Thursday Feb 9th | Alexandra 🍒 – Wanaka 🤷🏻♀️ | 188 km 🚘
Friday February 10th | Wanaka ☀️ – Frank Josef 🏔 | 328 km 🚙
Sarah fed us croissants for breakfast and off we went to Wanaka. We couldn’t leave stone-fruit country without stopping at a roadside stand for some cherries and peaches! Next we stopped to see the Clyde hydro damn. It’s the biggest concrete gravity damn in New Zealand. Although it is important for supplying power to the central Otago region it is very controversial. In 1992, 13 years after construction began, Lake Dunstan was created behind the damn and flooded much of the neighbouring town Cromwell. The town saved some of the old buildings and created a heritage street right on the waterfront which was interesting to see.
Just before you get to Wanaka there is a beautiful lavender farm. There are rows and rows of the sweet-smelling flower as well as a colourful garden to visit. It wasn’t lunchtime yet so we didn’t eat in the cafe but we did browse the gift shop and I sampled their delicious honey.
The town of Wanaka is situated on Lake Wanaka. We browsed the shops and I found a pair of thick merino-possum slipper-socks to keep my feet warm during the rest of the cold nights on our camping trip. After lunch we headed out to the family-run Cardrona Distillery that is the only distillery in New Zealand. It began production last year and now has single malt vodka (The Reid), gin (The Source) and orange liqueur (Rose Rabbit) for sale. They’re all delicious … ask me how I know. Their single malt whiskey (The Cardrona) was put into oak casks in 2015 and will be ready in just over eight years – that seems like a good time for a return visit!
Beside the Distillery is “Bradrona”: a fence covered with bras and a donation box for breast cancer. Random but interesting. No, we didn’t contribute to the fence.
The last thing on our must-do list for Wanaka was Puzzleworld. They have a very difficult and frustrating maze (tip: always keep left in a maze and you’ll get out eventually … saw that tidbit on TV once), an optical illusion room, and a room of games. The best part was the sloping room but I really enjoyed the whole place. My new merino-possum socks are so warm I woke up halfway through the night and had to take them off! We left Wanaka early and headed North stopping at a couple waterfalls on our way. There are so many Falls with crystal clear water everywhere here.
The west coast of New Zealand is a temperate rainforest and it rained off and on the whole way to Fox Glacier. Luckily for us it cleared once we reached the car park and began the hour return walk to the glacier. It was amazing to see what such a large mass of ice can create and how much it has retreated over the last century (there are signs indicating where it’s face was during specific years). The only safe way to get onto the glacier is via helicopter so we just admired it from afar.
We wanted to stop at Lake Matheson as it is a mirror Lake and on a clear day you can see Mt Cook reflected perfectly in the water but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we decided it was too cloudy. We did, however, see a pukeko! Pukekos are blue birds with a red beak and legs that prefer to run rather than fly.
Finally we ended our day in Franz Josef at the Franz Josef Montrose Hostel with a chicken stir fry for supper and a trip to the hot springs pools.