Heading South From Franz Josef

Take in the array of different experiences and scenery as the road takes you through picture perfect ice-capped mountains and coastal views. The journey is fantastic in all weathers: on clear sunny days, the views are spectacular, but on rainy days, you’ll get to see flowing rivers and waterfalls as they carve their way through naturally formed gorges and culverts to the sea.

A point to remember is that Franz Josef currently has the only automatic teller machine (ATM) until you get to Wanaka and Queenstown, so it may pay to ensure you top up your cash before leaving. However, most of the businesses en route will give cash out from there EFT-POS terminals and credit cards are widely accepted.

Those keen on fishing should ensure they purchase a licence to fish the rivers and lakes; you do not need a license to fish in the sea. Licences can be purchased from the Department of Conservation (DOC) or from the service stations in both Franz and Fox Glaciers.

As you head south on your journey you will pass through the Fox Hills along a very windy and hilly, picturesque road which takes approximately 20 – 30 minutes and takes you into the Fox Glacier Township.

Fox Glacier

Another Glacier township offering guided glacial walks, scenic flights, lush native bush and coastal walks. Those planning to walk the Copland track should register their intentions at the Department of Conservation in Fox Glacier before leaving.

Lake Matheson, the famous mirror lake, is a five minute drive west of Fox Township. Historic Gillespie’s Beach, a wilderness of crashing surf and distant snowcapped mountains, known for its seal colony and colourful gold mining history, is 25 minutes west by car.

Copland

This is a picture of Copland Track/Welcome Flat approximately 1.5 hours drive from Franz Josef, heading south. The track takes roughly 6-8 hours walk, one way. A popular overnight tramp which gives a glimpse of Westland’s unique forest and mountain scenery. Natural hot pools at Welcome Flat are an added attraction. This walk is a favourite for many a trekker. Be sure to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing soak in the naturally formed, geothermic natural hot spring hot pools after the long walk.

Jacobs River

Is a rural township approximately 40kms south of Fox Glacier. It is home to several bird species that live in the many creeks and estuaries. There are native bush and coastal walking tracks, all along this coastal plain and excellent sea to native bush, snow-capped mountain scapes while the river mouth lends itself to some fine fishing experiences.

Bruce Bay

Home to the new Te Tauraka Wahi a Maui Marae, the first marae on Tai Poutini in over 140 years when it opened in January 2005. Bruce Bay is full of history, beauty, and fantastic coastal and bush walks, great place for a picnic lunch or to stretch those legs. This little town consisting of six houses is where the road and the coast meet. The area is fascinating both in fine weather and spectacular in stormy weather.

South Westland Salmon Farm

A short distance from Bruce Bay brings you to the Salmon Farm. If the weather at Bruce Bay is uncooperative, you can still enjoy your visit with a great cup of tea and a bite to eat here. It is also the place to stretch their legs after a long drive; children and adults will enjoy feeding the fish (for a small fee) and enjoy the surrounding panoramic views.

Knights Point

It is here that the road gangs used to meet up when the road joined north and south in 1965. So the West Coast Highway is a relatively young road. It is said that Knights Point got its name from a dog owned by one of the road workers. There are stunning views looking up into the southern Alps or out over the rugged shoreline into the vast Tasman Sea.

Haast

The Haast Pass is known as the gateway to the South and said to be on the edge of wilderness, Haast is a Township built near the rugged coast and in the foothills. A visit to their website would do more justice than my ramblings ( click here to learn more and see some stunning pictures) Haast has some of the finest Hunting and Fishing Tours and guides who guarantee a catch, so don’t forget to check them out.

You head out of Haast through to Wanaka travelling through steep gorges filled with endless waterfalls and picturesque landscapes.