Our first morning in Greymouth we woke up and got a new tire for the car as soon a shop opened. We were lucky find something before 8 AM since few businesses in New Zealand are open that early, even coffee shops. Once our little Corolla hatchback was fixed up we headed south along the coast for Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. After a few hours of driving, with a couple stops thrown in for sightseeing, we made it. It was then only a short hike out to the glaciers for an up close look.
The hike along the glacier valley was incredible. The river is seemed fairly large considering it all comes from glacial runoff.
I thought the coolest part about the hike is that you actually start in a rain forest. In the span of only a couple miles you go from palm trees to a huge block of ice.
After a long day of looking at big blocks of ice we headed north back to Greymouth. The following morning we got up even earlier to catch high tide at a place just north of Greymouth called the Pancake Rocks. High tide is supposed to be the best time of day to see blowholes active there, but I think we must have caught them on a bad day.
After an hour of watching the waves we jumped back in the car to head east back across the island. This time we drove over Lewis Pass, which is much lower in elevation than Arthur’s Pass. The drive was equally as beautiful, although in noticeably different ways. Whereas Arthur’s Pass reminded me most of the California mountain range, this drive reminded me most of the Appalachian Mountains.
The drive took us most of the day since we stopped frequently whenever something grabbed our interest. Eventually we reached our destination for the day: Kaikoura, a town on the east coast of the island, north of Christchurch. The town has beautiful black sand beaches and was ringed by mountains, although it’s probably best known for tours to swim with dolphins and other marine wildlife.
Once more we got up early, this time it was early enough to catch the sunrise over the water. We had one more long day of driving so an early start was necessary but the views were worth it.
On our last day we drove all the way down past Christchurch to the Southern Alps. This time the drive up into the mountains reminded me of the Rocky Mountains, so it’s almost like we hit all three major American mountain ranges in the span of a few days. Lake Pukaki sits at the base of Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain on the island. We had a chance to see Mt. Cook from the other side at the glaciers but it was too overcast that day, so we had to try again.
Next to Lake Tekapo we had to check out the observatory on top of Mt. John. From there you can see both Lake Tekapo (on the right) and the smaller Lake Alexandrina (on the left). Lake Alexandrina is spring fed, so it’s more of a “normal” lake color. Lake Tekapo is fed by glacial runoff and here you could really see the difference in color.
This was our last sightseeing destination of the trip. From here we headed back to Christchurch to catch our flight the next morning. It was a long few days but totally worth every mile. I can’t wait to go back someday, there is so much more to see!
Until next time…