NZ South Island road trip – part II: Franz Josef to Wanaka

Once in our shiny new ride, we zoomed on down to Franz Josef, feeling considerably safer and more comfortable than we had previously. We arrived in the cute mountain town of Franz Josef and checked into our hostel, only to find we’d been updated from a 6- to 3-bed dorm – it was our day! We made the most of the evening’s beautiful golden light to treat ourselves to a tasty burger and delicious cider at Full of Beans.

The next morning, we hopped into Rex (you see, the wagon needed a name) with Julie, our lovely French roomie, and drove on down to Lake Matheson, or Mirror Lake, famous for reflecting the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of low-hanging clouds and drizzle that day but it was still very atmospheric! After our short hike around the lake, we squatted one of the cafe tables to gobble down our cold picnic and rewarded ourselves with coffee and cakes. 

A short drive led us to Fox Glacier. The final stretch to the car park was a little “sportif” as they say in France – “hairy” would be a good equivalent – driving down a narrow, gravel path between a lake and a river. But we made it! The glacier itself was then a short walk up the valley, through tall and steep mountains, and up a final steep hill. Despite relatively poor visibility, it was an impressive sight!

In the evening, we made the most of the hostel’s free vegetable soup, a meal enhanced by some tasty ham, cheese and ginger beer from the local shop. As we were arguing about Yaniv rules, comfortable on the hostel sofas, a couple of Kiwis asked if they could join. A long and involved game ensued as well as a number of very useful tourist tips!

The next day, it was time for us to move on but not before we visited Franz Josef glacier itself. Another windy drive and short walk took us to the viewing point and overall we both agreed that this glacier was more impressive and beautiful than the other. Sadly though, the informative panels showed us how much it’s shrunk in only 4 years. Global warming is no joke! And neither are selfies, it would seem, as I was (politely, mind you) asked to take a step to my left so that a couple could take their 47th selfie in front of the glacier. Never mind that I would have been done enjoying the view imminently or that the glacier looks better when you actually face it…

After a small detour via Peter’s Pool on the way down, we were on our way to Wanaka. As usual, the road ran through some stunning scenery and we chose Sea of Roots beach at Bruce Bay for a cold and blustery picnic lunch. A couple more hours’ drive, some fluorescent blue pools and many colourfully named creeks (Random Creek, So Big Creek, etc), and we arrived in lovely Wanaka just in time for an apĂ©ritif at Urban Grind – think courgette crostini and parmesan/prosciutto croquettes. Yum. 

Having just one day in Wanaka, we went all out. We got up early to climb Mt Iron for sweeping views of the surroundings. We then made our way to the Instagram-famous (eurgh) Wanaka tree, a straggler of a tree growing in the lake itself instead of along its edge. From there, our little legs took us all the way to Rippon vineyard where we enjoyed a delightful and free tasting, and spent a few dollars on some rare Osteiner. Then, after a cheap pasta dinner, we met up with Julie at the local Cinema Paradiso, renowned for its comfy and unusual seats as well as for its warm, freshly baked cookies at intermission. 

More soon!


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