South Island West Coast is well known for it’s rainforests and unique travel destinations in New Zealand.
Punakaiki and Pancake Rocks
We started our trip near Lake Brunner where we spend one night and had a refreshing swim in the lake. I managed to get a sunburn on my legs in just 1 hour. No wonder, spring sun is pretty strong everywhere in the world.
Next day we arrived to Punakaiki which has beautiful Pancake Rocks covering the coast and forming some unreal shapes. Had some walk around the area and took off to the camping spot, where we saw our German friends. That was a great catch up and talk about life.
Night was pretty rainy there but luckily it was fine again in the morning to do some trekking to see Fox River Caves. German couple woke up earlier and on their way back said that it wasn’t easy but really nice. So ofcourse we got too curious and decided to give it a try.
I have done many long walks but this one was next level out of everything I have seen before. Rainforest is just full of unseen formations, plants and views.
It was quite rocky and slippery though, so my partner had to hold my hand all the time so I wouldn’t fall. Think this track was actually officially closed a while ago, that’s why all the path was a bit tricky to follow as it hasn’t been maintained.
Not sure how long this track was in km (maybe 13 km as the map showed) but it terms of time, it took a while (from 10am to 3:30 pm).
At night time it got quite busy in that camping area. Some local bands played music under the cover. It was really chilled out Wednesday night and we joined their little jam party there.
Karamea – arches, sandflies and rainy rainforest
Our next stop was around Karamea town, so we drove a bit north. Spent day driving and had a sleepover at the place called Whanganui. It was still rainy so we took off quite early and reached Karamea pretty soon. They had a local market in the town centre. We bought some tamarillos (fruits that look a
bit like tomatoes, but I love them), sour cucumbers, cake and some fresh farm milk (I’m not really drinking it but my partner felt like milk on that day).
We continued our trip more into deep rainforest to see Moria Gate and Oparara Basin Arches. It was a short walk and destination totally worth it.
There’s one thing I don’t like about West Coast – sandflies. Small flies that bite you like mosquitos and later you scratch yourself all night long. Also you can’t miss Weka birds – these are pretty brave creatures that look a bit like chicken. They come really close and believe me, will even go inside the car to grab some food and run away.
Further trip continued on the south side of the coast, so we drove back towards Punakaiki. We spent the night in quite remote area where the full moon and bonfire added some sparkles.
Hokitika Gorge was our next must see place, it’s supposed to have turqoise water, but due to really heavy rainfall period, had turned into grey.
Franz Joseph Glacier
As it was utterly rainy on that day, we stopped over in town centre of Farnz Joseph Glacier and had some rest in hot pools. Otherwise as visibility was quite 0 on that day, we weren’t able to walk to glaciers. https://www.franzjosefglacier.com/
Basically icy formations between cliffs, where you can take a helicopter flight or climbing tour.
Queenstown was really busy on the day we arrived there. I really loved the vibe of it but the amount of tourists pissed me off a bit. Too busy and prices were way too high for whatever adventure. We played some Mini Golf and took a walk in the city centre.
Think we drove another 4-5 hours to reach this remarkable destination. Cruise Ship tours were quite expensive if you wanna buy them from the wharf. So we bought them for the next day over bookme.co.nz. Saved at least 45 dollars per person and got one of the smallest ferry they have. That means you get less tourists on the same cruise and way closer look to the surroundings.
Luckily we were able to see 4 penguins on our tour. These penguins only live in that area and their population is around 1000 in total. Was a lovely experience.
There was also some seals laying on the coast but I had seen them before, so wasn’t so excited.
Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo
Have literally never seen such a turqoise blue water in the lakes. Was breathtaking to get this feeling around that area of New Zealand.
We took some time off at the hot pools in Lake Tekapo. By the way, they had a real finnish sauna there, how lucky was that!
Overall our West Coast trip was pretty rainy, so we weren’t able to do some planned walks/activities, but still I definitely enjoyed this rainforest trip.