Highlights of Lake Wanaka and driving up the West Coast of South Island, New Zealand
Our 10 day South Island campervan trip continued after our epic and memorable adventures in Kaikoura and Lake Tekapo. Dreams of seeing sperm whale, albatross and seals fulfilled thanks to Whale Watch Kaikoura and absolutely blown away by the stunning beauty of mountains, glaciers and alpine lakes from above thanks to scenic flight with Air Safaris! Be sure to check out the last two posts if you haven’t seen them already!
We continued driving south to Wanaka which is as far south as we were going to go this trip, before making our way back to Picton via coastal drive up the west coast. From there we take the ferry back to North Island and drive another 8 hours to Auckland. We had plans for parasailing in Lake Wanaka, tramping at Westland Tai Poutini National Park and visiting the famous pancake rocks at Punakaiki. Big part was the scenic drive through lush rainforests of the wild and windy west coast for which I got some great tips and places to stop at thanks to Trusted Traveller’s post of this journey.
Did I ever mention how much I enjoy being part of this travel blogging community? You get some great insider’s views 🙂
We had amazing weather all the way from Auckland to Lake Taupo, little bit of rain when we arrived in Wellington, followed by brilliant sunshine and bright weather throughout our day in Wellington, ferry crossing, Kaikoura, Lake Tekapo until we got to Wanaka….and then the weather turned 🙁 it rained constantly from when we got to Wanaka till we reached Picton! 3 days of heavy rain and mist, with short periods of no rain (no sunshine,) just enough time to let us do quick walks to scenic points and back in the campervan again. Looking back, and given that we went in early spring to South Island, 7 out of 10 days of good weather was not so bad. Good thing, we are back here in December so we can do some proper tramping then!
We had heard wonderful things about Wanaka and had seen countless number of gorgeous images of the Lake and the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately we were not able to do any of the outdoor activities due to weather. BUT thanks to Puzzle World, we still managed to have a blast indoors!
By the time we got done with Puzzle World, it was pouring cats and dogs and we decided that there was no point sticking around to do more activities here. We set off for the West Coast along the most spectacular drive through the Haast Pass. Seriously, this had to be one of the most winding, scenic and dramatic routes we had been on since we started this campervan trip. Sheer mountains on one side, lush rainforests, dramatic lakes…It’s too bad we didn’t get to experience it in good weather, but I don’t think any pictures I took of the scenery would do it justice.
Just a glimpse of what we saw through the mist and the rain..
We stopped at two scenic points – and there were several other short/long trails, national parks, rainforest hikes, coast – Blue Pools and Fantail Falls. We also stopped at Curly Tree Whitebait Company as Whitebat is very famous along the west coast and this was just the start of the fishing season. More on that later!
To give you an idea of what torrential rain all night can do. Below is our picture of Blue Pools, followed by what it looks like on non rainy days 🙂
Even though we didn’t get to experience the pools being ‘blue’! we all enjoyed the walk to the pools through the forest and swingy bridge, as well as making rock pile formations along the stream. You just got to make the most of what nature offers 🙂
The other highlight was having whitebait at this quaint little shop run by the friendliest owner/fisherwomen/chef. Not cheap by any means, but oh so good! You drive into this tiny settlement of 6 or 7 temporary caravan homes, wondering where this shop might be and at the end of the caravan site, there is this one shop. Highly recommend going here if you are in the region!
Onwards through lush rainforests, stopping at fantail falls, and pretty much giving up on the fact that the weather will change and we will get to do a proper hike at Westland Tai Poutini National Park. We stopped for the night at this lovely DOC campsite by lake Mapourika. You are supposed to get views of the Franz Josef glacier, but no chance with the weather we had. I still find it hard to believe that in this rich and dense green foliage, you have glaciers!
Next day we drove to the start of the hikes for Franz Josef glacier and saw walkers coming out drenched from the heavy rains. Needless to say, we drove on, but have a look at all the different walks one can do here at Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
The drive along Hokika and Greymouth was uneventful until we got to Punakaiki where we had a brief dry spell so we set off to see the infamous pancake rocks and blowholes. The fact that we got drenched to the bone by the end of the walk did nothing to dampen our spirits as the spectacular views and unique geological formations were so amazing 🙂
At one point we had to stop clicking as the camera lens were getting wet! We looked like ragged wet dogs by the time we got back to the car. We quickly got changed and continued driving up north. Finally we got to Nelson and after 3 days, THE RAIN STOPPED AND THE SUN CAME OUT 🙂
Like with any travels geared towards the outdoors, it can be difficult when the weather doesn’t play in your favour. But I believe we made the best of our situation the last 3 days, we got to bond as a family and play lots of board games in the campervan and we have become more confident about doing long-term campervan trips. This was a decent test over 10 days. We have a 2 month campervan trip coming up next year, so good prep for that! The kids were troopers with the long hours of driving, and despite the fact that we didn’t get to do as much tramping as we would have liked to, the views and all that we saw and experienced will leave a lasting impression of how stunning it is here in the south island of New Zealand. I am glad we get to come back for more this December 🙂