After a cooked brekkie at Wave Watchers, we pack our things into the car and take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. The West Coast is a special place and if you have the time, we recommend spending a few days here to explore the region, including Paparoa National Park.
And we highly recommend a night or two at Wave Watchers.
Today's trip will cover around 217 kilometers and will take around 3 hours.
Along the way we will pass through the towns of Greymouth and Hokitika.
We can't believe it, but once again the weather is fine and sunny. The West Coast has one of the more variable climates in the country, and conditions can change very quickly, as the prevailing winds push cloud in from the West. We count our blessings and hope that our lucky run continues!
We wave goodbye to Wave Watchers and head back out onto SH6. A minute or two up the road we pass the Pancake Rocks then head down the hill past the Punakaiki Resort, another favorite of ours. We've stayed here several times and the location on the beach is hard to beat. They also have a restaurant and bar, perfect for watching the sunset.
From the beach front here it's possible to look South across the ocean and see Mt Cook and the Southern Alps in the distance. Wow!
The drive from Punakaiki to Greymouth takes about 30 minutes and follows the coast for most of the journey.
Greymouth is the largest settlement on the West Coast, with a population of around 10,000. Supported by mining, fishing, forestry and tourism, Greymouth sits at the mouth of the Grey River, which we cross as we enter town.
If you haven't yet had breakfast, there are various cafes in town (including McDonald's) and
it's also a good spot to top up the fuel. If you happen to be stopping
here for the night, we recommend a tour of the local Monteith's brewery.
10 Kilometers south of town, the heritage park known as Shantytown is well worth a visit if you have time. This re-creation of an 1850's mining village is a great place to take the family. You can ride a steam train, pan for gold, and even have your picture taken dressed in a period outfit.
We continue on towards Hokitika, around 40 kilometers away. Soon it comes into view, and on the outskirts of Hokitika we pass the Shining Star log cabins, which sit proudly perched next to the ocean. Several years back we stayed here for the night and loved the beach front location. Perhaps next time......
We continue into town and stop to stretch the legs and have a coffee.
From the main street, Mount Cook and the Southern Alps are clearly
visible, and are at their best at this time of year with their heavy cover of snow.
known as the Greenstone Capital of New Zealand, Hokitika was founded in
1864, when gold was discovered in the area.
A couple of years later, it
was one of the most populated towns in the country, and at one stage in
1867, there were over 40 vessels moored at the local wharf on the Hokitika River, evidence of
the booming export gold trade. There were also more than 100 hotels! Coal mining and forestry were also once
major contributors to the local economy, but as with the gold industry,
they have dwindled over time.
These days, Greenstone (also known as Pounamu, or Jade),
draws visitors to the town. There are various local shops selling jade
carvings, sculptures and jewellery, and you can even watch the local
artisans creating their wares.
You can read more about New Zealand jade here.
a refreshing coffee we head outside and the girls head into one of the
jade shops. As Dave and I chat in the street we hear people yelling and a
lot of noise. We turn to see a thoroughbred horse galloping down the
street towards us. We step back and the startled horse rushes past,
shortly followed by two carloads of concerned "chasers" who stop and ask
us "where did it go!". We point them down the street and off they go.
By this stage the street is full of people who have heard the commotion.
We didn't get to find out what happened but hope that everything ended
well. We comment that that might be the most exciting thing to happen
here in a while !
Hokitika though, is a good place to stop for a night.
There are a range of motels and restaurants, lots of great walks, a
local museum, and even a picture theatre.
After our horse encounter, we hop back into the car and turn
back onto SH6. It's around 10 am, and Franz Josef village is around 130
kilometers away (around one and a half hours drive).
follows the coast for a while before heading inland. The snow capped
alps are ever present on our left hand side, and in some spots all we
can see is mountain! I've said it many times to customers and
friends.....every bend in the road on the South Island reveals a new,
even better picture opportunity than the last!
Time flys by as we recount our trip so far, and before we know it, we arrive at Franz Josef village. Tonight we have booked two spa studio rooms at the Alpine Glacier Motel. At around NZ$140 per room, it's good value, and is around the corner from the main street and the pubs and restaurants.
We are greeted by the friendly owners, and check into our rooms. They
are spotless, spacious, and from the deck, offer an awesome view of the
After unpacking we head around the corner to one of
the pubs, The Landing. We sit outside and soak up the sun with a wine
and local beer (Speights) before ordering lunch. Two of us choose the
seafood chowder, one has the whitebait fritter, and I select the steak
sandwich. When our meals arrive, they are HUGE! Our meals in NZ have
been wonderful, and these are no exception. Great food and friendly hosts
(the owner stops for a chat with us) provide the perfect setting for us to unwind
after our trip.
Of course Franz Josef (and the nearby "twin" Fox
Glacier) are famous for the mighty glaciers which make their way from
the mountains down towards the sea. Over the years we have been on walks to
the glacier face, but perhaps our most memorable experience was an
exhilarating helicopter flight and snow landing years back. It was not
exactly cheap, but it's one of those things that you have to do. Flying
over the glacier allows you to see the endless caves and crevices and
the huge snowfield at the top is almost beyond belief.
If time and budget allow, we recommend a heli flight and landing. Be aware though that flights are very dependent on the weather.
you can't make a flight, you can always take the short 10 minute drive out of town and make
the walk to the face of Franz Josef. You will need to wear good walking
shoes as the round trip can take one and a half to two hours. And best of all, it's free!
There is lots to see and do in the area. As with most parts of New
Zealand, there are walks, including guided ice walks, the West Coast
Wildlife Centre (where you can see the flightless kiwi), and a range of
restaurants, pubs and gift shops.
And after a long day, you can soak away your cares at the Glacier Hot Pools, in Cron Street. With a range of public and private pools, and a perfect rainforest location, it's a great spot to lay back and reflect on the day's activities.
We loved our accommodation at the Alpine Glacier Motel. We have also stayed at, and can recommend Punga Grove and the Rainforest Retreat. Both are in the village and, importantly, are close to all amenities.
You can read more about them and make a booking by clicking on the highlighted links above.
After lunch we have a wander around the local shops and buy a few trinkets and some groceries for breakfast from the local supermarket.
We head back to our motel to rest up for a few hours before tea (it's amazing what a few drinks and some sun can do to you!).
After a rest we decide that we will eat in our rooms tonight, so we cook up a feed, and relax. Fortunately our rooms come equipped with a basic kitchen, and we made sure when planning our trip that we could self cater at most locations.
an early night for us. Tomorrow we have our longest drive of our
holiday as we head to the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka, around 4 to
5 hours drive away.
It's been another great day.
Go to Day 6