It was a pretty epic journey and hike that we did in Abel Tasman but that was just the beginning of the stunning scenery that we'd be experiencing in the South Island of New Zealand. Today's blog, we'll be heading down the west coast with some dramatic coastal scenery, interesting seaside towns and a seal colony. Hold on to your hats!
If you're going to be driving along this beautiful highway, then I'd recommend coming from the North end down rather than the South up because when you've made your way through the Kahurangi National Park and Victoria Forest, it opens up to one of the most dramatic and spectacular coastlines I've seen - there's a reason for it being dubbed one of the the great ocean drives and you'll see why. First, we need to head out of Abel Tasman and through Kahurangi National Park.
Leaving our accommodation in Abel Tasman
Remember, they drive on the left in New Zealand (i.e. the correct side ;) )
The surrounding mountains as we go around Kahurangi National Park
Views of rolling mountains from the front passenger seat
Looking in to Victoria Forest Park
Kilkenny Lookout is well worth stopping at along the Buller River
When you get to the Kilkenny Lookout, make sure you have a little read of the sign that's there as it tells you all kinds of activities you can get involved with when you head further along Highway 6 and towards Westport. From this point, you're about 25 minutes drive away so it's a good idea to see what options you have as you come in to the North West region.
Cape Foulwind Seal Colony
For us, we continued on to Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay, which is an untamed natural coastline and home to native wildlife including a seal colony. This is about 10km west of Westport but if you want to do 7km return hike from the public car park off Route 67a then you'll pretty much see it all. Just make sure you have a windbreak jacket with you as it is a pretty strong wind along the coast!
The sign to mark the start of your walk along Cape Foulwind
Some of the coastal views looking north up the coastline
The coastline opens up as you walk towards the seal colony
The coves are just as awesome looking the other way
You walk past this pretty awesome sign - as you can see, New Zealand is a long way from anywhere haha!
The platform where you can observe the seals, let's have a look
This guy must have done a big hike himself!
Some were trying to hide between the rocks
The lighthouse itself wasn't really that noteworthy, quite underwhelming actually. Apparently so much so that I didn't take a picture of it or was just so mesmerised by the coastline that I just blitzed on past it haha! Nonetheless, the best time to see the fur seals here is between November and February so we were lucky to see a few at the time of year we went which was the beginning of May. My guess is that the place is totally packed out with fur seals in those months. More information on the colony can be found at the Department of Conservation website here.
Coastal Drive to Franz Josef
One of the best drives I've been involved with was when we hit the coast after leaving Westport along Highway 6. Unfortunately, I was on the back seat of the bus for this bit and so I only really got to see a little glimpse through the small window at the back but when we stopped off at a view point, I could've stood up there for the whole day, gazing over the majestic views this coastline had to offer.
Entering the coastal section of Highway 6
Moving along to a spectacular viewpoint...
Be sure to stop off at this scenic lookout
The last picture above is one of my favourite pictures I took on my whole Australia and New Zealand trip and you may recognise it as my banner on my social media accounts (which I'll be changing soon) but the mist, the sunshine, the waves and the beautiful coastline views... take a moment if you visit and just admire. Once we had our moment, the journey down this coastal highway continued to some more scenic attractions.
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki
The small community town of Punakaiki is a good place to park up and explore the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes of Paparoa National Park. The Visitor Centre (i-site) has a load of information on what else you can do around here but for our tour group, we had 45 minutes to explore the natural wonders this area holds.
Look for this lettering on the stone walls and follow the path
You'll start to hear the sounds of the water crashing up against the rocks
If you look on the rock surface, you can see many horizontal lines giving the impression of stacked pancakes, hence the name - Pancake Rocks
This is Surge Pool and you'll not just hear the waves crashing but feel them as the water surges through
As you get to the apex of the walk, you get a better look at these Pancake Rocks
The path continues in spectacular fashion
Looking out over the coastline before moving on
These unique limestone rock formations make this part of the Coast Road very special indeed. You can see 30 million years of coastal shaping from the paintbrush of nature at work here. The hard, lime-rich deposits of dead marine creatures on the sea bed became overlaid by softer layers of mud and clay. Over time, the softer layers have been eroded away by the sea, leaving this pretty cool formation [Source].
The blowholes like Surge Pool can be pretty spectacular in high winds, thunder conditions and large ocean swells. The seawater comes rushing in and is thrust skywards in the right conditions but even with a mild breeze, we saw some splashes pop up. I'd highly recommend you stop at this place and behold the magic of nature.
About an hour drive south along Highway 6 from Pancake Rocks is Hokitika, a small seaside town which calls itself the "birthplace of jade". With the "largest collection of jade in New Zealand" you'll have plenty of choices and there's no shortage of galleries either, have a look at the Hokitika website to see what's going on. I got some gifts for my family at Westland Greenston store and if you want to grab a quick bite to eat, I'd recommend Café 39. The beach is a short walk away through these gates, let's have a look and see what's going on there.
To the beach!
Looking north up the Hokitka beach...
The Table of Remembrance which represents the many community projects instigated by the the Hokitika Lions Club
The Table of Remembrance is to the right of the iconic...
...Hokitika sign made of driftwood
Another hour and a half down Highway 6 takes you to the small resort at the base of Franz Josef Glacier. We will go in to more detail next blog about that but I can certainly share some pictures from the journey down as we move away from the coastline and enter the mountain scenery again.
Starting to head inland on Highway 6 as we make our way south
Mountain scenery becomes more prevalent
The snow-capped mountain of Franz Josef comes in to view...
... made it!
So there you have it folks, an epic road trip that will take you a couple of days to do with a stopover in Westport overnight. Take your time to enjoy the scenes as every corner seems to bring a new awesome view in. I know I couldn't keep my mouth shut in awe during this part of the trip!
Next up, we're going to do some hiking on Franz Josef Glacier itself but for now, you may want to enjoy the weekend of Havey Trance as I share some of my newest music creations here. I'm diving in to this genre that influences a lot of my Drum & Bass tracks so hope you enjoy too!
As always, take it easy!
PHC Top 3 - A Chance To Win From A Growing Prize Pool
Well, whilst I'm here, I might as well take the chance to tell you about a new contest that I've been a part of with the Power House Creatives called @phctop3. All you need to do is tell us what your top 3 favourites for a chance to win from a growing prize pool - more info here.
Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)
EMA is a growing electronic music community run by electronic musicians FOR electronic musicians. We have weekly playlists on a variety of platforms to cater for all streaming preferences - make sure you follow our blog for your weekly dose here. We're also launching a new community run label called Electronic Alliance Records which aims to spread the word even more for our artists - check the latest developments and what music is coming up here
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