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Off The Beaten Track On New Zealand’s South Island

By Jade Johnston

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Spending all day yesterday on the grandiose Fox glacier did no favours for my cold, but the sights were well worth it. However, I am now very thankful for today’s late start. Due to the recent rock fall at Franz Joseph glacier, all our fellow Stray backpacking passengers had to reschedule their hikes. Therefore out departure time was pushed back, allowing me some recovery time.
Located about twelve kilometres from Fox glacier is the stunning Lake Matheson. On a still day, you can behold a perfect reflection of the mountains in the glacial lake.

Lake Matheson by anthonylibrarian
Lake Matheson by anthonylibrarian

Not far from Lake Matheson we pulled over for another short rest break at a whitebait centre. Whitebait are a very small fish which swim up river in the spring to lay eggs and die. Whitebait are considered a delicacy in New Zealand, with a kilo of whitebait fetching around $100 in Auckland restaurants. We were able to get a “taster size” whitebait fritter for $2.


The flexibility which allowed the Stray bus driver to reschedule the glacier hike also cost us some time during the following day’s journey. We were not able to make as many photo or rest stops as we usually would have been able to. We were, however, still able to have a short photo break at what is called the “gates of Haast.”


Gates of Haast
Gates of Haast

We arrived at our destination of Makarora just in time for a nice pub dinner which was arranged by our driver. (Actually the food was terrible, but it was nice to have a break from self catering) Makarora has a population of roughly 40, but despite this it has one of the nicest backpacker lodges I have ever seen. The little A frame log cabins were cozy and warm, and the view overlooking the mountains was breathtaking.
After suffering through a fever, which was probably due to too much exertion on the Fox glacier, it was great to have the Stray New Zealand tour company take care of the following day’s details. We didn’t need to worry about anything, as both accommodation and food were taken care of by our driver. It was also great that even despite the weather and the rock falls not going to plan, everyone got a chance to experience the glacier as well. Which of course…meant I got to sleep in!

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6 thoughts on “Off The Beaten Track On New Zealand’s South Island

  1. Great article, great pics, Jade! Our most remote so far has been Todos Santos, in Guatemala. Most places in Central America are right on the gringo trail, but in three days in this northern mountain village, we saw three other backpackers. One day a year they have a hugely famous fest, but for the other 364, Todos Santos is one of the most remote spots in Central America. Corn Islands off of Nicaragua are too – but already pretty ‘discovered’, too.


    1. I will have to keep that in mind for when we go to South America! Sometimes all you need is a little time away from the crowds


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