Arrowtown, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier

The next stop on our trip was Queenstown. Queenstown sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu and is called ‘Global Adventure Capital’. You cannot count the number of shops offering outdoor adventures and people do crazy things they never done before. The same happened to my wife Regina. The first commercial bungee jumping facility worldwide was installed here. One of the major attraction is ‘Fredburger’ where the burgers are huge and the prices low. Unfortunately it is so crowded that even at midnight you have to queue for at least half an hour!

The other day we booked a guided tour to the Skippers Canyon. The Skippers Canyon road is a very narrow and gravel road, with a length of 16,5 miles, carved by hand by miners over 140 years ago is made from a very narrow cut in the middle of a sheer cliff face. It’s a road so dangerous that your rental car insurance won’t be honored if you drive on it. That’s why you had to take a guided tour.

Standing on the bridge, we tried to not look down into the valley as it was to scary! On the Shotover River we had a jet boat ride where boat drivers manoeuvre the boat just inches from the sheer canyon walls and keep the excitement levels high with speeds in excess of 80kmh and a series thrilling 360 degree spins. The 360 degree spins were splashing water all over the boat. After returning my wife said that if she knew what happens she wouldn’t have taken the boat!.

We toured one day along the shore of the Wakatipu lake to Glenorchy and then to the Paradise valley. Glenorchy with a population of 360 is the perfect antidote to Queenstown!

Glenorchy’s spectacular landscapes have become a prime location for film scouts, depicting many scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as featuring in the Narnia movies. Twenty kilometres away from Glenorchy, as bucolic farmland gives way to beech forests, lies Paradise.  Some say it was christened for its natural charms, others for the paradise ducks that live in the area. Nobody can say for sure how it got its name, but the one thing people agree on is its breathtaking beauty.

Arrowtown, close to Queenstown sits around the gold bearing Arrow River and was a major settlement during the gold rush period. Today a lot of gold rush buildings have been restored and the main street is cute.  After a short walk we visited the old Chinese settlement where Chinese diggers have lived there during the gold rush.

The next day we started toward the Fox Glacier. It was a long drive (ca. 360 km) on a narrow road with majestic views and funny stops: Cardrona and Wanaka.

Wanaka is a very pleasant place by the lake Wanaka where we had lunch and were sad that we cannot spend more time there. The color of the water in the lake is dazzling and caused by the particles in the glaziers feeding the lake.

After spending the night on the top 10 camping ground in Fox glacier we visited next day both glaciers. Fox and Franz Josef.

At both glaciers there is a 1h30min hike from the parking to the glacier and you can come as close as 400 – 500 m to the glacier. The road to the glacier crosses ancient moraine from earlier advances and retreats.

The part that you can see from the Franz Josef glacier is larger then the Fox glacier and there are a lot of helicopter flights there. However if you have seen the glaciers in Norway and Canada it is not worth to go there.

Be sure to check the glacier access http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz/ as the way to the glacier might be close in the case of bad weather.

An absolute highlight was in the evening the Matheson Lake with mirror reflections of  the NZ’s highest peaks Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. There is a ca. 1h30 min return walk to get to the best observation points but it absolutely worth. We stood there for ca one hour at sunset to take photos of the different reflections. Awesome!