Hokitika to Fox Glacier
Hokitika to Fox Glacier -160km
Some technical driving and viewpoints with limited parking areas. Please be aware of traffic if stopping to get out and only do so if you can park completely off the road. Limited cellphone coverage.
Hokitika to Fox Glacier:
The Good South gem: Okarito Lagoon near Franz Josef.
You’ll experience a rugged coastline with deserted beaches, dense rainforest and glaciers under the backdrop of the Southern Alps on your journey from Hokitika to Fox Glacier. Heading south from Hokitika, the angle of many coastal trees gives an indication of the powerful prevailing westerly weather patterns.
Lake Mahinapua just 10km south of Hokitika is a scenic reserve offering a freshwater dip on a hot day or birdwatching opportunities.
Just past the lake at Ruatapu the road heads inland giving travellers some insight into the lifestyle of the coasters with small hamlets and townships such as the gold-mining town of Ross. Whataroa has local carvers operating out their studios as well as a small museum of Maori artefacts.
The turnoff to the coast and Okarito Lagoon and bird sanctuary is about 10km south of the township which is a strongly recommended detour. Further down the road to Franz Josef there is Lake Mapourika which has some excellent picnic spots and canoeing and kayaking available.
Glacier country – Franz Josef and Fox
The busy tourist town of Franz Josef in glacier country will be a change after the more relaxed West coast communities further north but the glaciers are a drawcard for good reason.
A drive to the snout of the receding Franz Josef glacier is one option but the most popular way to experience the ice is by helicopter with a snow landing and guided walk. Franz also has a good range of cafes, restaurants and accommodation options.
The Department of Conservation has a visitor’s centre here and is a reliable source of information for current conditions and local walks. A further 27km of twisty, winding road leads you into the smaller community of Fox with the terminal face of its glacier just five kilometres from the township.
Both Fox and Franz Josef have a range of guided activities to enjoy from skydiving to glacier walks and boat trips with operators usually very knowledgeable about the natural surroundings. Patience with the weather may be necessary if you want a bluebird day however with much of the West Coast receiving two to three metres of rain annually.