So, like most places in New Zealand, we only stayed in Greymouth for one night. We loved our hostel; it even ended up on our Best Accommodation post, but it was an otherwise uneventful town. The day after our overnight stay in Greymouth we tackled the 9 hour drive to Queenstown, which turned into a 13 hour day after all of our stops. We don’t necessarily recommend doing it all in one day, especially when a certain someone (Alex) drove every minute of it because the other certain someone (Devon…) didn’t have a driver’s license, but it’s definitely doable if you’re pressed for time like we were. We loved the drive, and if you have a chance to head down Highway 6 on the west coast take advantage of it as the stops we made offered some of memorable and amazing views!
Where to Stay
- Duke Backpacker Hostel – A bright purple building in the center of town is where we found our favourite accommodation in New Zealand, and one of our favourites during our whole trip. A private double bed room was $74 NZ, but lots of free perks were included. Free parking behind the building, and free wifi in the funky main room equipped with comfy couches. Not to mention free bakery bread at check in, and free toast and soup for breakfast and dinner! Yum. The hostel owner Dory was also incredibly kind and welcoming! Bathrooms are communal, and the rooms are basic but a good size. A great spot to stay before heading down Highway 6. You can book online here.
What to Do
- Franz Joseph Glacier – The more famous of the two glaciers on the west coast highway, but also more difficult to get a good look at. We were there in mid-December so the high river and receding glacier made viewing it without a costly helicopter ride and tour guide difficult. We drove to the main parking lot and did the hikes which were beautiful despite the wet and foggy weather. We went down the Sentinel Rock Walk first which ended at a great viewpoint over the valley that the glacier had originally inhabited. There were hundreds of waterfalls flowing down the cliffs on either side due to the rain so it was a pretty cool sight! We could not see the glacier from there however. So we headed back and went down the Forest Walk hoping for better luck. It was flatter and the end offered a little glimpse of the glacier, but flooding prevented us from going further.
- Lake Matheson – Further down the road we went for another walk around Lake Matheson. This hike is supposed to offer amazing views of Mt. Cook if the weather is right, but not for us obviously due to the fog. On very clear, still days (not sure if those exist in NZ though) you can see spectacular reflections of Mt. Cook in the water (google it!). Even though we didn’t see either of these spectacles the hike in itself was very cool. Everything around the lake is covered in moss, and insanely green!
- Fox Glacier – We were going to skip the Fox Glacier after our crushing disappointment from not being able to see anything thus far in our drive, but a Fox Glacier Viewpoint sign pointing up a random road enticed us. We drove up for a while until we made it to a parking lot, walked down the trail a bit, and out of nowhere we saw the glacier! Saw way more of it than Franz Joseph, with half the effort. You could drive further up the road for a river walk with views of the glacier, but we were pressed for time so decided to skip that and settle for the viewpoint.
- Haast River Rapids and Fantail Falls – We stopped more than the average travellers for pictures because we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful New Zealand landscape. These turquoise rapids were especially noteworthy and offered some great pics. A little further down was Fantail Falls which wasn’t quite as cool, but worth a stop to stretch your legs.
- Aspiring Mountains – The second half of the trip doesn’t have the name recognition as the first half, but has just as amazing sights. We drove alongside the Aspiring Mountain Range and took tons of pictures because the sun finally came out and the fog lifted. Snow capped mountains everywhere!
- Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea – Two amazing lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains provided us with the best pictures of our long drive. When you drive through the pass leaving Lake Wanaka, the first view of Lake Hawea was breathtaking.