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Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

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Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

I feel I need to apologise ahead of this question: I usually plan trips well in advance and with plenty of thorough research. Not so this time. All very last-minute and very tired.

In South Island for 7 days. Myself, my wife, 16 yo son and 18 yo daughter. The 'kids' are generally good travellers/company, but I would want them to be doing some stuff they would enjoy/be interested in.

So far, have: two nights Christchurch (including night of our arrival from Aus) then drive to Wanaka; two nights in Wanaka ( I have a relative there!). After that, too many choices, not enough brain power to decide! Would like to avoid huge drives + constant movement.

But we're thinking West Coast to then loop back to Christchurch.

Question: is it worth spending more than a day at Fox Glacier/Franz Josef/region? I"m assuming yes.

So we could do:

Wanaka - Glaciers (travel day)

Glaciers - Glaciers

Glaciers - Greymouth (travel day)

Greymouth - Greymouth (or maybe somewhere between Greymouth and Christchurch?)

Greymouth (or somewhere between) - Christchurch

What are people's thoughts? Any ideas re specific activities?

Many thanks

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1. Re: Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

A full day in Fox Glacier is plenty.

Wanaka to Fox will take about 6hrs with stops and driving

Lake Hawea, Makaroa, Blue Pools walk, Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls, Pleasant Flats, Roaring Billy Falls, Haast Bridge and Rapids, Ship Creek, Knights Point Lookout, Lake Moeraki.

There is a little coffee stop at Haast (and toilets across the road) just off the main road if you need a break also

At Night Nature walk at the end of FG township (Minnehaha Nature walk with Glow worms at night)

Full day at Fox Glacier.

Drive out to Lake Matheson for reflections on the lake nice walk to viewing platform or full loop.

Walk to Terminal face viewing platform from Fox Glacier Car park 1 hr return. 5mins walk to the swing bridge just before the carpark too.

Heliflight (30mins) or Helihike (3hrs) if weather permits.

Next day leave for Hokitika and the Hokitika Gorge (O/N at Hokitika) or drive up to Punakaiki and see pancake rocks and stay there for the night.

Final full day via Arthurs Pass and Castle Hill to Christchurch.

The Netherlands
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2. Re: Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

When is your trip? What do you and your children enjoy doing?

I'm confused about the total number of days: you write 7 days, but the itinerary you propose suggests 10?

The way you've written it, you (sensibly!) have the entire day to enjoy the drive to the West Coast. Plenty to see along the Haast Pass, so that should take most of the day.

Then you have 1 full day near the glaciers. For me, that would be the minimum... the region is very interesting and walking/hiking opportunities abound. At the very least, you'll likely want to walk to the terminal face of one of the glaciers. If you have the budget, a scenic flight or even a heli-walk would be amazing. It might be best to try to schedule that for the morning, it seems conditions are a little more favorable then. Even so, be prepared that the weather can and does regularly keep flights grounded (in which case you get a full refund). If you look into this and it's a priority, you may want another day there to give yourself a back-up.

Leaving the next day, you could visit the Okarito Lagoon (there's kayaking, depending on the time of year you might be able to do a boat tour through the bush and see nesting white heron, and there's more walking. Don't miss Hokitika, a little further north: the drive out to the Hokitika Gorge is worth it, the water is (usually) a stunning turquoise and really pretty. In the town itself you can watch glassblowers and buy various arts and crafts. There are several shops here that sell beautiful greenstone jewelry. I would suggest you either spend the night here (there's a glowworm dell nearby: if you're here after dark you might want to have a look), or drive on towards Punakaiki. It'll depend on how much you intend to explore that day. Greymouth however is not particularly interesting or scenic... did you have a reason to plan 2 nights there?

Go see Punakaiki (best at high tide), possibly enjoy some walks in the region (the Truman Track is short but interesting).

Then drive to Christchurch. Leave some time for a stop along Arthur's Pass on the way: short walk to Devil's Punchbowl waterfall, the Otira Viaduct Lookout is a good place to spot kea (mountain parrots - they're fun but don't feed them!), Kura Tawhiti is on the 'other' side of the mountains and a great place to play among huge boulders. Climb up for panoramic views. You can spend the night near Arthur's Pass, but it's a very, very small place. There is no entertainment and limited accommodation options (though by no means primitive), so have a look if your family is on board with that.

So that boils down to:

Option 1:

day 1: arrival

2: Christchurch

3: drive to Wanaka

4: Wanaka

5: drive to Fox or Franz Josef Glacier

6: explore

7: to Hokitika

8: to Punakaiki

9: to Arthur's Pass

10: to Christchurch

or, Option 2:

day 1 - 6 as above

day 7: to Punakaiki with a short-ish stop in Hokitika

8: to Christchurch with some stops around Arthur's Pass along the way

that possibly leaves 2 days to play with. If you all enjoy walks and nature I'd suggest 1 more near the glaciers, otherwise (given the ages of your children) I think I'd plan them in Wanaka (maybe with a trip over to Queenstown).

Now.... just to confuse things a bit more.... this loop is actually a bit more scenic if you do it the other way around. Are your Wanaka dates fixed, or can you meet with your relatives on another day? That would give you:

Day 1: arrival in Christchurch

2: Christchurch

3: to Punakaiki

4: to Franz Josef or Fox glacier

5: explore

6: to Wanaka

7: explore/visit with relatives

8: more

9: either more Wanaka/Queenstown or drive to Mount Cook

10: to Christchurch

Note that the drive from Wanaka to Christchurch (or the other way around) is longer than most experts recommend for a day's drive. It'll be a long day in the car. There are not New Zealand's trickiest roads, but you'll still need to be careful to avoid driver fatigue and accidents....

Now just to cover all the bases: in case you really only have 7 days, you don't have time for a loop out to the West Coast. It might be technically possible, but you'd do nothing but drive and have no time to do any of the destinations justice. If 7 days is all you have, I would suggest

day 1: arrival in Christchurch

2: Christchurch or drive to Mount Cook (depending on whether you prefer city life or mountain scenery)

3: to Wanaka

4: Wanaka (visit with relatives)

5: Wanaka/Queenstown

6: Wanaka/Queenstown

7: fly Queenstown - Christchurch and Christchurch-home (or book/change your flight to go Queenstown - home if possible and economical).

Don't think you have to miss out on amazing scenery this way: if you spend some time around Mount Cook you'll have amazing scenery to enjoy (walking/hiking, but you can also take a scenic flight, even a heli-hike up a glacier here, or kayak near icebergs - you'd probably be better of with 2 nights here in that case).

Wanaka and Queenstown are wonderful bases for great walks/hikes/scenic drives: for starters Roys Peak is popular, Rob Roy Glacier is both a scenic drive and a great walk (driving out there is dependent on weather/road conditions though - check with the local DOC office), the drive out to Glenorchy is famous... and there is a lot more that other people are more knowledgeable about, hopefully they will chime in.

There are also more thrilling activities on offer here (might appeal to your teenagers?): jet boat and luge rides, bungee jumping (or just watching!), nightlife.. also beaches by the lake, jeep tours, horseback riding, (mountain) biking, scenic flights... lots of options!

The one thing that's concerning: accommodation. You mention this is last minute... peak holiday season is around the corner and you may have trouble finding accommodations if you haven't booked anything yet. I assumed you intend to stay in hotel/motel/b&b's? You need to get booking asap! Even campsites will be problematic, if that is your plan. See what you can find, your itinerary may well be determined by where you can find a place to sleep....

(ETA: simultaneous typing, some duplication)

Edited: 13 December 2017, 12:22
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3. Re: Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

I'm also confused as to how many nights you have and when the trip is.

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4. Re: Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

Thanks for your helpful replies and I apologise for the lack of clarity in my original post: I could have sworn I wrote a hasty second message (in reply to my initial post) noting that I'd got it wrong and putting the correct number of days - but it seems it wasn't posted. (And I couldn't see how to edit my original post).

So: we stay in Wanaka on 7 and 8 January. We fly out of Christchurch 12 January (at about 2pm).

I've taken all your advice on board and will work things out accordingly. Thank you for the heads-up on driving time.

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5. Re: Two days at Fox Glacier? + other West Coast ideas

Since you don't seem to have received the questions above I'll assume that you arrive in CHC on the 5th and that your direction of travel cannot be changed, leaving only 3 days to fill, not the 5 you indicated in your draft itinerary.

Your only choice is:

9. Wanaka to FG - allow 6 hr

10. AM Explore FG, including Lake Matheson walk; PM drive to Hokitika (such nicer than Greymouth) 2N

11. Day trip to Punakaiki & back to Hokitika to sleep (or move on to Moana/Lake Brunner or Arthurs Pass)

12. AM Quick drive to CHC; 2pm Fly out ...

Edited: 17 December 2017, 05:28
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