We left the town nearest to Abel Tasman National Park around 8:30 in the morning as we had a long day of driving ahead of us. After about 3 hours of driving windy roads (which are their national highways), we came to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks to stretch our legs and see the rocks against the sea cliffs. The Pancake Rocks are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tides. We walked around for a few minutes and we were lucky to catch this sight between rain showers.
About another 2 hour drive and we pulled into the town of Franz Josef, named after the glacier which is just a few miles away. By this point in the day, the rain had stopped and the clouds cleared a bit and from our hostel, we had a nice view of the Southern Alps which is the mountain range that runs down the length of the Southern Island.
The next day we had pre-booked a morning kayak trip around a nearby lake. In the brochure, it advertised mirror like water with the snow capped mountains as a background – alas that was not meant to be today! With heavy rain beginning around early in the morning, we reluctantly agreed to keep the trip as planned. The rain was heavy…and cold – around 48 degrees. It was just Kathleen and myself and our guide so we at least got to go at our own pace. We set off across the lake, fighting a strong headwind. We came into a small bay and then paddled up a still stream into a kiwi bird sanctuary. The kiwi birds are very rare (endangered) and nocturnal, so we knew we didn’t have a chance to see them, but it was neat to see what their native environment looks like which is full of ferns, moss, and thick trees. After resting our muscles for a bit, we headed back to shore and back to the hostel to change clothes and warm up!