Saturday, November 28, 2015

Franz Josef Glacier

After taking some time to explore the boulders at Castle Hill, we hopped back in the car to continue our trek toward the Franz Josef Glacier, where we spent our first night in New Zealand. For those who are interested, this post covers the stretch of road shown on the map below.

Castle Hill to Franz Josef Glacier:

A rare sheep-less field:
We stopped to take a few pictures at Arthur's Pass National Park. While I was researching for our trip, I came across quite a few people who had rented camper vans and spent weeks just driving around the South Island exploring. At the time I thought it was a little weird to just drive with no activities planned or destinations in mind, but now I see the appeal (of wandering aimlessly, not the camper van! I just can't get on board with that whole thing). There's so much to see and explore; I felt like we barely scratched the surface!
Classic sign pic.
I'm glad we dug the GoPro out of the suitcase at this point because you can really capture so much more with the wide angle setting!
New Zealand is full of scenic lookout points and I'm pretty sure we pulled off at approximately 90% of them, but the one below was probably my favorite. If it wouldn't have been 55 degrees we would have stayed up there a bit longer to admire the view!

At some point shortly after Arthur's Pass Peter was getting really tired. Like I mentioned in my previous post, we took an overnight flight from Melbourne and then Peter immediately started driving when we arrived in the morning, so it was a long day for him. We decided to pull over for awhile and he took a half hour nap while I poked around and took some pictures. This was the first time either of us had ever had to pull over to rest while driving long distances, but better safe than sorry. The roads in New Zealand are often narrow and winding, so it's not as if you can hit cruise and sit back. One piece of advice I have for anyone planning their own New Zealand road trip is to factor in lots of extra driving time. You'll want to take it easy on the roads and the speed limit is pretty low anyway, so it takes much longer to get from one place to another than you'd expect. Factoring in extra time allows for scenic stops and quick hikes as well as a short nap if necessary. Alternately, you could travel with someone who also knows how to drive on the left side of the road and switch off ;). Sorry, Peter!

Franz Josef Glacier

We checked into our hotel around 3pm and headed straight for the glacier to make sure we got our hike in before dark. 
The path leading up to the glacier was really pretty, but much longer than I expected. It was one of those situations where you see the destination and think "oh, it's just over there!" and then walk for what seems like eternity and realize you're not any closer. It probably didn't help that we were running on little to no sleep.
I quit about three quarters of the way to the official viewing point, but Peter continued on until the path ended and got this close-up. Apparently depending on temperature and rain, among other factors, the glacier shrinks and expands from season to season and year to year. Right now it has receded a bit, but in the past has extended all the way down to the path.
We considered taking a scenic helicopter flight that landed on the glacier, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was already late in the day and we likely would have needed a reservation. But mainly, we thought for a second and decided we didn't really want to part with hundreds of dollars to walk around in the snow. We've suffered through enough Minnesota winters to find any joy in snow at this point!

Finally whipped out the selfie stick!
After finishing the glacier hike, we headed back to to get ready for dinner. We stayed in a cute little hotel with the awesome view. 
It should be noted that everything, including a relatively cheap hotel room, is extremely clean in New Zealand. When we go on relaxing beach vacations, we like to spend more on the accommodation than when we are on activity-packed trips. On this vacation, we changed locations nearly every day and really only used the hotels to sleep, so I tried to find somewhat inexpensive places to stay. Sometimes this plan totally backfires and you end up in a semi-dodgy place that looks nothing like the marketing pictures, but thankfully the opposite happened on this trip!

We spent the rest of the evening eating dinner and sipping a few drinks at a nearby restaurant before heading to bed early. 

More New Zealand adventures:


  1. Nice to see that you've come to appreciate the virtues of maps!

    1. Exclusively in the absence of Google Maps, that is.

  2. Absolutely beautiful pictures!! Sounds like you had a GREAT time!



Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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