Wellington to Fox Glacier

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
Gillespie's Beach Campsite
Old MacDonald's Farm Holiday Park
Sequoia Lodge Backpackers

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, April 21, 2012

The scenery on the ferry ride was similar to one we took to Salt Spring Island off the coast of Vancouver. Forested and grassy rolling hills dotted both sides of the Cook Strait.  Arriving on the South Island we found a delightful place to spend the night and made ourselves juicy steaks with potatoes and vegetables for dinner.  Sequoia Lodge Backpackers served up oven-baked chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert; a very nice treat indeed.  That and the free wifi helped us justify spending $63 (~CDN$53) on the very comfortable room.  After a few gmail phone calls to family, we were sad to leave but the open road beckoned.

The highway leading out of Picton was steep and curvy, which made Sylvia slightly nauseous while Jason relished the opportunity to hug the corners and accelerate through the apices.  The views of the surrounding sounds were stunning.  Descending into Nelson we were charmed by the town and sought out the source of the One Ring.  Jens Hansen was handpicked to create the most important prop for The Lord of the Rings movies based on his reputation for producing fine jewelry.  Inside the tiny shop a friendly staffer showed us the first prototype along with a selection of other rings from the trilogy, including Sauron's huge ring.  Unfortunately Jens passed away before the films were released but his legacy lives on in the family business and as part of Tolkien lore.

A short drive further and we were in Richmond, hunting for Harrington's Brewers, creators of the stout ale quaffed in the movies.  After asking several passersby we came up empty and moved on.  We entered another wine region that also bore a multitude of other familiar fruits including apples, pears and kiwis.  Having already enjoyed a 2.5 kg bag of braeburns over the previous few days, we breezed by an honour payment system fruit stand and bought a bag of juicy d'estivale apples.

Our next stop was an informative iSite travel information centre.  We loaded up on more maps and info and booked a kayak for the following day. They also referred us to Old MacDonald's Farm, a real farm setting with quiet camping areas where we promptly set up the tent and cooked chili for dinner.  We retired early in preparation for high adventure on Tasman Bay.

Our kayaking day began with a safety review under cloudy skies, followed by a minivan ride to the beach.  Just before 11:00 we paddled off shore and headed north into Abel Tasman National Park, against the current.  The going wasn't easy but the golden sandy coast broken by massive rocky outcroppings on the left and more of the same in island form on the right kept us entertained.

We took our first lunch break on Coquille Bay, savouring salami, edam and avocado sandwiches.  Back in the boat the sun burst forth and the sea turned turquoise.  We paddled hard and perpendicular to set foot on Observation Beach, another secluded beach that was ideal for our second lunch.  At low tide there were hundreds of green mussels and purple razor clams visible, attached to the rocks.  Oh how we would have loved to cook some of those up for dinner.  With the aid of the wind and current the journey home was much swifter than the paddle out.  Our bodies tired so we took frequent breaks and glided along the sun-enhanced colourful water.  

For dinner we patronized The Fat Tui, a truck converted into a takeaway joint serving up big burgers and fish and chips.  We ordered up a tasty 'Ewe Beaut' and fish and chips, chasing it all down with a beer from the car.  They pumped out chilled tunes and with candles on the picnic tables out front the vibe was cool, along with the air. 

The next day we took an aqua-taxi further up the coast to Bark Bay and hiked 25 km back to Marahau in seven hours.  The time was estimated for us but we failed to inquire about the distance.  Given that we usually hike at around 3 km/h including food and photo breaks, that information may have come in handy.  Still, we managed to get back to our base and shower before darkness fell again.

With a long drive ahead of us we rose early, breakfasted and packed up camp.  The leaves on the maple tree close by had turned a brilliant red and Jason attached one to the rear wiper blade.

We made the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks our lunch stop and were impressed by the scenery and setup.  These tall towers rise sharply from the sea and are made of thin layers of sediment deposited on the ocean floor millions of years ago, slowly eroded by wind and water into their current forms.  We continued southward to Franz Josef Glacier. 

Unfortunately, the terminal face was melting and partially caved in in January so the only option was an expensive helicopter ride further up the glacier followed by a hike on the ice.  We decided to shop around and found half day hike openings for Fox Glacier instead.  We checked into a room with four beds at a lovely holiday park just outside the tiny town of Fox Glacier.  This time our creative one pot meal consisted of onion, garlic, ground beef, pumpkin, celery and butter chicken sauce from a jar. 

After a good night's rest we made our way over to the tour operator and got a briefing plus some essential gear.  The walk up to the glacier was warm and rocky with sheer cliffs lining both sides of the crystal river valley.  As soon as we donned our loaned crampons over borrowed boots and took our first steps onto the glacier the temperature dropped dramatically, necessitating the addition of warmer clothing.  We stomped over the ice to maintain traction and passed crystal clear blue ice pools created by water flowing over and through the glacier.  The same water carved tubes and holes large enough for us to pass through, making for some amazing photos.
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Anna on

Awesome photos! Brings back some fond memories. Ahhh...

Darin on

That all looks pretty nice, I guess.
ha. WOW.

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