Lakes, pools and waterfalls - 43:24.4S, 169:49.7E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 1 Dec 2020 06:03

The area of South Island around Fiordland, Queenstown and Wanaka is sometimes know as the Southern Lakes, and we have had some beautiful lakeside campsites.  Last time we travelled by campervan we spent a night at the Kidds Bush Reserve on Lake Hawea, and it was so nice we wanted to stay there again, so from Queenstown we headed north to see if it lived up to our memories.

This campsite south of Queenstown, by Lake Wakatipu, was a free one.  Just space to park up, public toilets and rubbish bins – and the view.

Looking down on Lake Hawea from the walking track behind the campsite

The weather at Kidds Bush wasn’t as good as last time we were there, with strong gusts coming across the lake.  The first one blew our awning across the top of the van wrecking the supports and when the rain that came with them cleared we could see fresh snow on the hills!  It was a cold night.  We had planned to walk Isthmus Peak the next day (up the ridge in the photo above), but other campers told us the track was closed for lambing so we decided to move on over Haast Pass visiting as many of the tourist sites as we could on the way.  These are mainly pools and waterfalls and we saw all of the marked ones and a couple that were referred to in a guide we have but are not signed from the road.

The Blue Pools of Haast get their colour from the light refracting from the deep pools of glacial water

Wilson’s slot wasn’t a marked site.  You had to wade through icy water to get in and the waterfall was just a trickle

Fantail Falls was on the tourist trail.... was Thunder Creek Falls

All the way through Haast Pass you have stunning views of the Southern Alps

We spent Sunday night at a Department of Conservation site at Lake Paringa, near the coast in Westland, and woke on Monday to rain.  It seemed set for the day, so we headed for a holiday park in the Fox Glacier where we were able to do our laundry and wait for the weather to clear.  The last time we came through the township here it was full of backpackers and campervans, with the bars and holiday parks buzzing.  Now it feels like a ghost town: the holiday park we stopped at was well below half full and when we went out to find something to eat most of the places that were open were empty.  So sad – this is the price of keeping New Zealand COVID free.

Fox Glacier Township should be packed at this time of year.  We hardly saw another vehicle on the SH6 glacier highway

This morning dawned fine – probably the last completely fine day on this coast this week – and we planned a walk on the coast at Gillespies Beach.  On the way we passed the turn off for Lake Matheson and decided to stop to see if we could see the reflection of the mountains it is famous for.  We were in luck.

Most of the walk was in forest, but there were 3 viewpoints where you could see the reflections.  We didn’t get completely still water for the perfect reflection, but it was pretty good

The view from the café after our walk was pretty spectacular.  The central peak is Mount Tasman and to the right is Aoraki/Mount Cook – the highest mountain in New Zealand

Gillespie Beach, at the end of a 12 kilometre gravel road, is a wild place with the Tasman Sea beating onto a pebble beach.  It was a gold mining area and there are remnants of the dredging equipment used by the miners lying in the bush.  Our walk took us along the beach, across a lagoon and up a green and mossy track through the forest.  The west coast of New Zealand gets a lot of rain as the depressions coming in from the Tasman are forced up over the Alps and drop their moisture on the way.  We have seen evidence of this in the rainforest like growth besides the roads and after the previous day’s rain this track was very squelchy. The route ended at Galway Beach – deserted even by the seal colony that overwinters there – so we had our lunch listening to the waves and returned the way we came. As we walked back along the beach we had a banded dotterel and an oystercatcher trying to decoy us away from their nests.

A bucket dredger rusting beside the seaside

Gillespie beach

Forest stream

Galway Beach

The weather forecast for the last few days of our trip is not good on the west coast, so we are now heading back across towards the east coast in the hope of an improvement.