After deciding it wasn’t worth staying a night in Wanaka. We made our push to the West Coast. The west coast had a lot on my list to see and most of them would only require 30 – 60 minute stops. Over the next few days, we planned to stop in Franz Josef, Hokitika, Greymouth, and Westport.
Day 1 – Blue Pools & Waterfalls 02.07.2020
Shortly outside of Wanaka there is a beautiful lookout of Lake Hawea Lookout. Easy to spend 10 minutes here for some great photos and it is probably the last time you’ll have cell service for a while.
There are several scenic stops to make along route 6 from Wanaka to Haast, multiple waterfalls, great hiking treks, and of course the blue pools. One mistake I made on this drive was not finding a place to camp and splitting this up into two days to enjoy more of the scenery.
The first stop was the blue pools, this is an hour return trip with a very easy track. A few people were swimming but the water was absolutely freezing so I didn’t go in past my waist. The water is crystal clear and the color of the water is beautiful. If you’re braving enough to take on the cold water you can jump off one of the suspension bridges.
The next few stops were all waterfall-based. We stopped at Fantail Falls first. This is very close to the road and has a nice small parking lot. The total time spent here was less than 20 minutes. Continue to drive West on Route 6 there is Diana Falls, this is a waterfall that is right on the road, we choose to keep driving, it’s nothing spectacular. Another waterfall was near the Gates of Haast. I don’t recall this waterfall name, if you know please drop it in the comments.
Once we got to Haast we had cell service again and we needed to find a place to set up camp. We looked at a few places on Campermate NZ and decided that a two-hour drive to Franz Josef would be the best bet to find a place and a good setup for the next day to see the Franz Josef Glacier. We stayed at Rainforest Retreat which was NZD 17 per person.
Day 2 – Franz Josef Glacier & Hokitika 02.08.2020
Looking at the weather the next few days today was our best chance at being able to see Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is difficult to see in the summer (melted), especially on a rainy or cloudy day. So we packed up the van and headed to the Glacier. If you want you can book tours to helicopter to the top of the glacier and even walk on it. We did the hiking trek instead.
This is a relatively easy hike with not too much slope. Once you get to the end of the trail you have a look over the Waiho river and then can see Franz Josef Glacier. We waited over an hour to try and get a photo of the glacier without clouds in the way and finally we had a five-minute time slot to get some good photos.
The next stop was to Hokitika, a two-hour drive from Franz Josef. Hokitika has two well-known tourist attractions, first the famous IG Hokitika Beach Sign. The second is the Hokitika Gorge which has a large suspension bridge that goes over the gorge. Once you cross the gorge you can take a short trail down to the river.
We had planned to stay in Hokitika but we were making such good progress we decided to keep moving up the West Coast until we got to Greymouth to spend the night. There is a great freedom campsite Cobden Aromahana Lagoon that is right on the coastline.
Day 3 – Pancake Rocks 02.09.2020
The plan for today was to end somewhere near Abel Tasman depending on time and what we could find for camping. To do that we had two options we could take Route 7 to 69 and cut across to meet up with route 6 or we could take route 6 to Westport and then follow it to Abel Tasman. We chose to go up to Westport (which has nothing to do) because along the way we could stop in Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks.
The Pancake Rocks are easy to get to with paved trails and even easy access for people in wheelchairs. We were here for a little over an hour walking around and exploring the area. The limestone rocks were carved out by the sea and have several blowholes through them. If you find them you can watch the ocean waves exploded through the rocks on a good windy day.
We’re now off to Abel Tasman to finish the last leg of the south island trip before I head off to the North Island separately.
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