New Zealand | Glacier Country


New-Zealand-South-Island-21.jpgNew-Zealand-South-Island-21.jpg

new zealand, south island, franz josef glacierFranz Josef Glacier.Even though we visited New Zealand for 10 days in 2015, we left a lot of unexplored territory for our recent return trip to the South Island. We were excited to make it to the west coast of the South Island to see New Zealand’s famous glaciers and fjords, starting with the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.new zealand, south island, franz josef glacierFranz Josef Glacier Valley Track.We started our campervan journey in Christchurch and did a sort of counterclockwise loop. After spending our first night at the Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park, we set off on our first full day with one goal: to drive across the entire South Island and end up freedom camping on the West Coast, in order to have a full day to explore Glacier Country on our second full day.new zealand, south island, castle hillCastle Hill.Along the way, we planned to stop for some short hikes (one to two hours) to break up the drive. Our first stop was Castle Hill, a site of massive limestone boulders that was also a filming location for the 2004 movie “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” There wasn’t a trail per se, but we created our own hiking/scrambling route up and around the boulders that lasted about 45 minutes.new zealand, south island, devil's punchbowl waterfall, hikingDevil’s Punchbowl Falls.Next up were Devil’s Punchbowl Falls and the Arthur’s Valley Track, with access points located at the same Department of Conservation carpark. According to my NZ Frenzy guidebook, the 131-meter Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall is the must-see attraction of Arthur’s Pass. It’s a short but moderately strenuous climb up a lot of stairs to a beautiful lookout point over the waterfall and “punchbowl” at the bottom.new zealand, south island, kakapotahi beach, freedom campingKakapotahi Beach.Arthur’s Valley Track is an easy wooded out-and-back trail that allows visitors to enjoy the peaceful quiet of New Zealand nature. Our final leg of this day brought us to a freedom camping spot at Kakapotahi Beach, where rain kept us inside the campervan. We were able to go to bed early for an early start to the Franz Josef Glacier.new zealand, south island, franz josef glacierFranz Josef Glacier.I had never seen a glacier before, so I was pretty excited to see not one, but two. The Franz Josef Glacier Valley Track took us about an hour and a half at a leisurely pace and stopping to take photographs. Several years ago more of the glacier was visible from the footpath, but nowadays to get the best view, some tourists opt for a helicopter ride. Both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are slowly disappearing year to year, prompting the Department of Conservation to extend the glacier-view tracks, which can be slightly dangerous given the likelihood of rockslides.new zealand, south island, fox glacierFox Glacier Valley Track.The Franz Josef Glacier area has several other clearly marked walking and hiking trails ranging from a one-hour easy stroll through the woods to eight-hour difficult climbs. We opted for the former, a forest trail called the Douglas Walk. So all told, we spent about two and a half hours exploring the Franz Josef Glacier area. We still had another glacier to visit after all!new zealand, south island, fox glacierPondering the Fox Glacier.After reading about how much the Franz Josef Glacier was retreating each year, I expected the same for our visit to Fox Glacier. It was even less visible and less “glacier-like” (for lack of a better term) than the Franz Josef Glacier. Several signs on the one-hour walk to the lookout point warned against stopping at all due to rockslides — even on some pretty steep sections of the path. I’m glad we got to see Glacier Country before they melt away even more.new zealand, south island, haast beach, driftwood, freedom campingFrom Glacier Country we headed south along the West Coast toward a beautiful (albeit a bit windy) freedom camping spot on Haast Beach. We were the only campervan around and we set up our camping table and chairs to enjoy wine and cheese and grilled steaks for dinner, with the surf as a backdrop.new zealand, south island, haast beach, driftwood, freedom campingWe took a nice walk along the beach before packing it in for the night. One great thing about this trip: much longer days and warmer weather. We were able to enjoy much more time outside once we arrived to our camping destinations.new zealand, south island, haast beach, driftwood, freedom campingNext up: Wanaka, which ended up being one of our favorite parts of the trip.See more photos from New Zealand.The Details: Castle HillGPS Coordinates: -43.233606, 171.722371Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/8GR52YnC8kQ2Hike: Easy to moderate 45-minute out-and-back hikeThe Details: Devil’s Punchbowl FallsGPS Coordinates: -42.935304, 171.560507Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/TvPW4zf9LYkHike: Moderate 20-minute 1 km trackThe Details: Arthur’s Valley TrackGPS Coordinates: -42.935304, 171.560507Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/TvPW4zf9LYkHike: Wooded, 70-minute out-and-back trail (same carpark as Devil’s Punchbowl)The Details: Kakapotahi Beach Freedom CampingGPS Coordinates: -42.955923, 170.666200Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/PBanDyZwNS32Campsite: Grass carpark or hard-packed sand (prone to flooding)The Details: Franz Josef Glacier Valley TrackGPS Coordinates: -43.423077, 170.169377Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/46fmWubZQjuHike: Easy 90-minute 5 km out-and-back trail; other trails of varying lengths from carparkThe Details: Fox Glacier Valley TrackGPS Coordinates: -43.496893, 170.046591Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/a1UpjogsyVJ2Hike: Easy one-hour out-and-back trailThe Details: Haast Beach Freedom CampingGPS Coordinates: -43.875160, 168.977513Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/rbZixf4d97H2Campsite: Multiple gravel entry points off the highway

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

3 thoughts on “New Zealand | Glacier Country

  1. Do they still offer helicopter rides up to land on the glaciers? That was pretty cool. Walked through a complete ice cave. Felt like I was on another planet.

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