New Zealand Days 12-16: Franz Josef, Arthur’s Pass, and Christchurch

It’s time to wrap up our 16-day trip to New Zealand!  We spent our last few days driving, making the most of some bad weather, and getting in short hikes during the good weather.


From Queenstown, we drove to Franz Josef.  We split up this 5-hour drive with the Blue Pools Track, an easy 1-hour (or less) return walk.  The “pools” seemed more like a river, and the water was less blue than we had expected from photos, but it was still pretty and relaxing.  Tommy was impressed by the skipping quality of the rocks.

We also took a quick stop to admire the Tasman Sea!

Franz Josef

We got to Franz Josef with some daylight left, so I walked around town for a bit enjoying the plant variety and the views of the mountains at sunset.  Once it started to get dark, I went to the Terrace Walk, an easy 30-minute return path.  I’d heard that you could sometimes find glowworms, and I did spot one!  It was under a hollow at the base of a tree just slightly off the path.  I was crouching there looking for more when a lady passed by on the main path, and I didn’t realize that she hadn’t seen me – she got a big scare when I said, “There’s a glowworm here if you’re interested!” from the darkness.  She was excited once she had processed what I had said.

The next day, our big heli-hike on Franz Josef glacier was cancelled due to an incoming storm that would impact the helicopter’s visibility during flight.  Although obviously disappointed, we decided to make what we could of our time there before the storm hit, and managed to complete the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk and Sentinel Rock Walk before it started raining too badly.  They were both easy walks. We spent about 40 minutes total on the two of them, including some time for photos.  The views were similar.  It was cool to see the glacier, but (understandably, due to the easiness of the hikes) not as impressive as our glacier experiences at Torres del Paine.  We look forward to actually getting on a glacier during some future trip!  

We did drive out to Okatiro Trig Walk parking lot after those two trails, but at that point the rain was getting worse and we figured the views would be pretty poor with all the clouds, so we decided to cut our losses and just drive on to Arthur’s Pass.  We relaxed the rest of the day.

Arthur’s Pass

Thankfully, we had better weather the next day!  We hiked Devil’s Punchbowl Walking Track, a 1-hour return, and Arthur’s Pass Walking Track, a 2:40-return.  Devil’s Punchbowl was definitely the better of the two.  There was a smaller path off of the main trail that led directly to the bottom of the waterfall.  It was chilly and wet, but fun to check out!  We also briefly stopped along part of Arthur’s Pass Historical Walk so that we could see the Punchbowl power-station site on the way back.

Arthur’s Pass Walking Track took us through some beautiful forests and gave us some new views of the mountains.  It was an easy path, and I really enjoyed the lush moss, twisting trees, and small water features.  However, after some of the other hikes that we’ve done on this trip, we weren’t wildly impressed overall.  There were some longer trails that we could have taken for more impressive views, but they came with lots of warnings and in some cases, notes of previous deaths on the trail, so we decided to steer clear of those.  We took it easy again for the rest of the day.

Christchurch: International Antarctic Centre

The next day it was raining again, but luckily, we had some indoor options this time!  We drove back to Christchurch, where we had first started our New Zealand trip.  We visited the International Antarctic Centre first.  It had a lot of fun interactive exhibits!  We both agreed that the Hägglund Field Trip was the best part.  This was a short ride in an “all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle.”  It drove us over a bunch of logs and tires to simulate ice and snow fields, up and down several hills, over a crevasse, and even through water!  Other highlights of the museum included a husky presentation that included petting time with the dogs and a “storm dome” that simulated an Antarctic storm (warmer than a Minnesota one).

Christchurch: Canterbury Museum

We went to the Canterbury Museum next, which was a bit of a surprise… the museum is actually about to undergo a 5-year renovation, so the exhibits are all gone, and the whole place has been graffitied!  In a really amazing fundraising idea, the museum invited over 60 urban artists to take over their stripped spaces.  This resulted in 35 extremely varied exhibits.  I absolutely loved the experience.  These were a few of my favorites:

2 of my favorite pieces – they were both too big for just photos!

Tommy also enjoyed it.  These were a few of his favorites:

And here are a few more for context and appreciation:

Christchurch: Botanic Gardens

We visited Christchurch Botanic Gardens on our last day in New Zealand. The dahlias were super impressive! The rose garden and conservatories were other favorites, although the roses were starting to pass out of season. We didn’t make it through all of the Botanic Gardens, but really enjoyed our peaceful morning stroll there.

Up next, Australia! We’re starting at Gold Coast and will be exploring the East Coast for a little under two weeks before heading back to the States.

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