Wanaka and the Best Drive Yet!

by Anna

After seeing my parents off at the Queenstown airport, we drove for about an hour to our next lakeside destination, Wanaka. Unfortunately it was pretty frigid and gray when we arrived, but our accommodation for the night, Wanaka Bakpaka, was super cool and had a cozy hang out area with million dollar views of the lake. We made the most of our evening with a yummy Indian meal at the Spice Market (where our friends Dennis and Robyn had just been a few weeks earlier and loved) and then caught a flick at the very unique “Cinema Paradiso.” Attached to a funky cafe and with just one theatre where you could choose to sit on everything from a couch to a convertible Beetle, it was definitely a one-of-a-kind movie experience. There was even a short “intermission” half way through Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and we couldn’t resist the array of freshly baked, steaming cookies lining the counters of the cafe. Any place that offers wine, cookies, lazyboy recliners and movies is a winner in my book!

The next morning we woke up early, packed up Big Red, and headed to Mt. Iron Track for an hour-and-a-half trek up to the top of the mountain to check out the view. We were happy to have increasing blue skies and sunshine and rewarded ourselves after the hike with a Red Star burger. We read that there is a bit of a rivalry between Queenstown’s Fergbuger and Wanaka’s Red Star, so we thought we’d do our due diligence and try both. We went for a vegetarian option at Red Star with falafel, beet relish, hummus and sweet chili sauce. With a side of Kumara fries (NZ’s sweet potato), it couldn’t be beat! Sorry, Ferg, my vote goes to Red Star.

All fueled up and ready to go we hit the road with Big Red for a six hour drive to Fox Glacier. Everywhere we have driven in New Zealand had been pretty jaw-droppingly beautiful, but this drive was the most scenic and stunning yet. We passed by glacial lakes and rivers and through the Southern Alps on Haast Pass. Every now and then a waterfall would appear plunging off a steep ravine and then at next glance we’d be driving past bright green pastures of sheep and cows grazing beneath snow-covered peaks. We drove through Mt. Aspiring National Park and the tiny town of Haast, where we stopped at a coffee cart that was kind of in the middle of nowhere for a “flat white” and a “long black” (I love that no matter where you are in New Zealand, you can always find an amazing cup of coffee!). After passing through Haast, the terrain all of a sudden took on an almost tropical feel and suddenly we were skirting sheer cliffs along the coast. We curved again through the lush tropical ferns away from the coast and reemerged at Bruce’s Beach, a windswept stark beach, littered with driftwood. And when I say driftwood, it was more like whole trees lying gray and bleached along the beach. Many of the trees still standing looked as though they’d been permanently blown in one direction and stood like lopsided sculptures along the sand. Not long after passing Bruce’s Beach, we made it to our final destination, Fox Glacier, where we were literally at the foot of Mt. Cook and the glaciers that distinguish its surface. It was amazing how drastically the landscape changed within 6 hours of driving…it was hard to believe that we were still in the same country at the end of the day!

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One Comment to “Wanaka and the Best Drive Yet!”

  1. Just a quick note…have enjoyed your New Zealand jaunt especially because I have a nephew living in Nelson.. Duncan Graham. He is a vet & his wife Anna an M.D. They have made many of your same treks I am sure. Burga

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