New Zealand: West Coast, Fox Glacier, & Lake Matheson

After four days in Queenstown, we finally got our driver’s licenses (and thus car!) and were able to get on the road. New Zealand’s South Island does not disappoint when it comes to scenic drives. Throw in a couple of great playlists and you’re set!

Kiwis drive on the left side of the road while seated on the right side in the car, so that took Drew some getting used to. Every time he wanted to turn on the signal, the wipers came up instead! Then there was a lot of drifting to the left side, since we normally sit on the left side of the car. It was all funny, but sometimes not a good feeling for the passenger when there’s a rock wall inches away!

Renting a car or campervan (which a lot of folks do) is definitely the way to explore New Zealand. Go at your own pace and stop when the scenery calls you.

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Tons of one lane bridges along the drive.
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Our destination on Day 5 was Fox Glacier township. We arrived right around sunset…good thing since the roads are windy and street lights are nonexistent it seemed. There are two glaciers around the area, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. We chose Fox Glacier -it’s a much smaller town, but I wanted to check out Lake Matheson, which was less than five minutes away from where we were staying. I had read the reflection of the mountains on the lake are breathtaking. The plan for the next day was to do a heli hike, where they helicopter you up the glacier, land, and hike around for a bit. Unfortunately, we didn’t book things ahead of time and being that it was the week of Chinese New Year (tons of Chinese tourists in New Zealand at this time) everything was booked. We lucked out though and were able to at least take a heli up to see Fox Glacier. It was AMAZING.

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A waterfall? Wasn’t expecting that, but I like.
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And for a peek into what it was like up there, a short video, set to LOTR music of course!

After the heli ride, we headed to Lake Matheson. I thought we’d park and the lake would be a few steps away. You actually have to walk a bit to get there and around the lake, but it’s a beautiful walk filled with greenery everywhere.

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We were hoping to see a real kiwi, but got this one instead. Still pretty neat!
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Our first peek at the lake.
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On a sunny day, you can see snow-capped Mt Cook and its incredible reflection on the lake. Obviously, this day was not it. But it was still a wonderful hike nonetheless.
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We heard there were eels in the lake and started looking for one.
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Found one. Awww, look at his cute little smile!
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Found a great spot to rest near the end of our roundtrip hike around the lake.
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An even better place to chill? Lake Matheson Cafe. The food there was GREAT!
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If you’re headed to see the Glaciers, and are trying to decide between the two, here are some things to consider:
1. Book a guided hike or heli-hike ahead of time if you’re on a tight schedule.
2. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are about 30 minutes away from each other. Franz Josef township is bigger and therefore has more accommodations and restaurants. They also have hot pools in Franz Josef, which is pretty popular for those who hiked the glaciers during the day.
3. We stayed in Fox Glacier because we wanted to see Lake Matheson, but if you’re having a hard time deciding between the two, here’s a great blog post on the differences between the two glaciers.

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