The west coast of the South Island is known for its rainforests and unique travel destinations in New Zealand.
Punakaiki and Pancake Rocks
We started our trip near the Brunner lake, where we spent one night and had a refreshing swim in the lake. I got sunburnt on my legs in just an hour. No wonder the spring sun is pretty strong all over the world.
The next day we arrived in Punakaiki, where beautiful pancake rocks cover the coast and form some unreal shapes. We took a walk around the area and made our way to the campsite where we saw our German friends. It was a great opportunity to talk about life.
The night was pretty rainy there, but luckily it was good to go trekking again in the morning to see the Fox River Caves. German couple woke up earlier and said on the way back that it was not easy, but very nice. Of course we got too curious and decided to give it a try.
I took a lot of long walks, but this was the next level of everything I’ve seen before. The rainforest is only full of invisible formations, plants and views.
It was pretty rocky and slippery, so my partner had to hold my hand all the time so I wouldn’t fall. Think this track was officially closed some time ago. Therefore, following the entire path was a little difficult since it was not maintained.
I’m not sure how long this distance was in km (maybe 13 km as the map shows), but it took a while (from 10am to 3.30pm).
It was pretty crowded at night at the campsite. Some local bands played music under the covers. It was really relaxed on Wednesday evening and we joined their little jam party there.
Karamea – arches, sand flies and rainforest
Our next stop was in the city of Karamea, so we drove a bit north. Spent a day by car and stayed in Whanganui. It was still rainy, so we started out pretty early and reached Karamea pretty soon. They had a local market in the city center. We bought a couple of tamarillos (fruits that look a)
a bit like tomatoes but i love them), pickled cucumbers, cakes and some fresh farm milk (i don’t really drink them but my partner felt like milk that day).
We continued our journey into the deep rainforest to see Moria Gate and Oparara Basin Arches. It was a short walk and the destination was worth it.
One thing I don’t like on the west coast: sand flies. Little flies that bite like mosquitoes and later you scratch yourself all night. You can’t miss Weka birds either – these are pretty brave creatures that look a bit like chickens. They get very close and believe me, even go into the car to get something to eat and run away.
We continued on the south side of the coast, so we drove back to Punakaiki. We spent the night in a fairly remote area where the full moon and bonfire sparkled a little.
The Hokitika Gorge was our next must. It should have turquoise water, but had turned gray due to the heavy rainy season.
Franz Joseph glacier
Since it was very rainy that day, we made a stop in the city center of Farnz Joseph Glacier and rested in hot pools. Otherwise, since the visibility was pretty 0 that day, we couldn’t walk to glaciers. https://www.franzjosefglacier.com/
Basically icy formations between cliffs where you can take a helicopter flight or a climbing tour.
Queenstown was very busy the day we got there. I really loved the mood, but the amount of tourists made me a little pissed off. Too busy and the prices were too high for any adventure. We played mini golf and went for a walk in the city center.
Think we drove another 4-5 hours to achieve this remarkable goal. Cruise ship tours were quite expensive if you wanted to buy them from the quay. So we bought them for the next day through bookme.co.nz. Saved at least $ 45 per person and got one of the smallest ferries they have. That means you get fewer tourists on the same cruise and take a closer look at the area.
Fortunately we were able to see 4 penguins on our tour. These penguins only live in this area and have a total of around 1000 inhabitants. It was a nice experience.
There were also some seals on the coast, but I had seen them before, so I wasn’t too excited.
Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo
Literally never seen turquoise water in the lakes. It was breathtaking to get that feeling in this area of New Zealand.
We took a break at the hot pools in Lake Tekapo. By the way, they had a real Finnish sauna there, how happy it was!
Overall, our west coast trip was pretty rainy, so we couldn’t do some planned hikes / activities, but I definitely enjoyed this rainforest trip.
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