Retirement Travels 2017 – New Zealand South Island, West Coast

For the first stage of our Retirement Travels 2017, we decided to head to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We left Christchurch in glorious sunshine and travelled West. Unfortunately as we neared the Southern Alps, the weather closed in, and we weren’t able to see much of the stunning scenery which we knew was nearby. However, it didn’t really matter, the roads were clear, we were on holiday, and had a week of travelling ahead.

West Coast

We trundled along Arthur’s Pass, towards a lovely wee town Kumara, where we had lunch in a lovely old converted theatre, Theatre Royal Hotel. Then onward along the West Coast Road toward Hotkika and our stop for the night at Fox Glacier. Unfortunately the mist never lifted, so we didn’t get to see much.

Both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are very much tourist towns. They have great winter sports, and in the summer (now), they are geared up for lots of campers and outdoor pursuits. We decided we would walk to the end of Fox Glacier, even though the visibility was poor. It was a relatively simple walk, but with a steep hill in the middle, which challenged me somewhat. I coughed and wheezed my way up, with frequent stops. We were about 400m from the Glacier. We had chosen not to take one of the guided trips, which would have enabled us to stand on the glacier. I think this was wise given the visibility.

My photographs don’t do it justice, given the grey nature of the day, but it was good to have made the effort! The odd bit of sunshine broke through, which made us realise just how stunning it would be on a good day.

Retirement Travels 2017 - Fox Glacier 1 Retirement Travels 2017 - Fox Glacier 2

Fox Glacier

As we headed south, the weather improved, we hit the coast proper at Bruce Bay, and all of a sudden, we could see the scenery. We came across a pile of rocks on the beach. Passing travellers had written messages on them, which ere interesting to read.

 Retirement Travels 2017 Bruce Bay 1 Retirement Travels 2017 Bruce Bay 2

And just in case you think I had lost colour, the beach was black sand!

We continued along the coast, and stopped just before Haast. We were amazed to realise that the road we had just come along had not existed until 1960. Prior to that, there was effectively no easy way to travel up the west coast, without going inland for many miles. Needless to say the scenery was stunning. This whole area, including Mount Cook to the north, has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage area. It encompases 10% of New Zealand’s land mass.

Retirement Travels 2017 Haast 1 Retirement Travels 2017 Haast 2

Looking South (left) & North (right), taken from the same viewpoint

Next time I come, I think I will invest in a real camera…..

Lake Wanaka / Lake Hawea

From Haast, we headed inland. The sun was out, and the weather a very pleasant 25c. The roads went up (and down) steep and windy hillsides. We hit an amazing viewpoint between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, where we could see both lakes at the same time, known as The Neck.

Retirement Travels 2017 The Neck Lake Wanaka

Retirement Travels 2017 Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

Evening found us in Alexandra, in what was the cheapest stay of the holiday. A small studio Apartment costing NZ$85 (£50). Centennial Court Motel. Given we had paid NZ$195 the night before for somewhere only slightly larger, this counted as great value. It was also centrally located, clean and across the road from a supermarket. What more could we want?

As we wandered along, Centennial Avenue, en route to find somewhere to eat, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this amazing tree

Retirement Travels 2017 Alexandra

Moving North again

The next few days, we just toured the area, stayed with friends in Mossgiel, and wound our way back up to Christchurch.  It was relaxing, the roads were easy to drive, and we generally just enjoyed the trip. We had originally planned to go down to Invercargill and Bluff, but decided we were rushing things. So they are on the list for another trip all being well. (Side note: This morning, I read Retirement Manifesto’s latest post on living to 100. He included a link to a quiz to see how long you will live? My answer was 100, so hopefully a few more trips to come. On the other hand I saw a comment elsewhere saying the medical profession was too good these days, and what mattered was Quality not Quantity, which is a view I subscribe to)

In Vanessa’s Cafe in Hampden, the food was great (Our bacon and eggs on toast kept us going all day). They were also displaying the most beautiful copper work on the walls, which was produced by David Reese Kean. Absolutely stunning.

Retirement Travels 2017 David Reese Kean

David Reese Kean

The Next Stage

We have had a brief trip to Wellington to meet family, and a few relaxing days in Christchurch. Saturday 21st will see us taking the next step in our Retirement Travels 2017 We will be flying to Auckland on our way to Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand, and them making our way south back to Auckland via Paihia. We’ll be with our son and his wife, so here’s hoping for some lovely weather and a few fun trips, as they are using a valuable week of their holidays.

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