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Wanaka -> Fox Glacier
Time to leave the warmth of Lake Wanaka and drive up the west coast to Fox Glacier. The day started in a minor camera disaster, but with an incredible amount of luck and a crazy idea, the disaster was avoided. However, we got away a little later from Wanaka than planned and a little poorer. Prepared for a relatively long drive, we recharged our batteries with a breakfast at a small bakery on the main street of Wanaka, The Doughbin. Absolutely nothing fancy, just some quick pre-made sandwiches and a coffee at a small round table. We also bought sandwiches from Subway to eat for lunch, as the whole day's drive would take us through Mount Aspiring National Park, where there are neither towns nor lunch places. The weather looked to be a bit sissy, not cold but a bit hazy and with a risk of rain. All we had to do was throw on the windbreakers.
Mount Aspiring is home to New Zealand's highest mountain – of the same name – and Lord of the Rings Isengard. At the heart of the national park are vast areas of wilderness, with glaciers, snowfields, mountains and valleys. The western part of the park is a green carpet of rainforest and waterfalls, while the eastern is more barren and mountainous.
Started the trip north along the winding road by the shores of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. The views over the lakes were fabulous, even though the day offered a thick layer of clouds. Again green hills with sheep and slightly snow-covered mountains around the lakes.
As we set off quite late, it was lunch quicker than we thought, so we stopped at a rest stop by Lake Wanaka for lunch. However, we barely made it out the door before we realized that it was probably a rather bad idea to sit outside and eat lunch today. A storm was blowing, straight towards us at the rest area. Only a few kilometers earlier we had stopped and looked at the lake, without any wind at all, but now we ended up in a real wind tunnel. We took a short walk, but the car turned out to be the best place for lunch, so we sat in the car and snuggled and watched the swans walking on the lake instead.
First real stop in Mount Aspiring var Blue Polish, a half-hour easy hike over suspension bridges to some magically blue pools at the mouths of two rivers. The hiking trail was well maintained and gravelled and the path went through a green and dense forest with ferns and tree branches with hanging moss. We stopped by the pool for a while and balanced on the round rocks by the beach and enjoyed the super blue water and threw some sandwiches. It was not possible to stand still for long, because it was full of angry black flies that were doing their best to eat us. Back into the forest and into the car again.
The road continued north through Haast Pass. You can't say anything other than that this stretch of road turned out to be absolutely magical, with clouds slowly rolling in over the road and the hills. Unfortunately we don't see any mountains today as the clouds are so low, but this is almost better! Everything feels much more mysterious and Lord of the Rings with all the clouds.
The next stop was Fantail falls, a waterfall just a stone's throw from the car. Walked a bit among the round stones on the riverbed, but here too it was full of angry black flies, so we waved them off for a while before heading back to the car.
Thundercreek falls was the next stop, but on the way there we managed to find another waterfall by a nice bridge. But now the clouds were so low that it almost felt like they were passing overhead.
Should have stopped at the waterfall Roaring Billy, but we must have missed the sign because suddenly we were in Haast by the sea and at a visitor center. How did it happen, as there would be a large parking lot and be well signposted to the waterfall. Went for a walk by Ship creek on the beach among the tall red parrot flowers, the beach dunes and the gnarled logs blown up on the beach. The vegetation here is very strange, feels more like African savannah with big baobab trees. Very impenetrable! There was a lookout tower by the beach, so we climbed up to look at the view, but once up we quickly realized that all we could see was a cloud of black flies, so we had to climb down faster than smart!
Drove past several rockslides along the road, some so big that the road had been redone. As it always rains a lot here, there is a high risk of landslides.
Arriving at Fox Glacier Lodge, we checked into our cozy log cabin with two bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen and set out to find dinner. One of the three restaurants was closed tonight, which made the pressure on the others hysterical. After much wishing, we sat down at the White bar and had a mediocre dinner, with super stressed staff. Clearly, in this little cave, they were not used to so many people!
After dinner we went for a walk in the forest next to the hotel. The forest was like something out of a storybook with large palm ferns, trees covered in moss and a small stream. Everything came together in a thick green blanket that enveloped the path. The hotel owner had advised that unexpected things happened in the forest after dark, so we went back to the cabin and waited for sunset before going back to the same forest path - now in pitch black darkness.
The natural phenomenon that appeared in the darkness was something we had never seen before. Everywhere under the big root rollers, little glowworms were flashing! Very strange animals! We probably thought it was a small worm that glowed, but it turned out to be a really ugly and disgusting little bug. Ugly in daylight, but very fun to look at in the dark!
Do you want to read more about our adventure in New Zealand? Check out the next day at Travel diary New Zealand: Day 5. Fox Glacier and glow worms or previous day on Travel diary New Zealand: Day 3. Arrowtown .
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.