Glacial Pace

Back to our South Island road trip, after some puppy-induced delays! Upon saying farewell to our charming Airbnb in Maruia/Springs Junction just by Lewis Pass, we headed off to our next destination, Franz Josef on the wild West Coast. It had been a few years since I’d been down this way, and Andy had never been, so it was going to be a great stop.

The West Coast region of NZ is known for glaciers, untouched temperate rainforests and Jurassic Park-like views. Before we got to the rugged coast, we stopped in the town of Reefton to stretch our legs.

It had a lot of charming shops and interesting architecture, and sadly a distillery that wasn’t open yet. On the plus side, there was a stationary train Higgs could mark as his (look closely).

As we neared Greymouth, our first detour was to Coal Creek Falls, a waterfall I’d found thanks to the “Hiking with Dogs” Facebook page I’m a part of. It’s surprisingly hard to find dog-friendly walks on the West Coast because of all the protected Department of Conservation land.

Andy and Higgs had a nice dip before Higgs got a moment off lead and then decided to rub up against a lady sitting on the nearby rocks, who starting squealing and holding up her wet jacket. Thanks, Higgs! I’m pretty sure he was out for revenge since she’d laughed at him and his short legs earlier.

It was a pretty hot, but luckily the walk was shaded and not too steep.

After some good exercise, we hit the road again.

Our next stop was the old gold rush town of Hokitika, now a tourist hub. It was the perfect spot to grab some pies for lunch (yum, venison!), a recommendation from our friends, and then cool our paws in the sea.

Who could pass up the quintessential driftwood Hokitika shot? Now, onward to Franz Josef!

We checked into our little Glacier Cottage just outside town in the afternoon and took it easy. As the sun began to set, we headed out for a brief walk along the riverbank just beyond our doorstep. The listing wasn’t wrong when it said there were views!

You can see the upper reaches of the glacier, but most of it is obscured by the valley. We’d be heading up that way soon enough, though.

The full moon was beautiful overhead.

And our cozy cabin welcomed us back for an early night after a day of travel.

We happened to be on a mini horse farm, so we had to keep a close eye on Higgs. The three horses were very cute, and luckily patient and not quick to react to a barking dog (since there were some of those that already resided on the farm).

Someone watched very intently from inside when he wasn’t allowed to chase said mini horses.

We called it a night, and the next day had a wonderful kayak at the nearby Okarito Lagoon, before setting off in the evening to visit Franz Josef Glacier.

I love how the red of the blooming rātā contrasts with the stark greys and whites of the cliffs and glacier.

No matter how many times you’ve been, it’s truly a mind-blowing sight. The fact that it is visibly receding is also devastating, for example since I first visited in 2008, and drives home the fact that we as humans are having a significant impact on our environment that can’t be ignored. We truly have to appreciate the incredible world we inhabit and do what we can to stop further destruction.

Because of Covid, it’s a unique experience traveling around NZ right now without overseas tourists (well, besides overseas tourists who live here like ourselves, of course). It’s great seeing Kiwis out enjoying their own country – it’s seriously one of the best places you can be “stuck” after all! Having a place like Franz Josef in your back yard is incredible, and we’re fortunate to be able to move around as freely as we are here.

Surrounding the glacier, water flows down from the snow melt in the high peaks, forming ever-shifting waterfalls.

A short walk from the glacier viewpoint, we made our way to Peter’s Pool, a kettle lake formed from melting ice when the glacier receded from that point around 200 years ago.

Andy appears as if he dressed to match Peter’s pool perfectly.

Back in the village of Franz Josef, we had a lovely dinner and some local beer before retiring to our little cabin and releasing the pupper. Higgs even briefly made some “friends” before herding dog instinct won over and he slipped up and chased them back into their paddock while we shouted at him. Luckily, no Vallhunds or mini horses were hurt during our stay.

Cheers from Franz Josef! Stay tuned as we travel down the West Coast and into Central Otago to our next destination of Tarras where we rang in 2021.

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