After partaking of the hospitality and activities on offer in Queenstown, it was time to make our way up the West Coast of the South Island.
Not far from Queenstown is the Crown Range, in fact just across the road from The Roaring Meg. The highest road in New Zealand. Often closed to traffic through the winter, you will need to time your visit if you wish to enjoy the incredible views on offer throughout this drive. For tourists and visitors to the country, it is imperative to heed all the warnings which come with travelling this route.The first viewing bay, not long after a number of twists and turns, gives you an incredible view across the countryside to the Remarkables in the distance. This ascent is quick, and this seemingly high view is small compared to what is on offer higher up.
As we continued to snake our way on to the top of the Crown Range, the sheer height of the road was illustrated by the traces of snow remaining on the mountains close to the road. Once you reach the peak and begin the descent into Wanaka, the scenery continues to change. Mountains, paddocks, and even the famous bra fence, provide a cinematic view as you near Wanaka.
We drove through Wanaka today, as time was limited, but apart from the sensational lake views, Wanaka itself has a lot on offer. Well worth taking the time to check it out, that is if you can tear yourself away from the driving and amazing lake views. Every corner provides a different perspective.
We stopped along the way to take photos and simply marvel in the stunning countryside. today we were to see a lot of dramatic changes in the scenery. Lake Hawea, pictured above, is another picturesque lake on this scenic drive. Rugged mountains, reflective lakes and winding roads, meandering from flat to hill in no time. And better still, this amazing view was reflected in the bonnet of our hire vehicle.
Above are two shots taken from a viewing stop next to Lake Wanaka. This first leads the eye back towards the lake township of Wanaka, the second is part of the view you will pass on your way through to Haast.
Our original plan was to stop in Wanaka for Breakfast, however as we drove through, I think we had just beaten the opening of the cafes for the day. As we drove past the neck of Lake Wanaka, we came across Makarora Cafe. The sign on the carpark was enticing, it looked like someone here had a sense of humour. We are not sure why you check in after 6:02PM or why you cant take your Robot, however it certainly provided for interesting conversation as we restarted the road trip.
Given the outside temperature, it was pleasing to indulge in a hearty breakfast near an open fire. Friendly service and big hot drinks and meal serves had us warmed and on our way in no time. Little tip, one I should probably have shared earlier, but if you are doing this drive, load up on the insect repellant. No matter where you stop from here on in, those Sandflies feel they are obliged to join you.
We played a number of road games but one we should have paid played was counting the one way bridges. Oh and the road cones, seriously where is that factory, those road cones are millimetres apart every spot we drove past with road cones. Never have we ever seen so many.
There are a few stops along the way, some on the other side of the road, so we chose to stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a mere couple of minutes walk from the road. 25 metres high, this breathtaking waterfall thunders down onto the crystal clear waters below. Beautifully clear blue waters rush past the waterfall, they are simply stunning. Head down to the lookout and you can take advantage of very close up view.
Mt Aspiring looms into view, throughout the road trip. Hidden every now and then by native bush, the low lying cloud gives you an idea of the sheer height of this mountain.
There was no time to stop on this trip to stop at Haast. However, should you be looking for local whitebait, there is a lovely little stop at the airfield. Here you can buy the whitebait or taste the wares.
We now changed from the lakes and mountains behind to the wonderful rugged West Coast. Unspoilt in many places, natural and just plain rugged, welcome to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Can you see how steep that little hill illustrated by it’s Mohawk of trees which struggle to stand up straight along the ridge.
Ok yes its another one way bridge,but can you see how different they all they all are? Each bridge is individually engineered, in a way it breaks up the road trip. And now, around 4 and a half hours since leaving Queenstown, we arrive in the first Glacier township, Fox Glacier. We loved this, coming round a corner, and oh, here’s a random forklift. Fox glacier itself is before you reach Fox Glacier township from this direction, so watch out for the signs.
This Glacier is the best viewing if you only want to see from the carpark, with a zoom lense. We simply did not have the time ( a good couple of hours) to traverse the walk through to the Glacier. However it is nice to be able to see the ice front from the carpark.
This first leg of the drive has been full on. I’ll leave you now to catch your breathe and take in this simply stunning scenery. From lakes to mountains to bush and beach. Watch out for the next leg of our road trip.