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Franz Josef Glacier Valley From Roberts Point Hike

WEST COAST
6-DAY ITINERARY 

DAY 1: HOKITIKA TO FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER

1 hour 45 minutes / 134km

Morning Beach Walk + Brunch

Starting your day in Hokitika with a leisurely brunch at The Hokitika Sandwich Company is highly recommended. Take a serene morning stroll along the beach to Sunset Point, then treat yourself to a designer sandwich that questions the norms of breakfast dining – it's an experience you shouldn't miss, and yes, brunch perfectly encapsulates this delightful meal. The Hokitika Sandwich Company is celebrated for its exquisite selection of sandwiches, crafted from ingredients that showcase the local bounty. Each sandwich is a testament to the community's produce, with bread freshly baked by a nearby bakery setting the foundation for a culinary masterpiece. The company takes pride in their dedication to quality, sourcing free-range meats from local artisans skilled in traditional butchery and cheeses that are handcrafted by a selection of South Island's finest cheesemakers.

 

Their commitment to sustainability and local sourcing extends to their coffee offerings as well, serving exceptional drip coffee with cream.  Even their approach to packaging is thoughtful, with biodegradable takeaway cups provided only upon request, reinforcing their dedication to environmental stewardship.

 

From the bread that's baked fresh each morning to the condiments made in-house, from the salad greens picked daily by a local grower each morning to the meats and cheeses freshly sliced for your sandwich, The Hokitika Sandwich Company offers a brunch experience that not only satisfies the palate but also supports the local ecosystem. We recommend ordering the night before via their website.​​​​​

Hokitika Beach Driftwood Sign West Coast New Zealand

Lake Mahinapua

After enjoying a satisfying brunch, it's time to set off for Franz Josef Glacier. Begin your journey on State Highway 6, heading south from Hokitika. Approximately 10 minutes into your drive, keep an eye out for the turn-off to Lake Mahinapua on your left. This beautiful spot offers a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. You might choose to engage in bird watching (if you're lucky, you might even spot the Great White Heron!), capture the serene landscape through photography or simply bask in the area's natural beauty.

 

For those inclined to explore further, Lake Mahinapua serves as the starting point for several scenic hikes. These include the Jum Michel Track, Bellbird Walk, Swimmers Beach Walk, and Mananui Bush, each offering a unique perspective of the lake's surrounding wilderness. Whether you're up for a stroll or a more invigorating hike, there's a trail to match your mood and fitness level.

Lake Mahinapua Near Hokitika With Snow Capped New Zealand Soutnern Alps And Rainforest

Ross + Lake Ianthe

For hiking enthusiasts, a highly recommended trail is the Ross Goldfield Water Race Walkway, situated in the historic gold mining town of Ross. This stunning 1-hour loop track offers more than just scenic views; it's a journey through history. Explore and learn about the rich heritage of the area as you walk along this path that intertwines natural beauty with the historical significance of Ross's gold mining era. We also reccommend a visit to the Chinese Miner Memorial Garden in honour of the work of the Chinese during the gold rush era. 

Further South, it's worth a stop at the jetty at Lake Ianthe (on your right) for mirror lake reflections and even a swim in summer! 

Historic Mining Site And Hiking Trail In Ross West Coast New Zealand Male Hiker
Wild Venison Pies By West Coast Pie Company

Franz Josef Glacier Wildlife Center + Late Lunch

Approximately 1 hour south of Lake Ianthe, you'll reach Franz Josef Glacier. For a fulfilling late lunch, consider stopping at the Wildlife Center. Here, they serve exceptional local pies crafted by The West Coast Pie Company. A must-try is their sweet potato fries. While enjoying your meal, it’s a great opportunity to inquire about the Kiwi tours offered at the Kiwi Centre. The West Coast Wildlife Centre stands out as the largest Kiwi Captive Rearing facility in the South Island, playing a crucial role in conservation efforts. They are dedicated to New Zealand Tiaki Promise and work tirelessly in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and local iwi to bring the critically endangered rowi and Haast tokoeka kiwi back from the brink of extinction, offering a unique chance to learn about and contribute to these vital initiatives.

Franz-Josef-Glacier-Wildlife-Center-West-Coast-Pie-Company.jpg

Check into Ribbonwood Retreat + Dinner

It's time to check into your accommodation at Ribbonwood Retreat! We're excited to welcome you and are ready to help you unwind and relax. Feel free to take a leisurely stroll around our garden and soak in the serene environment. For dinner, we recommend Snake Bite, renowned for its delightful fusion of Asian cuisine and New Zealand's finest craft beers. At Snake Bite, there's a strong commitment to supporting local producers and sustainability. Here's what makes dining at Snake Bite a unique experience:

 

  • All bread and pies are freshly baked every day, ensuring you get the freshest flavors.

  • Cakes, loaves, rolls, desserts, and sweets are all crafted from scratch in their kitchen.

  • Eggs are sourced locally, free-range, directly from a friend’s farm nearby.

  • Honey comes from local hives, adding a sweet touch of the region to your meal.

  • The garden at Snake Bite provides a bounty of vegetables and herbs, used to enhance the dishes with fresh, organic flavors.

  • Chefs take pride in making their own sauces, adding a personal touch to each dish.

  • The ethos of sourcing food locally is not just a practice but a passion, contributing to the community and ensuring the freshest ingredients for their dishes.

Enjoy your time at Ribbonwood Retreat and the culinary adventures that await at Snake Bite!

Franz Josef Glacier Alpine Township New Zealand

DAY 2: A FULL DAY IN FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER

Breakfast a Ribbonwood + Glacier Hike

Kick off your day with a delightful breakfast at Ribbonwood Retreat, where we take pride in serving fresh Fruit Crepes, brimming with garden-sourced produce whenever possible and complemented by a succulent selection of fresh blueberries, raspberries and other fruits. Experience the rich flavours of locally sourced coffee beans turned into exquisite espresso by our handcrafted Dutch coffee machine, and savour the traditional method of filter coffee brewing. For tea enthusiasts, our homemade Earl Grey tea promises a soothing start to your morning.

 

Now it's time to head to Glacier Base and check in for your morning flight to Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Franz Josef Glacier) for your heli-hike experience. Franz Josef Glacier Guides are the sole company that offers guided glacier experiences. You can choose from three experiences; Glacier Heli Ice Climb, Glacier Heli Hike and the Glacier Adventure. Many travellers rate this experience as an absolute must-do and the pinnacle adventure of their entire New Zealand trip. Franz Josef Glacier Guides consciously work towards reducing their impact on the environment, endorsing the Tiaki Promise and are a founding member of the Ōkārito Plant Project.

BAD WEATHER BACK-UP: If your Heli-Hike is cancelled due to bad weather we recommend a last-minute guided hike in the Franz Josef Glacier valley (or other) with Glacier Valley Eco Tours.

Franz Josef Glacier And Tasman Ocean West Coast New Zealand

Lunch + Wilderness Lake Kayak Tour

Tuck into a delicious lunch at Full of Beans cafe before an adventure-filled afternoon at our local Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours! We reccommend booking the Classic Kayak + Walk Tour.

Prepare for an unforgettable adventure as you glide across the warm waters of Lake Mapourika, a kettle lake formed by retreating glaciers and now nourished by rainwater, making it pleasantly warm compared to cold, glacially-fed lakes. On calm days, which are frequent, the lake's surface stunningly mirrors the majestic Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. The tour also includes a visit to the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, complemented by a brief trek through the ancient rainforest. Franz Josef Wilderness Tours is dedicated to sustainable tourism, holding a carbon zero certification and actively participating in environmental preservation efforts, including the Ōkārito Plant Project. For more information on their sustainability initiatives, please visit their website.

Kayaker On Lake Mapourika New Zealand

Dinner

Discover King Tiger Eastern Eating House & Bar, where exotic flavours meet local charm. Offering an extensive menu that caters to all palates, from mouth-watering Asian fusion dishes to classic favourites, your dinner experience here is guaranteed to be unforgettable. Make your way to King Tiger for an evening filled with good food, a great atmosphere, and even better company.

King Tiger Eastern Eating House And Bar Franz Josef Glacier West Coast NZ

DAY 3: FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER TO LAKE WANAKA

4 hours / 284km

Breakfast a Ribbonwood + Lake Matheson Hike (Fox Glacier)

Get ready for an exhilarating day filled with sightseeing, leisurely walks, and a picturesque drive! We suggest starting your day early by enjoying your Ribbonwood breakfast at 7:30 am. Plan to hit the road shortly after, aiming to reach Lake Matheson's trailhead by 9 am, just a 30-minute drive from Ribbonwood Retreat. Embark on the loop trail to capture breathtaking views of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook. Choose between completing the full loop, which takes about 60 minutes, or taking a shorter trek to the first viewpoint and back, totalling 40 minutes. Cap off your adventure with a delicious coffee, and a slice of cake at Lake Matheson Cafe!

Lake Matheson Mount Cook Mount Tasman Mirror Lake Reflections Fox Glacier

Paringa Salmon Farm

Departing around 11 am from Lake Matheson and heading approximately 1.5 hours south of Fox Glacier, you'll unexpectedly encounter The South Westland Salmon Farm & Cafe on your right. This hidden gem allows visitors to feed the salmon and indulge in a delightful lunch. With sustainability at its core, the farm minimally impacts the environment, attributing its success to eco-friendly practices. Founded in 1986 by Brenda & Graham Monk and Richard Mee, the farm meticulously developed its salmon stocks and ponds before opening its cafe in 1995. All fish are processed on-site in a specially designed packhouse, catering to both cafe diners and takeaway customers, with a particular emphasis on creating premium Cold Smoked Salmon.

 

The farm benefits from the cool mountain water that flows into Waituna Creek and through the salmon ponds, ensuring a pristine environment for the fish. This results in salmon with excellent flavour, firm flesh, and natural resistance to disease, without the need for antibiotics at any stage of their growth.

 

The salmon farming and processing practices at the farm are straightforward, focusing on cleanliness, hygiene, and low stocking density to ensure the highest quality and freshness of the fish. From these principles, the farm produces its signature slow-cured, premium Cold Smoked Salmon.

South Westland Salmon Farm Near Paringa

Knights Point + Ships Creek Beach Walk

As you travel south, prepare to be captivated by the rugged coastline and the towering rainforests that are a hallmark of this area.

 

Make a memorable stop at Knights Point Lookout, where the vast expanse of the Tasman Sea meets the rugged cliffs of the coast. Here, the panoramic views offer a perfect photo opportunity and a moment to soak in the majestic beauty of New Zealand's natural wonders. The lookout provides a unique perspective of the coastline's dramatic contours and the endless horizon beyond.

 

Continuing your adventure, head to Ship Creek for an enchanting beach walk. This area, known for its diverse ecosystems, features a stunning beach framed by ancient dunes and dense rainforest. Stroll along the shore as the waves gently break and explore the beach walk (30 minutes). 

If you feel like a slightly longer trek we reccommend the Munro Beach Walk, also on their route and at the right time of the year you may see the yellow-eyed penguin!

Fiordland Crested Penguin Munro Beach Walk Near Moeraki West Coast New Zealand

Thunder Creek Falls, Wilsons Creek & The Blue Pools Walk

Continue your exploration through New Zealand's West Coast by venturing from the raw beauty of Ship Creek to Lake Wanaka. 

 

Your next stop should be Thunder Creek Falls, which presents a powerful display of nature's force. This magnificent waterfall cascades 96 meters down into the Haast River, set against a backdrop of dense native bush. The very short walk to the falls is easy and well-maintained, allowing for an up-close experience with this natural spectacle in just a few minutes from the main road. The thunderous sound of the water and the cool mist that fills the air create a refreshing and invigorating stop.

 

Next, Wilsons Creek offers a quieter but equally stunning opportunity to appreciate the region's natural beauty. Here, the creek carves through the landscape, creating a series of smaller waterfalls and serene pools. It's an ideal spot for contemplation and enjoying a moment of peace amidst the sounds of flowing water and rustling leaves (note this is not well signposted so ensure you plug it into Google Maps). 

 

The highlight of your journey will undoubtedly be the Blue Pools Walk. This relatively short and easy track leads you through a mature beech and podocarp forest before opening up to the breathtaking sight of the Blue Pools. These glacially-fed pools of crystal-clear water, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps, are a vivid turquoise, inviting you to pause and appreciate their tranquility. The suspension bridge over the Makarora River offers a perfect vantage point for photos and a moment to marvel at the pristine environment.

 

Finally, as you approach Lake Wanaka, prepare to be enchanted by the expansive views of the lake and its surrounding peaks. The drive along the lake’s edge towards the town of Wanaka is a fitting conclusion to your adventure through the West Coast’s diverse landscapes, offering a moment of reflection on the natural beauty you've experienced along the way.

Wilson Creek Canyon West Coast New Zealand
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