Brief Stops in Franz-Josef and Hokitika

When we set off from Wanaka to Franz-Josef glacier, we had planned for a three-night stay just outside of the town of Franz-Josef.  The plan was to hike the actual Fox Glacier which is about 30 minutes from Franz-Josef.  When I studied abroad twenty years ago in Australia, I made a detour to New Zealand for a few weeks and had done this very activity.  Unfortunately, both glaciers have retreated so much due to global warming, that the only possible way to hike them is via helicopter, which wasn’t possible with the ages of our kids. 

One of the benefits of our travel this year is the ability to change plans since we don’t have a fixed itinerary.  Ultimately, we decided to shorten our stay in Franz-Josef since we wouldn’t be able to reach the glaciers on foot.  We stayed at Franz Alpine Retreat which was a cozy little cabin and spent a whole day hiking.  We traveled to the glacier overlooks and then Goose picked an amazing hike for us as well. 

Kate and Goose in front of Franz-Josef glacier

Goose and I in front of Franz-Josef

The Callery Gorge hike took us over swinging bridges and down to the glacier-fed river.  The kids had fun tossing stones and sticking their hands in the ice-cold water. 

Goose enjoying the ice cold glacial water on the Callery Gorge walk during our brief stop in Franz-Josef

Goose soaking in Callery Gorge

When we got back to the cabin, the kids spent the evening running back and forth to the front-desk checking out dvds they could rent for free (a new experience for them since we only stream)!

After our change in plans, we decided to spend one night in Hokitika, a quaint and quirky little town on the west coast.  We drove first to Hokitika Gorge to hike the gorgeous trail that led to a suspension bridge over the river.  Normally, turquoise in color, the river was a murky grey because of all the rain. 

Hokitika Gorge Walk with our kids

At Hokitika Gorge

To offset leaving Franz-Josef early, we found a cheap location in Hokitika, which ended up being a holiday travel park.  The kids LOVED the Hokitika Holiday Park.  It had a massive zipline that the kids did for hours while we were there!

After we checked into our three-bunkbed room, we went to downtown where we visited the National Kiwi Center.  We were greeted by the kindest older gentlemen who hurried us in to go straight to the eel feeding.  The kids ran through the hallway and up the stairs to find loads of eels jumping out of the water to be fed.  It was a little creepy to me, but the kids thought it was fantastic.  We followed the eel feed with crawlie catching. 

Benji relishing in catching crawlies at the National Kiwi Center

Manji catching “crawlies”

The museum had a separate room where the kids could “fish” for crawfish!  We could have spent hours in that room had we not arrived so late to the museum. Alas, we had one more important site to see—the kiwis!  The museum is home to two kiwis that have been rehabilitated.  They are nocturnal, so we had to enter a pitch black room and speak softly so as not disturb them.  We were all shocked to note the size of the birds! As big as chickens with a beak about six to eight inches long!

Bingo enjoying a Kiwi exhibit at the National Kiwi Center during our brief stop in Hokitika

Bingo with a kiwi

We spent the late afternoon walking the town and admiring the Tasman Sea which was something to behold.  It was very, very rough with extremely high seas! Along the shoreline they have a giant sign of the town name made of driftwood.  We posed for pictures and then grabbed pizza at Fat Pipi’s, a big treat since we’ve been mostly cooking in New Zealand.  

Binji and Bingo enjoying our brief stop in Hokitika, in front of the sign made from driftwood

Hokitika seaside (Tasman Sea)

After dinner, we went back to our bunk room to relax before our big night out! We went to the Glow-Worm Dell that was just a few minutes from the travel park.  Complete darkness is needed to see them, which required us to stay up until 10pm.  The kids were begging to go to bed early and skip the whole thing, but we pushed through and I am so glad we did.  Just a quick walk off the side of the road was the glow worm cave.  In it you felt like you were staring at a night sky full of stars. 

The boys reading the entrance sign to the Glow-Worm Dell during our brief stop in Hokitika

Learning all about glow worms

After a quick stay in Hokitika, we woke up early and headed on to the coastal town of Mapua.

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