Green. I’ll say it again. Green. Let it swirl around in your mind and see what it conjures. The West Coast of New Zealand for one. And also all those gorgeous cute little Jucy rentals that you see sweeping across this amazing country of ours.
I headed for the West Coast and took my ‘Eva’ on a trip with me on Snapchat. She wasn’t green (colour) and her language sometimes was a bit blue (“have you got any death metal?”) but we weren’t bothered. We loved her anyway.
Starting out early from Queenstown we headed right up past the Blue Pools and Makarora to our first stop Hokitika. Along the way we stopped at Bruce Bay and waved to Jackson’s Bay (that I need to re-visit. We ran out of time!). Our first foodie stop was at the Salmon Farm where I had good cake (no surprises) and a cup of tea and watched the fishes swimming in their huge ponds. Onward to Lake Mathieson (in Franz Joseph) where, if you’re a runner/ walker, you must get your trainers on and have a stretch around the lake. It’s a gorgeous trail of just under 5k around and I’m so glad I did it before getting back in the car.
We then (and I’ll keep saying ‘we’ as I now consider my trip with ‘Eva’ as a real thing. I was alone so I didn’t want to get lonely) hit our first stop for the night – Hokitika.
I’d heard and seen lots of pictures of the famous Hokitika sign (made out of driftwood) but didn’t have a clue where it was. No problems, I parked up my car in the centre of town and instantly saw the sign to the beach. Two seconds later, there was the sign. Simple, beautiful, serene. I couldn’t keep off that beach. So much so I had my dinner on there (gorgeous Fat Pipi’s pizza- the queue was out of the door so you can imagine the pizza!) and wander before bedtime and an early morning run to top it off.
After all that green I was completely socks knocked off by the coastal road. Why has no-one ever told me about it? I literally came round the corner and whammo! Sweeping vistas as far as the eye can see. The driving on the West Coast isn’t easy. It’s twisty turny and you have to keep your whits about you, but I literally pulled over and shouted at some American tourists “this is paradise!”. They smiled and also literally ran for the car. 1) I was a Brit shouting in their face and 2) I was talking to my car.
Day One was a long day (600k of driving) and day two wasn’t short on the mileage either. Everything is a long drive but EVERYTHING is worth the drive.
Eventually I resisted the urge to get out of my car every five seconds and get myself up to Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. Gorgeous mounds of rocks stacked on top of each other with the ocean bashing itself against them. Amazing. This place gets quite busy at lunchtime (local tip) so head there just before or after. A short walk to the rocks you can stand in the sunshine and snap away to your hearts content.
Up, up, up the coast until I hit Westport and a call to my next bed for the night ‘The Old Slaughter House.”
Dave, amazing builder, cook, extraordinary guided me to my next port of call with the instructions “drive to Hector (next town) and look for the sign”. I wasn’t sure where I was going but easy enough and I was there. I parked my car in the car park at the bottom, my bag was taken from me on a quad bike and I set off up the hill following the signs.
I was then met by an oasis of calm, relaxation and see views. Settle in for the evening? I sure did.
Sunday saw me up bright and early and heading to Karamea for coffee. This gorgeous wee town right at the top of the West Coast was so gorgeous you have to head up there. It’s so worth it.
Next stop Denniston Coal Mining experience. You heard me. A journey into the coal mine and an absolutely amazing tour around. These guys know their stuff. It’s not a happy story but it’s one that is so important to know about what went on here.
After all that scrabbling around in the darkness I got back in my car for the journey home. Heading to Greymouth for the evening before an early head off in the morning taking ‘Eva’ with me. She was exhausted!
As I returned home to my beloved Queenstown I was exhausted. Mentally (have you seen the views?) and bodily (is that a word?). It’s a long way but it’s oh so worth it. There so so so much to see that I didn’t even know existed up there on the West Coast. So many things I didn’t get the chance to do so I will return again and again.
Thank you West Coast Tourism and Jucy