsite at Lake Tekapo is an amazing place to stay purely because of its location on the waters edge. Walking down to the lake in the evening light gave beautiful colours across the lake and when the night sky come into full flow, the stars were unreal. The most amazing nights sky I have ever seen, looking up you can see so many different layers of stars.
Driving towards Milford we got caught in our first New Zealand traffic jam, a herd of sheep making their way across the road to another field.
To reach Milford Sound you have to drive through Homer tunnel, a deep, dark tunnel dug straight through the mountain, it was quite a important part of the journey as once you’d gone through that tunnel it was like entering a lost world.
Gazing in awe over Milford Sound the mist hung low over the dark water with spectacular giant cliffs shadowing over. It takes a while for you to adjust to just how big these rocks are, as the ferries chug out of their moorings they look like toy boats. Water pours down the rock faces and you can hear the traffic on the water but overall it’s got an Eiry silence to it, not one that makes you feel uneasy but one that allows your mind to wonder.
As we pitched our tent at the lodge I was bitten alive by bloody sand flies, something that continued throughout my time in Milford. I was told not to kill them as it attracts more towards you but couldn’t quite resist the temptation. My shorts were packed away 2 minutes after we arrived and jeans and thick socks were the my armer!
Walking to the hill top view point for a view over the sounds we passed Donald Sutherland’s gave were he and his wife are buried. He was sort of the founder of tourism here, deciding one day to settle at Millford from his sailing boat with his dog, then meeting his wife. They (particarlly his wife) accomadated walkers which were coming for the newly made Milford track. Donald didn’t particarlly like people but his wife was really welcoming and named Mother of Milford. When Donald died his wife stayed in isolated Milford for 4 years before she died and was buried beside him.
Facts from the toilet door of Milford Sound Lodge
- Legend tells us that the sand flies were released in Milford to discourage settlers. It worked the only people here are tourists, staff members or participates in a form of outdoor recreation.
- Milford is not a sound but a Fjord, when this was realised Milford Sound was already famous and they felt it couldn’t be changed, as an attempt to right this wrong the whole area was named Fiordland, with another mistake it should have been spelt Fjordland!
Driving towards Mount Cook and the surrounding range is like looking at a film back drop, Mount Cook is perfectly placed in the middle of your windscreen topped in snow, bright blue sky above and the surrounding mountains all around.
Sir Edmond Hilary is celebrated with an exhibition within a modern complex where we sat and drunk coffee starring up in awe of Aoraki.
In Tasman valley we walked to the blue lakes, which weren’t very blue, the over cast day wasn’t showing them off at their best. We then carried on to the glacier view point which looks over lake Tasmin and towards Mount Cook.
The home of extreme sports! Queenstown has a great atmosphere with people buzzing around town and dropping out of the sky all around you (with parachutes)
Outdoor sport and fashion shops make up most of the rows of streets on the lake alongside lively bars with people spilling in and out. Fish bone is a tasty fish restaurant in the centre of town with good surf and turf.
The gondola takes you on a steep ride high above the town with panaranic views of the remarkables and the lake. Riding the luge is a must, great fun for everyone, I’d happily go up and down on it all day!
The downhill mountain biking track is world class in Queenstown but I stuck to the Hammy’s track (the easiest), it was an amazing run and the gondola takes you and your bike right back up to the top which was a definite bonus.