We left our family retreat at Wangapeka on 2 January, heading toward Punakaiki and the West Coast of the South Island. Wangapeka is south and west of Nelson, where we spent Christmas.

The weather the day we left was rainy, and we got a later start than we had intended… something about the kids being really sad about leaving and also the difficulty of collecting and packing up all of our belongings back into the car! James is a phenomenal car-packer, though.

Also complicating things was that we made a last minute change to our lodging for that night; the plan was to camp on the beach in Punakaiki, but the heavy rain in the area made that less appealing than it sounded when we booked it in December!

James reached out to his tramping club in Christchurch. They own a club hut in Arthur’s Pass. Although a large group was already staying in the hut, the hut manager James spoke with gave us permission to stop there for the night and sleep on the floor.

We picked up a few provisions for a simple picnic dinner and drove the winding road to the coast. Intermittent heavy rain didn’t prevent us from enjoying the beautiful mist-covered hills and proliferating waterfalls. So many white rivulets ran down the hills from the stone-capped mountain-tops.

After what seemed like a long time, we got to Punakaiki, also called the Pancake Rocks. A wet weka pecked around in the grass near the public toilets.


We ate a quick sandwich in the car and then braved the elements for the short walk through the cliffs to see the blowholes and surge pools.

Rain spattered us from above and sea spray launched upward from the roaring waves below. The limestone rock formations were stunning and we all marveled at the various plants and mosses growing out of the sheer rock faces.





Wet but glad we had stopped, we got back into the car for the final leg of our long day’s journey into night. Arthur’s Pass was still 2 hours away and it was already after 8.


I drove those 140 kilometers carefully. In good weather it can be a bit scary driving on NZ State Highway 6: changing speed limits; hill-hugging curves; one lane passing traffic; and steep inclines (like Otira Gorge) require constant attention and focus on the road.

otira aquaduct.jpg
Otira Aquaduct, driving up to Arthur’s Pass from the west

It was a relief to pull into familiar Arthur’s Pass Village. It wasn’t too hard to find the hut, but it was packed so full of people that we did end up sleeping in the common area. James and I were both really proud of the kids, who all were silent and respectful of the space and the people who were already sleeping (it was after 10pm).

Charlotte looked up at me from her mat on the floor and said, “This is NICER than I thought it would be! When you said we’d be sleeping on the floor, I didn’t think there would be MATS!”

We fell asleep to the sound of rain hitting the roof of the hut and hoping that tomorrow would bring sunnier skies for our travels.



One thought on “Drizzle and Storms: West Coast Journey

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