The West Coast, NEW ZEALAND
After our short visit and limited exploration of Australia, we flew into Christchurch, New Zealand to begin our 10 day roadtrip along the West Coast and Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island.
The South Island is essentially a huge playground for outdoor enthusiasts, backpackers, young adults finding themselves, adventure seekers and large tour buses roaming the isolated narrow two-lane “highways” along the coast. Few amenities exist en route from one town to the next which leads to cities, like Wanaka and Queenstown, brimming with people and tour buses.
Greymouth & Horatika, NZ
After leaving Christchurch, we crossed through Arthur's Pass with its vast, sweeping landscapes and winding mountain roads to The West Coast where we stayed in Greymouth, NZ at the Ashley Hotel--a clean, modernized hotel just outside of town. Surprisingly, this little community was stocked with a variety of restaurants, cafes and pubs, including a Middle-Eastern-Indian bistro, Zaika, which was a welcome alternative to otherwise heavy-laden lamb and venison menus throughout NZ.
Both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier had cool and laid-back little squares with restaurants, pubs and cafes catering to tour buses and campers while functioning as outposts for glacier hikes, helicopter tours, adventure treks, and backcountry hiking. Had we known...this may have been a great alternative to Greymouth, NZ, but, I suspect that reservations are limited.
- Tip: Accommodations should be booked well in advance--there is simply nothing in between towns except campsites--or rent an RV for transportation. 'No Vacancy' was the norm everywhere.
We took a break en route to our next destination and hiked to the base of the Franz Josef Glacier--the site of 'Lighting The Beacons’ in Lord of the Rings 'Return of the King' movie. Of course, that was my highlight feeling like I was walking in Middle Earth this entire time let alone experiencing the sites of my all-time favorite trilogy!
If you have extra time, plan a stop at Bruce Bay to experience the stunning icy blue color which I was incapable of capturing in the picture above. Hit the beach where you can find (with great effort and luck) the beautiful azure-turquoise-icy-blue-green stones known as Aotea Stones only found in this area around Jacobs River and Bruce Bay,
- Tip: Aotea Stones apparently best found on overcast, rainy days. The water heightens their visibility.
Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
From The Glaciers we traveled to Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge which was beautifully situated on Lake Moeraki, but only minutes from the Tasman Sea and coast. Accommodations were well-maintained and included breakfast, dinner and several complimentary guided hikes, including stargazing, glow worms, kayaking tours as well as various levels of hiking tours.
- Glow Worms
- Canoes & Kayaks
- Beach Walk & Jade Search
- Fantastic Wine List
The staff was personable, knowledgeable and fantastic at Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge--a great experience overall, including the chef-prepared meals each night (since you are in the middle of nowhere), meeting other visitors and taking advantage of multiple hiking trails and kayaking options.
Discovering a delicious wine list after the day's activities made any exertion worthwhile...especially: St Claire Wairau Reserve Malborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Our only (and costly) regret was failing to notice the "PER PERSON PER NIGHT" fee when we booked our reservation; thus, incurring an unexpected fee-shock on check-out.
- Tip: Live and learn, but move on.
Word of Caution: Sand Flys!
The bug repellant for the notorious ‘Sand Fly’ did not protect J! Cover up after using the repellant to avoid days of extensive itching and discomfort...and, an unsightly appearance. They attack anyone near water with a vengeance, especially if you are wearing blue and black.
- Tip: Don't wear black or blue. Don't rely on bug repellant. Don't assume long sleeves or pants will suffice.