Days 17 - 18: Wanaka to Franz Josef
Distance: 286 km / 178 miles
Enjoy the views along the shores of Lake Hawea as you head north and stop for lunch at Makarora before hitting the Haast pass. The scenery here changes dramatically as you enter the rainforest. The settlement of Haast is a town with a touch of the wild west, and another good place to stretch the legs and have a look around. Just north of Haast is Lake Moeraki, a peaceful forest lake with good fishing. From here, a 40-minute walk takes you to the penguin colony at Monro Beach. Then continue on to Fox Glacier.
At 13km long, Fox Glacier is fed by four alpine glaciers and makes its way downward 2,600m on its way toward the coast. It's unusual in that it ends in rainforest, nearly at sea level, unlike most glaciers which prefer to stay at higher altitudes. There are numerous walking tracks at different grades of difficulty, as well as professional tours, on foot and by helicopter, available for visitors.
Franz Josef Glacier is just a short 45-minute drive north. You can walk to the terminal of the glacier in about 10 minutes; alternatively arrange a heli-hike to get on top of the glacier and explore its ice caves.
Day 19: Franz Josef to Greymouth
Distance: 173 km / 108 miles
From Franz Josef, make your way up the rugged West Coast, through the old gold mining settlement of Hokitika. Stop here for supplies, a wander through town, and the highly recommended short and easy walk into the Hokitika Gorge for photo opportunities of this beautiful forest and the bright blue waters of the river. Nearby at West Coast Treetops Walk, you can wander through the forest canopy on purpose-built boardwalks. In Greymouth, visit Shantytown for your own gold mining experience, walk the beautiful Pt Elizabeth Walkway by the coast or try some cave rafting.
Days 20 – 22: Greymouth – Kaiteriteri
Distance: 300km / 188 miles
Before leaving the coast, make the time to head out to Punakaiki, otherwise known as The Pancake Rocks. These unusual rock formations on the beach are stunning, and the visitors’ centre and walkway are well presented. Then head north toward Buller Gorge, through Westport with its handsome period architecture, reminiscent of the gold mining era. Check out the gold mining museum, which is an excellent example of its type and will give visitors a real feel for the life of a miner. Take the road north to Marahau, which skirts the edges of three National Parks. There are plenty of picnic, walking, and photo opportunities along the way.
Kaiteriteri with its gorgeous white sand beaches and very popular campground is the perfect place to base yourself when visiting the Abel Tasman National Park, explore the park or just relax on the stunning beach.
Days 23 – 24 Kaiteriteri – Nelson
Distance: 54km / 34 miles
On your way to Nelson, stop at Kaiteriteri, with its gorgeous white sand beaches and very popular campground. Nelson prides itself on having the most sunshine hours in all of New Zealand, and this must make for happy, artsy, alternative people, of which you’ll find plenty of in this community.
Nelson has an almost subtropical feel compared to the rest of the South Island, with its pretty white sand beaches, palm trees, and brightly coloured buildings. The streets of Nelson are full of cafes, interesting art and craft shops, restaurants, a large number of galleries and historic attractions. It is also home to many a fine brewery to while away an afternoon in. Beyond town are beautiful forests and beaches to visit and get a taste of the splendour of this corner of the country.