Natural Wonders on New Zealand's South Island West Coast

New Zealand is full of natural wonders from underground geothermal activity to the mountains that touch the sky. The south island is home to three of my favourites and as we travelled up the west coast we called in on them.

Milford Sound

Waterfall on Milford SoundOur journey towards Milford Sound began a little warily due to warning signs that the road ahead was closed due to the bad weather that had preceded our arrival in Te Anau.

Taking a chance we decided to head as far as we can passing large coachloads of tourists which we quickly u-turning back towards Te Anau.

We reached a point where a barrier would stop traffic from progressing but despite the earlier signs, the barrier was up and we could continue our journey.

The drive took us from lush green land to the white snow capped mountains closing in from both sides. There were notices not to leave the car due to the possibility of avalanches but that didn't stop some tourists from doing so, some even posing beside the sign!

As you leave the crudely built Homer tunnel, carved through the mountainside, you are faced with a long windy path down to the home stretch and to Milford Sound.

At the end of the road we hopped on board on of the cruise boats for a tour around the sound.

Rainbow on Milford SoundOur captain was exceptionally skilled as he got close to the rock face to give a towering view of the waterfalls along the edge of the water. Pulling away you catch glimpses of rainbows forming nearby.

Further out seals sunbathe on the rocks as the waves lap beneath them, blissfully unaware of the passing boat of camera ready passengers.

We got to stop off at a small aquarium where we descended under the water to view the marine life of Milford Sound before we made the short trip back to the pier.

Milford Sound proved a great day out but for me the journey is made special by the incredible views you get on the drive to and from the Sound and why I love New Zealand so much.

Fox Glacier

On Fox GlacierAlmost 500km north of Te Anau is the small town of Fox Glacier where everything is geared towards the two nearby glaciers, Fox and Franz Josef Glacier.

You have several choices of walking or helicopter tours and we opted for the Half Day Fox Glacier Walk provided by Fox Guides.  Arriving at the bottom of the glacier you are faced with a huge wall of ice that is centuries old and runs inland for 13km. Taking a path off to the left we headed into the rainforest that lines both sides of the glacier. The temperature was surprisingly warm as we crossed streams and hugged rock faces with scary drops.

That temperature dropped rather dramatically as we stepped onto the glacier. Gearing up with poles and crampons we investigated the nooks and crevases of the glacier, whilst being given a little bit of the history of the site from our guide.

Pancake Rocks

Blowhole at Pancake RocksOur final stop on the west coast of the south island was just outside Punakaiki, north of Greymouth, where the local attraction are the Pancake Rocks.

Named because of the layering of the limestone caused by pressure on alternating hard and soft layers, their draw is the blowholes within the rocks. At high tide, the sea is forced through these gaps and blast into the air.

It does take patience to witness this and trying to capture on camera proved tricky.

There is a walkway that takes you around the rocks but be careful to time your visit to first catch high tide but also miss the coaches of tourists which we bumped into in the tourist centre at the entrance.

Have you been to the south island? Did you visit Fox Glacier or Franz Josef? What else did you do on the west coast?