Plan for the day
Our plan was to travel southward all the way to Fox Glacier Town. The journey would be about 250 km and would take about 3.5 hours to complete. Our main purpose at Fox Glacier Town was Lake Matheson the “most beautiful lake in New Zealand” as claimed by some. Many years ago, during our first trip to New Zealand we had visited Lake Matheson. At that time we did not do much photography because we had two young kids with us that needed a lot of attention. We, especially Yat Thong often reminisced about this beautiful “mirror” lake.
By end of the day
We reached Fox Glacier at about 5 pm and after dinner we went out to walk around Lake Matheson. We were at the lake to catch it at the “blue hour” timing of the day. Sadly the lake was not as beautiful as we remembered.
After leaving Te Nikau Retreat at about 10 am we drove back to Irimahuwheri Lookout which was just 2.5 km away. It was a downcast morning so the view from the lookout felt melancholic.
Punakaiki Pancake rocks
A short 6 km drive south from Irimahuwheri Bay brought us to Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. There was a huge car park just opposite the entrance and many cars were already there.
The walking track to the rocks and blowholes was just a 20 min loop. We strolled in and soon the pancake rocks came into view. They were certainly very very tall stacks of pancakes!
These pancake rocks were limestone which were worn and sculptured by weather and the sea, leaving long stacks resembling layers and layers of pancakes stacked on top of each other. The well maintained boardwalk brought us further out to the sea and nearer to the rocks and holes. One section of the walk overlooked a gigantic rectangle hole with steep sides. Huge waves washed into the hole though an opening near the bottom of one of its sides. Each time a wave came in it created a loud “bloom” sound, before retreating back through the same opening.
As we walked on we came to a viewing deck. Many persons were leaning over the wooden railing waiting… I too went over to explore, it was some sort of an opening surrounded by many stacks of pancakes rocks. Then I heard the waves roaring in and saw water jets shot up into the air.
The jets of water did not shoot very high probably because the tide was not at its strongest. We were told by the Te Nikau Retreat staff that the best time to see the blowholes was during high tides.
The entire place/park was larger than I remembered (we were here many years ago). It was quite pleasant strolling leisurely, feeling the strong breeze against my face as we moved from one natural wonder to another.
Beside rocks and blowholes, many seabirds could be seen perching precariously on those pancake rocks sitting in the water further at sea. It was amazing to see layers and layers of tumultuous waves clashing onto these rocks, churning endlessly and splashing salt water into the air. In this massive environment we felt so tiny.
Pancake ROCKS Cafe
By about 11.30 am we were ready to leave Pancake Rocks, ahead would be a long drive of about 3 hours. We were reluctant to start our drive so we walked into the Pancake Rocks Cafe for our shots of cafe lattes before our long journey ahead.
The interior of the cafe was much larger than my expectation. It had a huge screen just above the ordering counter. There were several sitting sections and every section was cosily decorated and furnished. It would be a great place to take a meal or have tea and watch soccer programme on the overhead screen.
From Punakaiki we drove southward along the coast. It was fortunately that the road hugged the coast so it was a very scenic drive. There was one stretch of the coast that was very stunning, from far we could see interesting rock formation standing in the sea. The mountain ranges, the curving roads, the tumultuous waves and the misty air formed a very beautiful picture.
Beautiful West Coast (co-ords: -42.310880, 171.281652)
Just about 30 minutes from Fox Glacier we made a short stop at Lake Mapourika. Lake Mapourika was just beside the highway so we just looked for a turn off to get to the lake. The weather had stayed gloomy the whole day with intermittent drizzles since the afternoon. I had seen very beautiful picture of this lake from the internet, but due to the dull and gloomy sky the water reflected an equally dull look. Nothing spectacular.
Fox Glacier Inn & Pod Hostel
The hostel was a backpacker hostel in Fox Glacier Town, I had booked a twin room with ensuite toilet for NZD$100 a night. At that price it was the cheapest room with ensuite toilet in Fox Glacier town. We would be staying at this hostel for two nights.
Fox Glacier Inn & Pod Hostel consisted of a cafe/bar in front and a two storey hostel at its back. The hostel was a mixture of dormitories and private rooms with ensuite bathroom. At the front of its cafe was the ugliest statue I had even seen. I was not sure what it represented, probably a starving abominable snowman?
The check-in counter was in the cafe cum bar cum restaurant, a staff at the bar counter handled our registration and gave us two complimentary soup vouchers to be used at its restaurant. The staff told us we need not dine in to have the free soup.
Our room was on the second level facing the forest. It was large but it felt very bare and slightly moldy. The ensuite toilet was also of a good size. Overall the room felt cold and not cosy.
Dinner at the Cafe of Fox Glacier Inn and Pod Hostel
Since we had two soup vouchers we decided to dine at the Inn cafe. The soup was pumpkin soup, unfortunately it tasted bland and diluted. Luckily the plate-for-two meal tasted quite okay. It was BBQ duck and costed NZD $30.
After dinner, the time was already close to 7 pm. The sky though looked gloomy did not seem to be raining anytime soon. Since we had two more hours before daylight disappeared we decided to visit Lake Matheson. The lake was only 5 km from Fox Glacier town and it took us about 8 minutes to drive to Lake Matheson carpark.
There was a beautiful large cafe, Matheson Cafe just beside the carpark, but it looked like it would be closing soon so there was no point going in for cafe latte. From the carpark a path led us to a round-the-lake track. There were three viewing points around the lake. The nearest one was the Jetty point and stated on the sign board it would be a 40 min(1km) return trip. The furthest view point would need about 1 hr 30 min return.
On the way to the first jetty view point we noticed that there were no lighting along the track, this would mean that the track would be very dark once daylight was gone. It was already late in the evening and there was hardly any visitors, further more we also noticed that our SPARK and Vodafone signals were very sporadic very unreliable. In view of the isolation of this park at night we decided to get out before it turned too dark.
At about 7.30 we reached the Jetty Point. There was no breeze in the air and the lake surface was perfectly still and looked like a mirror. It reflected the sky, the trees and the mountains perfectly. The view would have been even more beautiful if the sky was less gloomy.
We set up our camera and waited for the sun to set. Gradually the sky turned blue. The view was very beautiful and we took many many shots until the sky darkened. Before daylight totally disappeared we packed up and left.
WE WOULD BE BACK THE NEXT DAY!!