New Zealand: Glaciers, Lakes, and Mountains

The town of Franz Josef is most notable for its proximity to the many glaciers in the region including Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, for which the town received its name. Unfortunately the glaciers are not accessible without a helicopter, however our hike on the 12.3k Roberts Point Track gave us a clear view of the glacier and valley which it had carved out below. Along the way our hike offered varying terrain and obstacles, including large boulders, waterfalls, stairs hanging off the side of the rock, and swinging bridge crossings.

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We also had the opportunity to meet different people from a range of countries, and with different stories, along the way up and down the trail. After refueling from our hike and resting a bit we decided to check out the Glow Worm walk in the evening. Just a few minutes from our hostel, the walk did not meet its high expectations, however we were able to see some faint glowworms and interact with the local wildlife, specifically a possum which was surprisingly the only animal we encountered the whole day between the hikes, apart from a few birds. The hostel in Franz Josef was definitely our favorite of the whole trip, and provided everything we could ask for as we prepared for the next section of our journey.

The following day was mostly filled with driving but included many stops and short walks along the way, which were highly recommended to us and provided for some beautiful scenery. Among our stops was Lake Matheson, the most photographed lake in New Zealand. It was easy to see why the lake has this accolade, with the perfect reflection of the Southern Alps and glaciers in the distance clear on the calm surface of the lake.

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We also took time in Wanaka for dinner and to walk around the town and Lake Wanaka, which gave us the opportunity to see the most famous tree in New Zealand. The tree, affectionately known as ‘that Wanaka tree,’ is completely surrounded by water near the southern shore of the lake and is framed by the mountains in the distance.

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After exploring the town we made our way to our campsite for the night at Lake Tekapo, which we had pushed forward a night from our planned itinerary which would give us additional time in Queenstown over the weekend.

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Despite the rain overnight, and waking up to less than ideal weather, we were able to spend the morning relaxing in the Tekapo hot pools, which are heated by natural hot springs in the mountains.

From there we made our way to Mount Cook National Park, for a few shorter hikes which offered fantastic landscapes and views despite the cloud cover and on and off rain. We also visited an alpine memorial, dedicated to those that had lost their lives in the national park, as well as a display honoring the first woman to climb Mount Cook.

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From the mountains it was finally time to make our way to Queenstown, a city well known for its many adventurous attractions. Along the way we saw some of the bluest water we have ever seen, at Lake Pukaki, and we were welcomed to Queenstown by a beautiful sunset.

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Queenstown was the largest city we would be spending time in throughout our trip, other than when flying in and out of New Zealand, despite barely making into the top thirty largest cities in the country, and it was one of my favorite places as it has so much to offer!

Stay tuned for the third and final part!

New Zealand: Part 1

New Zealand: Part 3

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