Today we wave goodbye to Queenstown and head off to the west coast to visit Fox Glacier. This involves a long day of driving through some of the most gorgeous scenery but also some of the most dull, but never fear, there’s plenty of interesting places to stop along the way! There’s a couple of ways out of town – the safe road or the stunning road – so if the roads aren’t icy and you’re not towing a vehicle take the Crown Range Road which, if it’s possible to fall in love with a drive, this would be the one. It takes you up, up and through the mountains until you’re almost as high as the peak. There’s a pullover at the top that makes an ideal spot for a selfie or 50 if the weather is being kind. Afterwards you’ll travel through Cardrona and over to Wanaka.
We were on a tight schedule so our visit to Wanaka was short but on a longer itinerary I’d have chosen to stay here a night or two to explore Mount Aspiring. Naturally you can’t pass through Wanaka without stopping by it’s most visited and most photographed attraction, “THAT WANAKA TREE”, a solitary tree in Lake Wanaka that some clever marketing tactics have made one of the most famous trees in the world.
Past Wanaka you’ll hit Lake Hawea followed by view after view after view. No words can really describe what these photos do.
The road eventually becomes the Haast Pass where there are plenty of short walks right off the highway to break up the trip. We were conscious of time so only stopped at Fantail Falls, followed by Thunder Creek Falls. If I were to do the trip again I’d also make time for the Blue Pools.
Once you hit the West Coast the scenery turns Jurassic and you’ll expect a dinosaur to come thundering out of the scrub at any moment. But as soon as the appeal of this wears off, you’ll find yourself going stir crazy with the lack of things to look at after being blessed by the first half of the drive. This stretch of the drive is long and tedious and not one I’d want to repeat in a hurry. They must cop some crazy weather on the west coast because there’s plenty of dilapidated buildings littering the landscape and if you blink you’ll miss the tiny townships.
We arrived in Fox Glacier near sundown and checked into our delightful little swiss styled chalet where we encountered our friendliest host yet, which is saying something because everyone on the South Island is super friendly and accommodating. You’ll sleep well tonight!
Fox Glacier Lodge
We stayed at: Fox Glacier Lodge
We stopped at: Arrowtown, Crown Range Road, Wanaka, Fantail Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Fox Glacier
We wore (in spring): Long sleeve shirt with thermal layers and jeans and puffer jacket with hood for the really cold spots.
Distance: Queenstown to Fox Glacier is approximately 4 hours 15 minutes without stopping.