A long weekend on the West Coast (Castle Hill-Franz Josef-Haast)

If there's one thing that can be expected before the start of any long weekend is the exodus of local leaving Christchurch at 4pm. It seems that almost everyone is doing a mad dash to beat the traffic and get away early, bags packed and heading into the outdoors. For the Canterbury long weekend we decided to head over to the West Coast and drive the 5.5 hours to get to a rented bach, 30kms south of Fox Glacier. It was going to be a late arrival regardless, but decided to pull into Castle Hill along Arthurs Pass. I'd recently got the iPhone 6 and was exploring the slow motion filming and checking the quality of the photos it took. The blue sky combined with the green grass produced a pretty good result. I had the iPhone 5 for a few years and was always really disappointed with the quality of photos when you compare it to the Samung Galaxy S4, however it seems as though the iPhone 6 has really stepped up its game. Castle Hill is a collection of weird looking limestone boulders which are not only amazing to look at, but there's also some rock climbing/bouldering possibilities here. Castle Hill-Arthurs PassAfter a bit of a walk around the hills, we got back on track and continued the journey onto the West Coast. The thing I love about this drive is when you hit the coast just north of Hokitika and you see the sea. The waves over here get pretty big and seem to smash up on the coast with incredible force. It's certainly a wild part of New Zealand. The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most do's if you're over this way and gets around 250,000 visitors per year. It's a 12 km long glacier that comes from the Southern Alps, it's retreating pretty fast. Franz Josef GlacierWe continued the drive south toward our destination, a place just south of Bruce Bay. It was getting quite dark at this time and there were plenty of possums and even a deer on the road. Surely a good sign of things to come. The next morning my friend Richard and I got up at 5.30am and made our way into the bush where within 30 minutes we spooked a deer 10 metres away. It's great to see these massive animals up so close and in the wild. We tried a pot of fishing, both surf-casting in the sea without success and fishing for trout which was far more productive. Check out this brown trout which was caught near the river mouth. We spent the rest of the day either fishing or hunting. As you can see from the background in the photo above, there's a lot of land to explore and dense bush to get into. That's what I love about the West Coast, it's remote and there's plenty of opportunity to explore. If you're going fishing in the rivers over here, make sure you get the right fishing licence from the Fish and Game website, or from a local fishing shop. It costs only around $25 for 24 hours. Fishing We chilled out and lit a fire on the beach using the abundance of drift wood around. Make sure you use common sense if you're lighting a fire so there's nothing else that can catch. West Coast After this, we continued onto Lake Paringa, about 25 minutes drive south then onto Haast. The weather was a bit patchy and stayed like that for the rest of the day. It's extremely exposed over here, the weather can change very quickly. One minute it can be sunny, the next you're in a torrential downpour. The next day, it was stunning without a breath of wind. There's an awesome DOC campsite at Paringa that's worth staying at if you're down this way. It's only $6 per night per person and you're right on the lake edge. CamperMate will work in offline mode also, so you will find it without a problem. Paringa After a few days of hunting, fishing and exploring around Haast it was time to head back to Christchurch and back into the grind of it all. If you're planning a trip in the South Island, make sure you add a drive along the West Coast and explore this awesome area. You might also like to check out these other posts on previous West Coast trips: A quick trip down the West Coast Amethyst Hot Springs Fishing in Haast [mc4wp_form] Blog post by Adam Hutchinson