Hot Pool Heaven in a Glacial Rainforest

Today marks the day that we hit Glacier Country! Ice exploring, helicopters, glacial valleys, rainforest, skydives, kayaking glacial lakes: we have a lot of epic stuff planned in the next few days. In what order we do them, well, that all depends on Mother Nature…

From Jade to Glacier

We can’t believe how quickly our time in Hokitika has gone. We have seen some of the most astonishing scenery in the milky blue Hokitika Gorge and done some surprising activities with the locals, like glass blowing and carving our own jade. That’s all as well as walking in the treetops and seeing one of New Zealand’s most stunning sunsets. Yet, we know there is a hell of a lot more things to do here leaving us wishing that we can stay longer – a feeling we are very familiar with in New Zealand.

With almost a 2-hour drive ahead of us and a helicopter flight onto the Franz Josef Glacier leaving at 11.30, we leave Mountain Jade Backpackers early. We get another “wow” moment from the scenery, with the best view of the Southern Alps that we’ve seen yet. However, the cloud is starting to hug the very tops of the mountains, which is great to look at but might not bode well for our helicopter flight.

Enter the Rainforest

Soon enough, the mountains are hidden from sight, but mainly because most of the drive to Franz Josef is nestled in towering rainforest. Every so often the forest will make way for a braided river with that distinct milky blue colour which indicates it originates from a glacier.

Too many photos, mints, dried fruit, singing and car games later, we arrive in Franz Josef.

Just a roadside sight in New Zealand, no biggie Just a roadside sight in New Zealand, no biggie
Not looking too disappointed to be spending an afternoon in the hot pools Not looking too disappointed to be spending an afternoon in the hot pools
Robin's foot is on ass-watch Robin's foot is on ass-watch
Surrounded by luxuriant forest Surrounded by luxuriant forest

Day 118 activity shuffle

First stop is the Franz Josef Glacier Guides to check-in for our ice exploring heli-hike. Only… they are not flying today due to the super low cloud. True, we are disappointed, but the weather is what makes the West Coast so stunning to start with. Nevertheless, we are rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

So, 365 days doing 365 activities? We need to find something to do for Day 118! The skydive is not flying today and the kayaking tours are fully booked (oh, by the way, Franz Josef is a tourist hotspot so it is essential that you book early). Are we really not going to find something to do on Day 118?!

Grab your togs!

Then, we spot that just behind the Franz Josef Glacier Guides are some hot pools. Well, that could certainly ease the anticlimactic events of this morning! We grab our togs (that’s Kiwi for swimwear) and head for the hot pools!

The Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools couldn’t feel more like New Zealand. Surrounded by ferns and spirally koru, each hot pool feels like your own oasis in the wilderness. We can even hear the fantails tweeting loudly as they flitter around in the forest canopy.

That flashpacker feeling (feels good)

Rainforest relaxation

As for the hot pools themselves, there are three large public hot pools varying in temperature. Instead of working our way up to sitting in the hottest pool, we bite more than we can chew by plonking ourselves straight in the 40 degree pool. At first, it feels super relaxing. We sit and chat about life on the road so far. But our reminiscing doesn’t go on for too long, as we are huffing and puffing under the heat. Let’s work our way down a few degrees!

The perfect temperature

36 degrees doesn’t sound like a huge different but, man, we can feel it. Are we sat in a glacial pool right now? Jokes, but soon enough we are comfortable sat with mossy rainforest trees behind us and a few different rocks around to sit on for a more natural effect.

The final pool we try is by far our favourite in the Glacier Hot Pool. 38 degrees is a winner! What’s more, there are four different inlets that function as a great setup for socialising – kind of like booths in a bar just ten times more relaxing and we don’t have to shout at each other to be heard. Ideal!

So this is not quite the wild adventure we had planned for our arrival in the Glacier Country but we are definitely not complaining about this bad weather alternative! What’s more, it that the hot pools are complimentary after taking a trip with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides. That’s got to feel good after a few hours on the icy glacier?!

Somewhere in the native bush... Somewhere in the native bush...
Hot pool foot selfie! Hot pool foot selfie!
A bushwalk in the Glacier Hot Pools! A bushwalk in the Glacier Hot Pools!

Rounding up at the Rainforest Retreat

Although there’s water fountains to keep hydrated, we realise we can’t stay in here forever or else we will turn into a prune. Our next item on the agenda is to check-in at the Rainforest Retreat (such a rainforest theme here in Franz Josef)!

Now this place knows how to do accommodation! It literally caters to everyone, but most importantly (because we might be bias) to backpackers. They have backpacker dorms in one building, a drive down a short gravel road to powered sites for campervans. Again, we feel well and truly nestled in the rainforest. Walking to the communal kitchen or bathrooms is like your own little bushwalk! What’s more, the accommodation has its own bar with some pretty awesome pizza deals coming up, which we can’t wait to take advantage of tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s loose plan

Speaking of tomorrow, we are attempting to do the Ice Explorer heli-hike. If the weather doesn’t co-operate, we have glacial valley hike which sounds just as exciting working our way through a glacial valley. It’s going to be a win-win tomorrow, so join us then!

Laura and Robin

Swapping chilly glaciers for this...
Swapping chilly glaciers for this... Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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