After our journey through the North Island to Wellington and the trip across the Cook Strait, we had lots of new territory to explore. We spent a few days based in Blenheim, exploring the Marlborough region. We had one day touring vineyards by bicycle. This was a great way to get around the flat valley since many of the wineries were quite close to each other. If interested in a bike tour I highly recommend you get in touch with Nigel and Helen at Wine Tours By Bike.
a beautiful day in Marlborough
After our time in Marlborough, we headed to the north west part of the island, and Abel Tasman National Park for some hiking and exploring. There are many miles of hiking trails. We only had a short time, so we went to a tourist information center in Motueka where they recommended a hiking route based on the time we had available. Ultimately, we took a water taxi to a trail head, hiked for a while, then met another water taxi at the end of our trail. I was a great way to explore the park. The iSite tourist center mentioned is a great feature for visitors, providing free services from bookings to just simple advice of what to see. These are located throughout the country.
View from our hike
Split Apple Rock viewed from our water taxi
Torrent Bay, Able Tasman National Park
After a short visit to Abel Tasman and a stay in a wonderful modern B&B, we started driving down the west coast. One stop along the way was in Punakaiki, a popular stop along Highway 6, to visit Pancake Rocks. Its a very unique geological formation with limestone outcroppings and blowholes caused by tides.
Blowhole at Punakaiki
We continued further south and stayed at another B&B at at farmlet near Greymouth. Greymouth is a fishing town along the west coast, and the home for Monteith's Brewery. We were unable to do a brewery tour, but sampled some of their products during our trip.
Our 'neighbors' in the cottage where we spent one night.
Another day, more driving, our next stop was near the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. We went for hikes up to both of the glaciers. It is possible to take organized tours on the face of the glacier as well, but we did not do that. Both are easily accessible via a short walk from a parking area. One place in this area I highly recommend is Lake Matheson. Its a short distance from Fox Glacier, but well worth the trip. Under ideal conditions, there is a stunning view of Mt. Cook and Mt. Aoraki reflecting on the lake. I went for a run around the lake, its about 2.5 km for one loop. My run was first thing in the morning with calm winds, but unfortunately by the time I got back to the lookout with my camera, the wind had picked up, and clouds had blocked the view. I did get a photo with my ipod during the run, but obviously the quality is not very high. Guess I shouldn't have done 2 laps of the lake...
Ipod photo with lake smooth enough to show reflection of mountains
photo taken with real camera, but unfortunately worse conditions
This is actually a good demonstration of typical South Island weather. It can change quite quickly. This fact was noted multiple times while hiking the trails (tracks in NZ English) near the glaciers. Conditions could change so fast, that a small creek could become a deep river in no time. We were pretty fortunate, there was some rain, but it didn't keep us from doing anything we had planned.
waterfalls at Franz Josef Glacier
After the glaciers, we had one last coastal overlook before heading inland towards Queenstown.
The trip to Queenstown was beautiful, with expansive green space, inland lakes, and mountains all around. We did not experience any problems with traffic, but I do wonder how it would be driving on the sometimes windy roads through mountains during the peak tourist season.
We had finally arrived in Queenstown, another beautiful place in a country full of them. Next stop before we explored the city was at our hotel, the Hilton Queenstown.