From Wanaka we made multiple stops on our way to Fox Glacier. (Fox Glacier is stop 'F' on the map below. Then we worked our way north on the west side of the island.)
Photos below are from the Blue Pools, a few hikes and waterfalls, and the crazy palms we saw on the way to Fox Glacier.
Jeff had originally booked us 3 nights in Fox Glacier so we would be sure to have 2 full days to choose from to see the glacier in case of bad weather. We only ended up staying there for 2 nights since it rained most of the time. Also, there is nothing to do in Fox Glacier besides a few hikes. We even had to bring all of our groceries with us since they only have a small convenience store. It didn’t rain our first night there, so we did a short walk in the dark to see some glow worms! There are glow worms all over NZ. They are really maggots (‘glow maggots’ just doesn't have a nice ring to it), and they basically have 2 kidneys that produce chemicals that mix to produce their bio-luminescent light. They use the light to attract insects for food. Science! Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures in the dark of the glow worms!
The next day we walked around Lake Matheson and were able to see a little bit of Fox Glacier and the surrounding area. We also walked as close as we could get to the face of Fox Glacier. In order to walk on the glacier, you need to hire a guide and take a helicopter ride. I’m sure the helicopter ride is amazing in clear weather, but it was overcast or raining while we were in town. We still did all of the tramping (hiking) we could in town!
After our second night in Fox Glacier, we checked out of our hostel a day early and headed up to Franz Josef Glacier. Franz Josef (the town and the glacier) are bigger than Fox, but it was pouring rain, so we didn’t do much there. We did get soaked during our 1.5 hour hike to the face of Franz Josef. We were so wet when we got back to the car that we had to remove most of our clothes and drive north to the town of Greymouth in our underwear.
I found a cute hostel called ‘Noah’s Ark Backpackers’ in Greymouth. It was an old monastery that used to sit right next to a large cathedral. Each room was animal themed- we were in the Zebra room. Greymouth reminded me of a small mining town you would find in the States, and there wasn’t much to do except visit the local establishments. We went for some pre-dinner drinks at Monteith’s Brewery. I got a little carried away when we ordered a sampler. Instead of ordering the recommended 3 or 6, I ordered them all!
Jeff and I don’t drink much beer anymore (our wallet thanks us), but we had a good time and enjoyed trying craft brews again!
It was still raining on and off the next day, and we left Greymouth to head to Nelson. On the way, we stopped at the pancake rocks and blowholes. They were amazing! The Tasman Sea crashing against the coast has created some beautiful rock formations and the mist from the waves comes up from the rock, making it look like a whale’s blow hole.
We continued and made it to Nelson by early evening to see our friend Trudy. We met Trudy through friends last summer when we were in England and she was there visiting her family. She graciously hosted us for our 2 nights in Nelson and we had a blast! Jeff and I checked out Nelson in the rain one day, and Trudy took us to meet all of her friends at a party across town. We had a fabulous time; it is so wonderful to be able to stop and spend a little while in a home, not a hotel room, have a home-cooked meal, and socialize with people besides Jeff. Thank you so much Trudy- stopping in to spend time with you was definitely one of our highlights in NZ!
We left Nelson early in the morning in order to make it to Picton to catch the ferry to the North Island on Good Friday. Trudy sent us on our way with hot cross buns. They are traditionally eaten here on Good Friday (it’s an Easter thing). They were great!
We got to the ferry with plenty of time to spare, but we were a bit worried because the night before was when the North Island was due to get hit by Cyclone Cook. Lucky for us, the cyclone wasn’t as bad as predicted. The day before, when we had been in Nelson, everyone kept reminding us of the storm of ’68, when the last really bad cyclone hit and the ferry capsized during a crossing. The crossing for us ended up being windy, but smooth enough that I didn’t have to take Dramamine- a win for me!
We had a fabulous time on the South Island, and were excited to spend a few days exploring the North Island!