New Zealand: Reefton and the West Coast


We left Hanmer Springs fairly early as we had quite a distance to cover during the day. We had decided that we were going to aim to have our lunch on the west coast where there is a seal colony.

On the banks of a river

Before we reached the coast however we had quite a drive to do, luckily we had plenty of mountain landscapes to keep us distracted as the road passes through some deep river valleys and the Victoria Forest Park. On the way we passed some places with really unusual names such as Engineers Camp, Springs Junction and Progress Junction before reaching Reefton where we had decided to stop for our morning coffee (and cake!).

We parked on the main street and went to "Broadway Tearooms" for our mid morning snack. Joel had a mud chocolate cake which he claimed was the best he'd ever had but Cris found it too rich!

Once we had replenished our energy we took a short walk around the town before visiting the Supervalue supermarket (not part of the Irish Supervalu chain) to restock our dwindling food supplies.

Cape Foulwind

Cape Foulwind Beach

We found Cape Foulwind quite easily and were pleased to see that we were the only people there. Since we were still digesting our cakes we decided to walk along the coast path to the seals before lunch.

Joel on the walkway

The walkway was another example of the great work done by the DOC (Departement of Conservation), they had somehow managed to include a fully accessible walkway along the side of an extremely steep hill, and as if that wasn't achievement enough they had done so leaving the vegetation appearing practically untouched.

As we approached the colony we were surprised by the amount of sound the seals were making. All of them seemed to be trying to drown out all of the others!

Once we could see them however the sound just seemed to fade away as we stood mesmerized watching the colony about ten metres below us. When still the seals seemed to blend into the rocks but they were easily distinguished once they started to move. We must have counted at least a hundred seals while we were there; all of them going about their daily business seemingly oblivious to the pair of tourists just a few metres above.

Seal Colony Seal Colony Seal Colony

Eventually we tore ourselves away and returned to the camper for our lunch, congratulating ourselves on our great selection of dining area.

Truman Track

After our lunch we continued down the west coast, ignoring for the most part all of the dire warnings of "last petrol station until Greymouth" etc.

Start of the Truman Track

Our next goal for the day was the Pancake Rocks but we'd also heard of a short walk down to the sea called the "Truman Track" that seemed to be highly thought of and so we decided to pay it a visit. After all since we were stopping frequently to admire the view a short walk wouldn't do us any harm!

The walk itself was about 20 minutes long, starting in a magnificent sub-tropical rainforest and passing through a flat section in the midst of New Zealand flax plants before descending a short rock staircase to a hidden beach.

Joel and waterfall

The first thing that caught our attention was the layers visible in the exposed rock and the second thing was a stunning waterfall.

Crowded beach

We had spent just a few minutes before a horde (four) of tourists descended on it! With polite nods to acknowledge one another we carefully kept about fifty metres between us as we sat admiring the sun darting in and out of the scurrying rainclouds.

Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks

Punakaiki is probably best known for Pancake rocks and their blowholes. We hadn't bothered to coordinate our visit with the tides and as a result it was low tide when we got there - i.e. no blowholes - however it was worth it to see the rocks. Our level of interest in geology would be about average but these rocks would really make you want to pull out a textbook and figure out how they were formed!

Hopefully the photos below will help understand how we felt.

Pancake Rocks Pancake Rocks Pancake Rocks

One of the problems however with showing them in photos is that you don't quite grasp the scale. Something that we tried to illustrate with the middle photo (that is a person on the bridge!).


We continued down the coast to our destination for night, what we'd been told was the "most boring town in New Zealand". In our case we were just looking for a petrol station and a campsite for the night so we didn't care much!

Our first stop on arriving to Greymouth was the petrol station as we had less than a quarter tank of diesel left. For some reason however there was just one diesel pump and the camper that was using it seemed to be parked up for the night.

After about ten minutes wait Joel decided to pull up on the other side of the pump. We'd originally decided to wait as at the widest point there was only about three metres space between the pump and a rather solid looking wall. However with a couple of careful turns we were in, only to remember that the diesel tank was now on the wrong side! We had to go back out onto the road in order to pull back in behind the other camper!

Once we'd filled our tank we drove out to the local Top 10 campsite. Once checked we asked what site we were assigned, only to be told "choose whichever you prefer". The reason for such a casual answer soon became obvious - there were only about six other campers. We parked up and decided to walk down to the beach to listen to the lapping of the waves.

As we came back from the beach we realised something interesting, all of the campers (including us it must be said) were huddled together in the middle of the empty campsite. In fact the biggest gap between campers was just two sites!

Chuckling about the herd instinct we cooked our supper and planned the next day.

We decided that we'd try to visit the Franz Josep glacier in the morning and then get to Fox Glacier for the 13:35pm guided walk. This meant that we'd have to drive for three hours first thing in the morning but had the advantage that we wouldn't need to go anywhere after we came back from four hours on the glacier!

We also spoke to David (Cris's brother) to let him know that we would be in Wanaka in a couple of days and talk more about going to Milford Sound together. This was an idea which we had first proposed when we were in Pahia (which seemed like a lifetime ago!) and that was now almost upon us...

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