Nelson Lakes to Westport north -
Continuing the trip from the Nelson Lakes area -
From St Arnaud we follow the Buller River west on route 63 and then route 6 to Murchison. From Murchison continue west on route 6 to the West Coast. You will pass through a very small place called Inangahua. There is an old building there the residents have put a lot of photos and information about the big earthquake in the area worth stopping to have a look at. You will continue to follow the Buller one of the most beautiful rivers in New Zealand in my opinion. It is 40kms from Inangahuna to Rt 67 junction and 113kms from St Arnaud to here. At Route 67 turn north to Westport and drive on through north to as far as Hector if you are a country music fan to the Country Music Museum there if not pass it. I do want you to experience Denniston though north of Westport about 20kms. take the road to the right at Waimangaroa and climb the Denniston mountain. It is rare I get the chance to let people know about this place. It has long been abandoned as a town but a few buildings are still there. Climb to the top with your vehilce. Easy drive.
(http://www.nzine.co.nz/features/dennistonincline.html ) Eighth wonder of the world in its day.
Westport North to Karamea Ė
North from Denniston to Granity (good cafe there in the middle of town) and Hector (country western museum if interested in that sort of thing) and on to where route 67 takes a turn and crosses the Mokihinui River. Just across the river is a dirt road to the left to a remarkable campground called Gentle Annies. Good spot to park up. From there you take the Karamea Highway twisting and turning up the mountain and over through to Little Wanganui and on to the town of Karamea. Continue north all the way where the road dead ends at a DoC camp on the Kohaihai River and the south end of the world famous Heaphy track. Fabulous place to stay. Dramatic when the river and the ocean fight for supremecy at the base of the Kohaihai Bluff.
Now we turn back to Westport and stay the night at the Westport Holiday Park - www.holidayparks.co.nz/westport. I really enjoyed the Coal Museum there. Never thought I would go to a museum about coal but was quite intrigued with it.
Westport. Blackball, Greymouth to Hokitika -
From your park stay in Westport go out to Cape Foulwind and have a look. From there you take a side road, Wilsonís Lead Road that is a shortcut back to Route 6 and then turn south. It is about 15kms to Charleston. After Charleston the road turns out to the coast to display one of those awesome scenes all the way to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks where you should stop and have a look. Great scenery when as you get to the sea off in the distance are the Southern Alps. The West Coast of the South Island is the only place in the world where a rain forest meets the sea and glaciers. From here we continue south toward Greymouth. If you want to take a side road adventure turn inland before Weymouth on the road marked to Blackball. A small isolated village where gold miners still do their thing. Stop and have a beer at the Blackball Hilton. This also is a place most visitors donít get to experience and it is well worth the drive.
From Westport to Greymouth is a drive of 1/2 hours. From Greymouth to Hokitika where you will stay tonight is about 40 minutes so you got plenty of time to explore today. Just before Hokitika is the Shining Star Holiday Park (www.shiningstar.co.nz ) one of the best in the country.
Hokitika to Glacier Country -
Be sure to go into Hokitika, it is the real crafts centre of the country. Have a poke around town. Turn into Hokitika from Route 6 and drive until it dead ends on the last street, turn left and then first street on the right will take you to a park right on the beach. Enjoy your visit.
Now we are off to the Glacier Country and to the real rain forest. South of Hokitika on the left a few kms is Lake Mahinapua a great place to park overnight. It is a Dept of Conservation Camp or the Rainforest Retreat Park - www.rainforestretreat.co.nz - right in town .
Next place is Ross a famous gold mining town. Just after be sure to stop and have a look around at Pukekura, home to the giant sand fly, south of Ross. Two real characters own and run this place. A fun spot. Have a look in their museum and as to see the deer capture movie if you are interested in some real Kiwi history. This is about the beginning of domestic deer farming in the country. Have you ever seen a thar up close? Know what it is?
From here we pass Lake Ianthe, also a nice place to stop perhaps for lunch. Next place of interest, especially to bird lovers, is the town of Whataroa where the Great Heron Colony can be visited. They also have spoonbills nesting there. One of the best jade stone carvings are there too at the Maori Art Gallery right on the road as you turn. Worth a stop.
After Whataroa you will pass Lake Wahapo and Lake Mapourika. An interesting 13km side road drive through Kiwi (the bird) country is to Okarito on the beach. An isolated small community that offers a camp ground for $7.50pp on the ocean. Looking ofr peace and quiet in your trip this is it. You might want to take advantage of the kayak trips offered too.
It is a 2 hour drive from Hokitika to Franz Josef so you got plenty of time today to explore. Stay at the Rainforest Retreat in the middle of Franz Josef.(www.rainforestholidaypark.co.nz ).(Wallace St. first on the left when you enter town). Wander around and get a feel for the place. I recommend a heli-flight to the top of the glacier and a walk around on it. One of the great thrills of life for me. You also can drive to a place to park at the south edge of town over the bridge and take a short walk up to the base of the glacier. Thatís free.
Enjoy a leisurely day at Franz Josef and then to Fox Glacier. For your third night in glacier country let me recommend a place we stay and something special. Leave Franz Josef and go to Fox Glacier. South of town you can drive back to the base of the glacier and walk up to it also. By mid-afternoon or later take the Cooks Flat road west out of Fox Glacier (or before if you like just trying to get you settled in before nightfall and get the chance to see the sunset here.) until the Gillespieís Beach Road on the right. take that all the way to Gillespieís Beach. Itís a damn good bet you will be alone in this country other han perhaps a local or two. After the beach turn back the way you came out. After crossing the river on the left is a small picnic area. Here is where we usually stay the night.(have a look at the photo on my entry page- (www.newzealandtravelguide.net ) thatís us parked there). There is also the Fox Glacier Holiday Park (www.foxglacierholidaypark.co.nz . Now one of the reasons to be here is to get up real early before the wind gets up to get to Lake Matheson just back up the road you came in on the left. It is one of the finest small walks and scenery you will ever see. Park in the parking lot and take a walk around the lake. if you get there early the reflection of the forest and mountains in the lake are picture post card stuff. Just pure magic!
Photo List -
1. the Buller River
2. Sunset on the West Coast
3. Cape Foulwind
4. Scenic coast below Westport
5. West Coast beach
6. West Coast beach
7. Punaikaki Rocks
8. West Coast lake
9. Fox Glacier
10. Fox Glacier
11. Franz Josef Glacier
12. Lake Matheson
13. West Coast lake
14. North of Karamea