After a 3 and a half hour boat journey from Wellington to Picton – despite the cancellations because of weather warnings, the crossing was beautifully calm with blue skies and stunning scenery – I arrived safely on New Zealand’s South Island. And so began my journey down to Queenstown.
Rather than describe my trip thoroughly (which is rather difficult now 4 months down the line), here’s a selection of highlights from my drive down the West Coast.
- Dining on freshly caught pan fried blue cod whilst camping right by the sea at the remote French Pass campsite in the heart of the Marlborough sounds.
- Driving along the meandering and beautiful road in the Abel Tasman National Park and spending a freezing night camped in the heart of the park.
- Picking up a hitch hiker and heading all the way to Cape Farewell – wondering along the stunning beach; watching young seals play with each other less than a foot away; and camping in a free spot with breathtaking scenery, a campfire, and sharing beers with a stranger.
- Visiting the abandoned coal mining town of Denniston – which was situated high on a plateau. All that remains is rubble, tracks and old coal mine carts – it’s a fascinating reminder of what was once the thriving gold and coal mining west coast.
- Stopping at various towns that were once home to thousands of people who hoped to make their fortune from gold mining.
- Driving along the dramatic (albeit rainy) coastline.
- Setting up camp in my car at various free DOC campsites dotted along the coast.
- Marvelling at the Punakaiki rocks – often referred to as the ‘Pancake rocks’ as they look like stacked pancakes. When waves come the sea tunnels through blow holes in the rocks.
- Driving through the mountains on the scenic Arthur’s Pass road.
- Walking to the base of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the pouring rain and not being able to see a thing…
- Sitting by the stunningly calm waters of Lake Matheson and depicting the reflections of Mount Cook in the water.
- Visiting beautiful Wanaka in the Autumnal rain.
I saw some incredible sites, met some fantastic people and had a blast exploring some of New Zealand before settling in Queenstown for the busy winter season months.