The (south) West Coast

During my first 3 days off I set off on a road trip to the south end of The West Coast region.  I began my journey just outside Oxford by visiting Springfield which is home to a lovely large scale donut that was erected to promote The Simpsons Movie and has since became a permanent feature.  From Springfield I head west into the Southern Alps where I stopped at Castle Hill which is not actually a castle but rather limestone formations that are naturally occurring in farmers paddocks that sorta look like the foundation of a castle.  These rocks were really cool to see and there are a lot of walking paths that weave in and out of the rocks.

From here I headed into Arthur’s Pass National Park.  This park was the South Island’s first national park & it began in 1923.  This pass ranges in elevation from 245m – 2408m; the actual pass is at an elevation of 920m.  Contained within the park are a few waterfalls which I stopped to enjoyed.  The first was the Devil’s Punchbowl falls and the second was Bridal Veil falls.  Both waterfalls were flowing and it was a beautiful day to hike to them.  Two other waterfalls that I was able to see once I continued driving through the alps were Twin Creek Falls and Reid Falls.  The Twin Creek Falls I could see right from the road which was great as I didn’t have to add extra time to that stop for the day.  Reid Falls is no longer following its natural flow path as it was diverted over top of the road using a chute so as to reduce the amount of erosion that would occur along with a rock shelter that was added to protect cars from falling rocks.

After the exciting drive through the alps I headed south to Hokitika.  Hokitika is known for its jade but I went there for the gorge and the views.  The water of the Hokitika Gorge was a beautiful colour of blue from the glacier flour as it is called.  There is a swing bridge that you can walk across and a multitude of trails.  I also visited the beach at sunset point where I did indeed watch the sunset at this beach and it was a lovely sunset.  For dinner that evening I enjoyed a fabulous Hawaiian pizza from Fat Pipi Pizzas and the reviews did not lie it was a really good pizza – I can’t be the judge yet as to whether it is the best on the West Coast as I haven’t been everywhere yet.  That evening I went with a couple girls that I met at the hostel to the Glowworm Dell outside of town that is a 5 minute walk into the tree canopy to see the bioluminescent larvae know as glowworms.  It was unbelievable – I don’t know how to describe it other than it reminded me of still fireflies.

Day 2 – was spent hiking to the Franz Josef Glacier and to Fox Glacier.  The hike to Franz Josef Glacier was not difficult but was definitely a work out.  There were multiple stops along the hike that I could stop at and see the glacier as well as various waterfalls along the trail.  Some of the waterfalls had names and others either were never named or were a result of recent rainfall finding the most direct pathway to the ground.  The Franz Josef Glacier was definitely larger than Fox Glacier but both are in retreat.  The Fox Glacier lookout provided not only a good view of the glacier but also of the snowcapped mountains around it.  Both were quite the site.  After the glaciers I continued south to Haast where I stopped at Knights Point which is a lookout over the Tasman Sea and commemorates the opening of the coastal highway between the glaciers and Haast.  The views were pretty good although cloud cover was a big factor in how far you could see.  Along the way I also stopped at Ship Creek which is called that because of pieces of a ship that were later classified as a ship hull which was discovered between 1871 and 1973.  It was determined that these fragments were part of the Schomberg that went down off the coast of Victoria, Australia and the sea pulled parts of that wreck to the coast of New Zealand some 2000 kms.

Day 3 – was a big day of driving to get back to Oxford along the Haast Pass Highway which reaches the elevation of 563m.  Along the way I stopped at Thunder Creek Falls and Fantail Falls which both were great ways to stretch my legs between the longer periods of driving.  The next stop was very close to the top of the pass and was at the Haast Blue Pools which are exactly what the name suggests rivers and streams and sitting water that is blue due to the light refraction potential and the glacier flow down the mountain.  The scenery along the way was amazing to see and pictures just wouldn’t do it justice.  I stopped again a various lookouts along the highway as well as at Lindis Pass as well which reaches an elevation of 971m.  The next stop was Lake Pukaki Lookout which has some amazing views of the mountains in the background as well as Mt. Cook and the surreal blue colour of the lake.  From here I stopped again at Lake Tekapo which was born out of a hydropower scheme but is now an active lake for various activities.

Overall it was a wonderful 3 days of exploring the southern end of the West Coast and I look forward to my next days off for more adventures.

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