Rocks on the way to Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand South Island Road trip long term family travel adventure

New Zealand, South island: Family road trip: Part 2

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This is part 2 of our series from our New Zealand, South Island road trip. Here we talk about our time in Punakaiki, Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown and Wanaka. Some of South Island’s most beautiful attractions.

Punakaiki (also known as Pancake Rocks)

We drove from Greymouth to Punakaiki for a day trip. The drive is one of the most beautiful we did in New Zealand. You get to see rugged, unspoilt beaches for miles and you are driving up and down mountains as you go! The journey took around 1.5 hours.

Pancake rocks are stacks of ancient rocks where you can see the different layers, much like a stack of pancakes. Seeing the pancake rocks is an awesome experience but you should also see the blowholes which are in the same place. You need to get there at certain times of day in order to see the blowholes in action as they only spurt out water around 1 hour before high tide.

To walk around the rocks it takes around an hour at a leisurely pace. There is also a great cafe there which serves yummy pancakes.

Photo of towers of stacked rocks - pancake rocks

Photo of Roobs outside sign advertising pancake rocks

Franz Josef Glacier

We spent a couple of days here and did the walk to the glacier (as close as you can get). For accommodation, we stayed in a Top10 holiday park whilst here and the facilities and the room was really good. We had a double bed and bunk bed in our room as well as our own bathroom. Roobs was impressed that there was a trampoline and some swings outside.

The walk to the glacier takes around 45mins from the car park. I suggest you go early as the car park was completely full by the time we got there (around 11am). It is a fairly easy walk and the views are amazing.

On the way, you see lots of waterfalls and streams. People were saying that the water there is really pure as it has come off of the glacier. We had a little drink of it and it was really refreshing! The walk isn’t that difficult but there are parts where it gets a little steep.

You can only get a certain distance away from the glacier itself as it’s cordoned off for safety. It is a really magnificent sight. The blue of the ice is so lush. It is definitely something to see especially as the glaciers are melting so you may not get a chance in future.

A photo of Franz Josef glacier

A photo of the rocky walk to the glacier


We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb in Cardrona, which is halfway between Wanaka and Queenstown. We decided to stay there because accommodation in Queenstown is really expensive and this seemed a much better deal.

Queenstown is a really popular, lively place and it feels much busier than other parts of the South Island. To celebrate Dan’s birthday we knew we wanted to do the Queenstown Luge. Well, I didn’t want to do it but Dan and Roobs did! To get to the luge you need to buy tickets to go on a gondola (A cable car) which takes you up a mountain.

At the top, there is the visitor centre and you get amazing views of Queenstown. Then if you want to try the luge you can buy tickets to ride down the track. The luge is a kind of toboggan. You can sit 1 kid and 1 adult in each luge but kids can ride on their own too. There are 2 tracks – one slow track which anyone can go on and one fast track which is only for adults.

Both Dan and Roobs LOVED it and they went on 3 times each. It was quite expensive but was brilliant as a birthday treat. For more info and prices you can check out their website.

A photo of Dan going down a slope on a luge

After all that fun we needed to grab a bite to eat. Friends of ours had recommended going to try a “Fergburger“. These famous burgers are so yummy that there is nearly always a huge queue. It is located in the town centre and wasn’t a long walk from the luge so we decided to head there.

We got there around 4pm and had a half hour wait before we were served. The Fergburgers were huge and indeed very, very good. Worth the wait. Be aware that the restaurant itself is tiny and with so many people wanting a Fergburger there is a very slim chance of being able to eat inside. We were there on a lovely, sunny day and walked 5 minutes to eat our burgers in the park.

Sign outside Fergburger restaurant "In Ferg we trust"


The day after visiting Queenstown we decided we’d head to Wanaka. We had heard about “that Wanaka tree” and wanted to go see it up close. (If you don’t know about it “that Wanaka tree” is a lone tree growing in a lake and is one of the most photographed trees in the world). We found Wanaka was really picturesque.

It is much smaller than Queenstown and the lake and parks around it are very peaceful. We parked in the town centre and walked around 20 minutes to get to the tree. It was very busy with lots of tourists all looking to get their photo of the famous tree but we were glad we went.

A photo of "That Wanaka tree". A sole tree in a lake.

One of the most photographed trees on the planet!

From here we travelled on to Milford Sound, The Catlins, Dunedin and Lake Tekapo.

You can read about the last leg of our road trip around South Island in New Zealand in part 3. And if you missed the beginning you can read part 1.

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