Otago Central Rail Trail

26 February 2018

Pic 2018-0226 01 Otago Central Rail Trail (20) Edit

Otago Central Rail Trail is a 150 km long walking and biking trail between Clyde and Middlemarch. We did 55 km of it from Ida Valley east of Lauder to Clyde. There are a number of rental companies that provide various trip and transportation combinations. We drove to Clyde and got a ride out to the drop-off point.

The first part of the trail through Ida Valley, Lauder, and Omakau to Chatto Creek was spectacular. Two tunnels and several bridges highlighted the rolling landscapes. The section from Chatto Creek through Alexandra to Clyde was nice but a bit of a let down from the first half. Soar backsides and tired legs didn’t help either but we perservered. In retrospec, 55 km was a bit ambitious for our family. We could have done it easily if the pathway was paved but the rough gravelled surface made it more difficult. Experienced riders might better enjoy the entire trip. If you are like us, arrange to be picked up in Chatto Creek.

Ida Valley to Chatto Creek

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24 – 27 February 2018

Pic 2018-0227 03 Earnslaw Ship (106) Edit

Once our time in Fjordland National Park was done we went back to Queenstown. We had passed through a few days ago, this time we stayed for 4 days. Queenstown has only 15,300 residents however it feels bigger with the swell of tourists. With good reson it is one of the premier tourism destinations in New Zealand. The scenic ski town sits on Lake Wakatipo and is close to several attractions such as Arrowtown, Glenorchy, The Remarkables, Ben Lomond, Lake Hawea, and Lake Wanaka. The area has plenty to see and do year-round.

The drive from Te Anau to Queenstown was a pleasure. When we drove south we were trying to get out of the way of Cyclone Gita. On the drive north we had time to stop along the way and take in the surroundings. After stocking up on supplies and checking in, we had time to explore town.

The next day we walked the trails around Queenstown Bay before rain showers started. There are limited indoor activities in town so we made the best of it by going to the movies. The weather finally improved for our last two days so we took full advantage by biking on the Otago Central Rail Trail, luging at Skyline, and taking a ride on the TSS Earnslaw. More about them to follow.

Lake Wakatipo south of Qtown

Sunset over Lake Wakatipo

Queenstown on Lake Wakatipo

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Fjordland National Park – Part 4

23 February 2018

Pic 2018-0223 03 Summit Alpine Trail (7) Edit

The Routeburn Track is a 32 km single direction trail that is considered one of the great multi-day hikes in New Zealand. We are not equipped for a multi-day hike but we wanted to experience some of it. We combined two popular sections of Routeburn, Key Summit Track and Lake Howden Track, into a 3 1/2 hour hike. The Key Summit Track provides stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail requires 3 hours and is rated as intermediate difficulty. The trail itself is kept in good condition, the only difficulty is the elevation. We extended the summit walk by taking the Routeburn Trail to Howden Lake and back. Again the trail is in great condition, the only challenge is the elevation change. Howden Lake is nice but there are many other equally nice lakes visible from your car window.

Key Summit

Pic 2018-0223 04 Howden Lake Trail (6) Edit

Howden Lake

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Fjordland National Park – Part 3

22 – 23 February 2018

Pic 2018-0222 11 Fjordland NP (35) Edit

Fjordland National Park is impressive. We saw visitors from all over the globe, so I had to ask myself – where does Fjordland National Park rank amonst other comparable places? As Americans, we have traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada. I cannot rank Fjordland higher than the Canadian Rockies or the Grand Tetons / Yellowstone; however it is a special place. While we have enjoyed our travels throughout New Zealand, I don’t think you could find a more worthwhile place to visit in this beautiful country.

Pic 2018-0222 16 Eglinton Valley (7) Edit

Pic 2018-0223 01 Fjordland NP (7) Edit

Eglinton Valley

Pic 2018-0223 06 Fjordland NP (14) Edit

Pic 2018-0222 11 Fjordland NP (22) Edit

Lookouts throughout the Park

Pic 2018-0222 15 Mirror Lakes (13) Edit

Mirror Lakes – a bit of false advertising, it barely qualifies as a lake and you cannot see the mountain’s reflection but it is still a beautiful vista

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Fjordland National Park – Part 2

22 – 23 February 2018

Pic 2018-0222 01 Milford Sound Foreshore (36) Edit

Milford Sound is the end of the Te Anau-Milford Highway. If you want to go any further, you’ll need to take any number of trails, boats, airplanes, or helicopters that are available. We had hoped to take a boat tour of the Sound but lost a day to rain. Instead we limited ourselves to two short walks. The Milford Sound Foreshore Track is a park highlight. The Milford Sound Lookout Track is a short walk to a lookout tht gives you the same view as the previous walk but further away. It wasn’t worth our time. The reason we took it was my fault.

When I was researching and planning our trip, I read that Donald Sutherland’s grave site was on the trail, which it is. The problem with my half-baked research was Donald Sutherland, the actor, is not dead. Donald Sutherland, the area’s founding father and longtime resident, is. I thought it would be intersting to see the grave of a Hollywood legend. We were less interested in the other.

Pic 2018-0222 02 Milford Lookout (2) Edit

Milford Sound Lookout Track

Pic 2018-0223 07 Marian Falls (3) Edit

Pic 2018-0223 08 River at Marian Falls (20) Edit

Marian Falls and River


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Fjordland National Park – Part 1

20 – 23 February 2018

Pic 2018-0222 11 Fjordland NP (63) Edit

Our travel from Fox Glacier to Te Anau felt more like an evacuation than a road trip. We had been nervously watching the track of Cyclone Gita. Our campsite in Fox Glacier could be hit hard so we got up before the sun and drove hard to get as far south as we could before landfall. We made a few stops along the way but mostly kept pushing south. Between narrow roads, rain, road construction, and campers, the drive took all day. In the end, we arrived at our cabin in Te Anau while Gita hit the West Coast causing most of its damage along the path we took from Picton to Greymouth just a few days ago. Over night the storm produced snow in the mountains we passed through the day before.

The first full day in Te Anau was a wash out. We used the day to relax and get ready for the next two days. No complaints though, TV news reported storm damage throughout the middle of the country including the areas we just spent the past few days. The next morning dark skies broke and the sun came out. We took advantage of good weather and explored Fjordland National Park.

Fjordland National Park is an amazing place. When we thought of New Zealand, this is what we imagined. A truely beautiful place, the park has plenty for any nature lover. It has several multi-day trails however we are not equipped to do them. We, like the majority of visitors, stuck to the park’s readibly accessible highlights. The Te Anau-Milford Highway is the main spine of the park with the most popular sights located along it.

Here are a few places we visited, with more to follow.

Pic 2018-0222 19 Te Anau (29) Edit

Lake Te Anau

Pic 2018-0222 10 Homer Tunnel (21) Edit

Homer Tunnel Lookout

Pic 2018-0223 10 Lake Gunn (1) Edit

Pic 2018-0222 12 Lake Gunn (9) Edit

Lake Gunn

Pic 2018-0223 09 Lake Fergus (1) Edit

Lake Fergus

Pic 2018-0222 04 Tutoko River Bridge (10) Edit

Tutoko River Bridge

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Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier

19 February 2018

Pic 2018-0219 04 Franz Josef Glacier (82) Edit

Another 100 miles down Route 6 from Hokitika Gorge we arrived at Franz Josef Glacier (above). Originally we intended to take a short walk to the lookout but once we were there we could not help but walk to the end of the trail. It didn’t hurt that once again we got lucky and the rain broke to allow us to enjoy stretching our legs for awhile. The glacier is an extremely popular sight. We were surprised at the number of visitors. It reminded me of Bear Glacier outside Stewart in British Columbia, Canada with one exception, at Bear Glacier I was the only person in sight.

Waterfalls on the trail to Franz Josef Glacier

Fox Glacier is a short drive south of Franz Josef. We were excited to see another however Fox experience was less exciting. The drive up to the car park is passable for most cars and trucks but not appropriate for buses and campervans. The River Walk Trail was closed due to weather so with a short stroll we only got a distant view.

Pic 2018-0219 05 Fox Galcier (6) Edit

Fox Glacier below the mist

Another popular stop in the Town of Fox Glacier is Lake Matheson. The walking trails include a circuit around the entire lake. If you are lucky it provides a view of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflecting in the placid lake surface. We weren’t that lucky. The weather was cloudy and rainy with impending landfall of Cyclone Gita. We stayed the night in a cabin near the lake.

Lake Matheson with Mount Cook and Mount Tasman as we hoped to see it (left) and how we saw it (right)

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