Friday, 15 February 2013

New Zealand’s Glorious West Coast, or is it?


Before we left New Zealand’s South Island, Jackie and I drove long it’s west coast. We had heard from a friend who had been here recently (thanks Paul) that the west coast of the South Island is pretty special, so we were eager to see it for ourselves.

We didn’t quite see what we had expected.

Driving north along Highway 6, the first glimpse of the sea is just beyond Mount Aspiring National Park, but make the most of it. For a large proportion of the road, it is actually inland and only rarely can you see the water of the Tasman Sea. When you do, it is generally a dramatic landscape....



Many bridges on New Zealand’s South Island are one way, with traffic needing to give way one direction or another. There are so few cars, this is not a problem, but on the larger rivers, these can be similar to small viaducts, with many foundations, or in a few cases, there are suspension bridges....



A long section of Highway 6 is dominated by Westland National Park, featuring Mount Tasman and Mount Cook. Even in mid summer, the peaks in the area are covered in what looks like snow, but are actually glaciers, ranging from large to small. The combination of rivers, forests and high peaks is very appealing....





We stayed overnight at the small town of Fox Glacier, which takes its name from the permanent ice glacier on Mount Tasman. We set our alarms early, ready for a helicopter flight to see the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Sadly, morning was accompanied with low cloud and the flights were suspended.

The view of Fox Glacier is not good from ground level without a considerable walk and so we made our way to Franz Josef and glimpsed the glacier from a distance....



It was a shame not to be able to see them from closer, but we had been spoilt with terrific weather, so we had no complaints.

Some of the other occasional views of the sea....





This is not a sign you see every day. We didn’t see any penguins though....



Intrigued by the so-called Pancake Rocks, we stopped and took a look at Punakaiki Park. The Pancake Rocks are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed in layers, then later uplifted by earthquakes. Partly worn away by erosion from the sea, the layers are said to look like stacks of pancakes. My imagination didn’t stretch that far, but the small park is a wonderful place, with many photo opportunities....











A final view of the sea, with spray coming off the waves....



We stayed in Westport for the night and reflected on our drive along the coast. Yes, it is glorious, but we wished we had been able to see more of it. It is only in a few places that the road goes close enough to actually see what is a marvellous coastline. Probably.

The next day, we drove to Picton to catch the ferry to the North Island. Before we did, the last stretch of road we drove was probably the best I have ever seen anywhere. I didn’t take any pictures but will do a post just about this fantastic road soon .....

10 comments:

RichardM said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos! The look like HDR done right.

Trobairitz said...

That first picture with those ominous clouds is stunning.

All the pics are great, but that is my favorite.

Have fun on the North Island and say hello to Rogey for us.

Arkansas Patti said...

You really have a great eye with the camera. NZ certainly has some awesome vistas.
I agree with Trobairitz. All are wonderful but that first one is special with the last one a close runner up.

bob skoot said...

Gary:

I would imagine that they can't build a road along a rugged coastline. It is the same here along the BC coast where the road travels inland but it's lucky that you did manage to see a few glimpses of the sea.

Thank you for showing us parts of that road and those bridges. I would love to go there someday

bob
Riding the Wet Coast



mq01 said...

i 2nd trobairitz's comments... what we do see is absolutely stunning!

SonjaM said...

I am running out of superlatives. Marvelous vistas. Thanks so much for letting us tag along on your journey.

Rex J. Covington said...

Great Photos & A Great Post! Thanks For Sharing!

Gary France said...

RichardM – They look good, but are not HDR.

Trobairitz – Thanks. I met Rogey yesterday and will write something soon.

Patti – That first picture is dark and moody and I think that is why I like it.

Bob – I think you must be correct – too challenging right alongside the coast. NZ really is a beautiful place.

mq01 – Thanks. It is terrific taking pictures of such beautiful places.

Sonja – You are very welcome to tag along.

Rex – Thanks!

Tarsnakes Down Under said...

Gary, my wife and I went to the South Island a year ago and the weather was terrible - low cloud, drizzle and fog virtually every day. So we went back for another look this year and would have been there at the same time as you. We had brilliant weather this time. We traveled in the opposite direction from our last trip and it felt different enough to make the trip worthwhile. We spent a couple of nights in the Marlborough wine area which was sensational.

Cheers Jules.

Gary France said...

Jules – I can imagine you have seen the worst and the best of the South Island, given the weather conditions. I imagine your plan of riding the opposite way around would work really well – If I go back, I will do that. As you were there the same time as me, we probably passed each other – I went clockwise around this time, so if you were anti-clockwise, we could have met!