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Strolling the west coast of New Zealand

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New Zealand is an island nation with 15,000 km of coastline. Although it is not on the list of having the most beautiful coastline in the world, the wild natural landscape with the undulating and mountainous terrain of New Zealand makes its coastline not less unique and spectacular. In our road trip, we only discovered a very short drive of coastline (more than 200km), located in the west coast of South island of New Zealand, but it was great enough to admire its beauty.

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A scenery you will see frequently along the west coast of South island, New Zealand

We drove from the highlands to the west coast of South island of New Zealand, excitedly admiring the breathtaking transition of the scenery along the way. The gloomy green of mountainous grass-covered Arthur’s Pass gradually turned into the bright blue with the scent of the sea in Greymouth. Being impressed by the giant ferns on the trekking road along the river and then surprised by wonderful sunset with the ghostly light on the spectacular rocks in Punakaiki. Those were the feelings that we had experienced on this west coastline.

ITINERARY

itinerary

  • Day 1 & 2: Christchurch city
  • Day 3: Castle Hill, Arthur’s Pass (149km)

  • Day 4: Greymouth and Punakaiki (140km)

  • Day 5: Franz Josef glacier (217km)

  • Day 6: Wanaka (286km)
  • Day 7: Te Anau (240km)
  • Day 8: Milford Sound (118km)
  • Day 9: Queentowns (288km)
  • Day 10: Arrow town (20km) and neighborhood wineries
  • Day 11: Glenorchy (46km)
  • Day 12-13: Mount Cook (287km) and Tasman Glacier
  • Day 14: Christchurch (307 km)

(* Distance is measured by google map)

Day 3: Castle hill, Devils Punchbowl waterfall and Arthur’s Pass (149km)

Leaving beautiful Christchurch, we started our road trip to the famous township of Southern Alps named Arthur’s Pass, located in the elevation of 740 meters above sea level. The scenery on the road was astonishing with layers of mountains adorned by the majestic vast swathes of beech forest.

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Way to Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

We stopped for a short hike in Castle hill, a cluster of ancient limestone formations looking like the ruins of a castle from a distance. The hike was not too far, and the hill was not too high, hence after 15 minutes we reached the top of the hill.

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The walking path to Castle hill

Huge limestone rocks with strange shapes and quite smooth surface were arranged randomly to create a unique feature for Castle Hill. From the top of the hill, we could see a vast plateau covered with green grass, blended with straight beech trees, in the backdrop of majestic Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges.

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As we approached Arthur’s Pass town, we visited Devils Punchbowl waterfall, 150m high. The road to the waterfall was quite interesting with wooden stairs leading through the towering oak forest, and there also was a long bridge crossing a river that had been running out of water.

Devils Punchbowl waterfall is located deep inside the oak forest. From a distance, the waterfall looks slender in a majestic mountain range. When approaching the foot of the waterfall, the power of the water  poured down from the top was very strong.

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Waterfall near Arthur’s pass
Back to itinerary

Day 4: Greymouth and Punakaiki (140km)

It is not surprising that the road from Greymouth to Punakaiki is rated as one of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand. The clear blue sky was well blended with white clouds on the windy coastline, one side was big silver waves, on the other side was either the deep green vertical oak forest or majestic alpine.

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The coastline from Greymouth to Punakaiki, South island of New Zealand

With only a short drive, our car kept stopping because of the stunning scenery. The seascape seemed fierce with the big wave near the shore. Though it was summer, the water was still cold, so no one got into it. Wildflowers on the beach enhanced the wildness of the nature there.

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, we followed the river trail when arriving Punakaiki. It was a marvelous hidden spot. The deeper we went inside, the more surprised we were by the serene beauty of the lush subtropical forest beside gently floating river.

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Peaceful scenery on river trail near Punakaiki, New Zealand

The green space along this trail was really impressive with the layers of intertwined trees. I was amused to walk under the tall ferns, crawling through the giant ancient trees that blocked the passage.

The perfect reflection of the woods down to the beautiful river looked like a fairyland. The river water was cool and clear. We had relaxing moments in this spectacular scenery.

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The water was clear as a big natural mirror in the river near Punakaiki, New Zealand

The Pancake rocks in Punakaiki are the true wonder of nature since limestone rock formations that have been transformed for millions years to look like stacks of thin pancakes. Under a magical sunset and heavy fog, the scene appeared so unreal and fascinating!

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The famous Pancake rock in Punakaiki, New Zealand

The passage along Punakaiki was spectacular with giant rocks eroded by seawater, creating unique shapes. The golden sunshine during twilight made everything sparkling and marvelous.

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Can you see “a tiger” crawling on the rock? – Punakaiki, New Zealand

When the sun was set, the whole breathtaking landscape of Punakaiki was engulfed in sprawling colors. We sat quietly together, enjoying that picturesque scenery.

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Gorgeous sunset in Punakaiki, New Zealand
Back to itinerary

Day 5: Franz Josef glacier (217km)

After a day full of emotions with the magnificent natural landscape in Punakaiki, we continued our journey to the Franz Josef glacier. Driving the same road from Punakaiki back to Greymouth, we once again admired the beauty of this western coastline.

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The weather on that day did not allow us to go trekk on the ice at the Franz Josef glacier, instead we enjoyed walking on the green road in the nearby rainforest with giant ferns and natural ponds, surrounded by mighty mountainous scenery.

The reflection in Peter’s pond in a cloudy afternoon looked fanciful and peaceful.

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Peter pond at Franz Josef, New Zealand

Below is a video clip that captures our joyful moments at those days.

Traveled in Feb, 2016

Read my other articles about New Zealand

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