Estimated driving time from Franz Josef to Queenstown was about 4.5 hours but we expected stops for photos and refreshments to extend that by an hour or two, making an early start desirable. We scheduled an 8:00 am start but woke early, had breakfast and managed to beat our mark by almost 30 minutes.
We had planned to pause at Lake Matheson near Fox but before we reached Fox Majella discovered from her Lonely Planet guide that the walk around the lake took an hour and the spot with reflected views of the mountains was at the far end. We decided to skip that excursion.
On our way south to Haast we stopped for photos by Lake Moeraki and at Knight’s Point lookout. The lake surface was smooth and we hoped for reflections of snow capped mountains but the angle was not right for that though we did capture some reflections of the hills across the lake. At the lookout we had a last good look at the rocky coastline and Helen spotted some moving specks that we took to be seals on the beach across a small bay.
Haast was our planned coffee stop. It is the only real opportunity between Fox and Wanaka and we also intended to top up fuel before attempting the Haast Pass road to Wanaka. As we pulled up Majella noticed they were advertising whitebait patties and had to have one. I declined the offer of a second from the server and was surprised when the charge for our two coffees and patty came to $21.50. I’m not a great lover of fish and thought that $12.50 for some tiny whole fish that arrived embedded in scrambled egg was a bit rich.
Our assumption that we would find fuel in Haast proved incorrect and we had to backtrack 3 km to Haast Junction to buy some before heading up the Haast River toward the pass. The river wound through a broad valley backed by snow capped peaks and with waterfalls punctuating the slopes. We stopped for photos a couple of times along the flat section of the valley before the road headed up the slope as the valley narrowed. We parked in the space above the bridge at the Gates of Haast to view and photograph the rapids. The better viewing was below the bridge on the lower side but we decided not to risk the walk across the narrow bridge even though the traffic was infrequent. We did grab some quick shots from the bridge.
At Fantail Falls we parked and took the 2 minute walk to the falls. The path in was level and mostly concrete, probably to handle the volume of walkers. We spent some time on the rocky river bed admiring the falls and surrounds. Some built small cairns and John and Helen spent some effort on perfecting their intended entry for the photo of the day.
Not much further up the road we crested the pass and began following the Makarora River down the other side. The countryside gradually became clearer on the drier eastern side of the range but there were still patches of snow visible on the tops of the peaks even as we approached the head of Lake Wanaka.
We drove along the edge of Lake Wanaka and then crossed the isthmus toward Lake Hawea. We stopped there to enjoy the view and catch some photos of the lake. There was a man flying a drone with camera and remote viewing goggles. John could not resist the urge to check it out and try the goggles – probably looking for ways to cement his lead in the photo of the day competition.
We stopped again at the lookout further along the shore of Lake Hawea. There we were able to capture some images of reflections in the surface of the lake before driving on via Hawea to Wanaka.
Lunch was eaten at Puzzling World on the edge of Wanaka. We ate in one of the booths with puzzles and then checked out the Romanesque toilets before going outside for photos staged with the leaning tower on the front lawn.
After driving along the Wanaka waterfront we took the road down the Cardrona Valley and over the Crown Range toward Queenstown. Peaking at 1076 m this is the highest sealed road in New Zealand.
Just before we reached the Cardrona hotel we came to the (in)famous Cardrona bra fence. We had chanced across it in February but this time Majella was prepared with her contribution. It took some time to reach it from Wanaka and we began to wonder if we had missed it. When we got service on the iPad I searched for it and Majella discovered that it had been removed again in July 2014. Fortunately some brave souls have begun to rebuild the collection but this time on a fence within the entrance to the property and probably immune to objections based on interference with public roads. Majella was pleased to make her contribution to the efforts of the sisterhood.
We stopped at the crest of the range for photographs of the vista toward Queenstown and then drove on to Arrowtown. We found a park close to the main street and walked in. Majella and Mum sat in the shade while I went for ice creams (hokey pokey, of course) and the others explored the shops. Refreshed by ice cream we drove into Queenstown, passing by the Shotover jet boats, to find our accommodation at Lakeside Apartments. We are in a 3 bedroom apartment for our 2 nights here with a view directly over the lake.
The lounge area has a glass roofed area that would be welcome in winter but was a bit warm at this time of year. The air conditioner eventually cooled it down while we rested until the sun outside was lower. Shortly before 6:00 pm we headed out to town, a reasonably short walk, to collect some provisions for the evening. We settled for a simple meal of hot dogs. Nobody needed anything fancy after our night out in Franz Josef last night. We washed the dogs down with red wine and other beverages for those with different preferences and followed them with Turkish delight and fudge.
Finishing dinner at 7:15 pm left almost 2 hours until sunset at 9:00 pm but that allowed those who needed an early night to turn in. Before doing that we had time to view photos. Winner of photo of the day was Glen for a photo actually taken by Debbie on his camera.
There was time for those who had the energy to indulge in an evening walk along the lake shore to town. Mum and Helen were feeling tired and decided to relax and then turn in. John, Debbie, Glen, Majella and I walked the short distance toward town and onto the wharf area where we admired the sunset over the lake and took some photos.
Debbie, Majella and I visited the Ice Bar for cocktails at -5ºC. John and Glen decided to skip that but walked up town and met us afterwards with news of a Christmas tree they had seen. We walked back to see that, pausing to watch a street entertainer, and then strolled home. By that time it was after 10:30 and the sun was gone but there was still enough light to see where we were walking.