Glacier Hiking + Ocean Kayaking
New Zealand (pt 2/3) - Franz Josef, Punakaiki, Nelson
Our next leg of the trip started in Franz Josef. Franz Josef is a tiny town (population: 330) with very few activities or restaurants - everything is focused on the nearby glacier also named Franz Josef.
The glacier is one of three in the WORLD that is a rainforest glacier, of which two are in New Zealand. So of course we had to go to the top! We booked a heli-hike tour where we took a 15 minute helicopter ride to the top of the glacier (we even landed on ice! Scary) and then hiked through the glacier. It was pretty surreal being surrounded by a lush, green rainforest while being on a giant piece of ice.. and not being cold (I was wearing leggings!).
My question to the guide was how does a rainforest glacier happen? According to him, it snows a lot at the top of the mountain. That snow then gets so heavy that it condenses into ice and begins slowly sliding down the mountain. Wa-lah!
After a few days in Franz Josef (and eating at the same burger joint three times), we headed to Punakaiki, a small beach town surrounded by Paparoa National Park. We stayed at Punakaiki Resort (another one of our favorite hotels!) which was right on the beach and walking distance from famous landmarks and beautiful hikes.
About 300 meters down the road are the popular Pancake Rocks. It's a short walk through the park area (less than an hour) that showcases wonderful blowholes and interesting rock formations. Outside of the entrance area, you can even eat some real pancakes at the Pancake Rock cafe.
After some other long hikes through the National Park, and eating way too many banana pancakes, we continued on to our last stop of the south island - Nelson.
Nelson was the first destination thus far that felt like a real town/small city. There are a few colleges nearby so there were numerous bars, restaurants and concerts all happening. Not to mention it was New Year's Eve!
We stayed at another one of our favorite hotels from the trip, Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco Apartments. The rooms weren't my favorite but the cottages, little shops and landscaping reminded me of a Disney movie.
We took a day trip from Nelson to the Abel Tasman National Park. We did an ocean kayaking trip and let me tell ya... I never knew how bad of shape I was in until this day. Reason #5948540258 why I got married is so I always have someone to paddle me along.
On the kayaking trip we saw lots of seals and even stopped for a picnic. Our tour guide made us fresh tea from Manuka leaves she plucked from the trees. I was hesitant to try it (does it have poison? Idk) but it ended up being delicious.
After Nelson, we took the ferry across to the North Island... stay tuned for more!