NZ - Riding the Glacier Highway

5 February 2018

Wharf, Okarito

Our schedule has been dictated somewhat by the weather. The west coast of New Zealand receives a lot of rain, 5 metres a year is common but more than 10m a year has been recorded. So visiting the mountainous Southern Alps is usually met with rain, buckets of it. We haven't seen any significant rain for a month and the forecast for the next few days is sunny for the west coast. Thus we keep moving south, with an overnight stop in lovely and quiet Okarito where we took a personal boat tour on the estuary early in the morning, it was serenely beautiful and helped recharge our batteries.


Back on the Glacier Highway and the mountains got a lot closer and bigger as we entered Westland National Park. We decamped at Franz Josef then headed out to the galcier at 6pm and started the walk up to the face. It was a lovely time of day to do the walk . The glacier and all around it was amazing, the glacier itself being a lovely pale blue colour in the evening light.


A beautiful evening riding in to the Franz Josef Glacier


The Franz Josef Glacier in the last of the evening light

Fox Glacier just down the road was set in a dramatic landscape, and although the glacier was less impressive than at Franz Josef it had a nice blue ice cave just below its terminus. It was then a scenic and fun run down to Haast, through Bruce Bay and Knights Point. As there were still a couple of hours light left after dinner we decided to take a ride down the coast to Jackson Bay. It was a fast (flat and straight) run but the scenery was breathtaking. Fabulous light on the mountains with glacial rivers, Rimu forests and a few pastures in the foreground. Some parts of the road were crowded with forest both sides so we appeared to be careering through cool tree tunnels. The hamlet of Jackson Bay was serene, just a few houses scattered about a couple of hills on the point, a commercial fishing jetty and two fishing boats moored in the bay, and a little orange caravan that sells cooked crayfish anyway you like (closed).


The wharf, Jackson Bay


Arawhata River

Today looks like it’s going to be the final day of the magnificent summer weather so we took the back road from Wanaka through the Cardrona Valley and Crown Range to Queenstown. It was as fabulous a road as we had ridden but I took it easy to take in the wonderful scenery, including the quirky “bra fence”! Over the top at Mount Scott for our first views of Queenstown and then down the tight switchbacks and on to the plain again. Queenstown was way too much ritz hotel and commerce for us, we went straight through and hit the road to Glenorchy on the northern end of the lake. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, made all the more exciting by the play of light on the turquoise water which was changing by the minute in the flukey weather, the change was coming in. We headed back toward Queenstown, retracing our steps, only to be thwarted 10km short of Queenstown by a tree blown down right across the road, along with the powerlines. We were unable even to get the bike through. So we joined an ever growing throng of vehicles parked up on the road. It was three hours before the road was reopened and the convoy could get on its way. During our long wait we slept, rested and had a chat with the campervan parked behind us, a French couple working in New Caldonia for a few years.


Waiting three hours for the road to be cleared


I can pretty much sleep anywhere anytime!

We eventually made it back with the rain just beginning to fall as we passed the “Wanaka” town sign.

Ok KurveyGirl where to next?

How about Milford Sound?

Awesome idea, let's go..


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