109 Days on the Road
The sun is shining, the waves are crashing and the cliffs are towering: we wake up to another beautiful day on the West Coast of New Zealand. But, we’re swapping it all (except the sun – we’ll keep that) for the peace and tranquility of Lake Brunner. The lake doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the ruggedness the West Coast region is known for, but after seeing photos of a huge reflective lake with a backdrop of the Southern Alps, how can we leave this place unexplored?
We hit the road from the Punakaiki Beach Camp, passing some of the remarkable things we’ve seen since staying here: the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, The Cavern and as we approach Barrytown, we see the driveway to the hidden bone carving studio. From there, we have a fresh view of the West Coast road, known as The Great Coast Road.
The Great Coast Road
Twists and turns along the side of nikau palm cliffs take us on an incredibly scenic journey! Islands that have been weathered to sh*t by the relentless power of the waves can be seen all along the coast. People park up by pebbled beaches to get closer to the action of the sea. There’s not a dull moment on this scenic coastal road.
A cruisy drive
What makes it better for Robin, our designated driver, (not that Laura’s always drunk), is that The Great Coast Road is much easier to drive than any other road we’ve tackled in New Zealand. There are long stretches of straight roads then a bit of winding along the cliffs but all the roads are wide and well-maintained enough to not fear for your life – that’s all we’re striving for – and that’s what we get in the West Coast.
Once we get to Greymouth, we take a quick pitstop at The Warehouse and Countdown to pick up some supplies, then head inland for the first time in what seems like forever!
Next stop, sunny Lake brunner!
We know we’re heading to a good place when all we can see up ahead is snowy mountains! Only about 20-30 minutes from Greymouth, we arrive in the small settlement of Moana along the shores of the glacial Lake Brunner. Now, that brings all sorts of connotations of a freezing cold lake in a freezing cold part of the world. But, man, we are taking off our thermal layers under the heat of the sun right here!
Glassy glacial Lake
Lake Brunner is much more sheltered from the winds along the coast. If it were summer, we’d probably want to jump in the lake to cool off – but that might be counterproductive as the lake can reach 27 degrees Celsius! That’s thanks to all the tanin from the surrounding rainforest washing into the lake, giving it this dark glassy colour. Another benefit of the tanin lake is that the dark colour gives near perfect reflections, even those of the snowy mountains in the distance!
Check out the dark and wonderful Lake Brunner!
Drunken feelings on the swingbridge
The best way, we find, to revel in the scenery is to go for a walk! At the end of Moana town is a swingbridge across to a forest hike and a series of lakeside beaches. The swingbridge has to be the wobbliest we’ve experienced yet. Walking along it makes us feel a wee bit drunk. (Little do we know that that’s just preparing us for tonight).
Watching boaties and an epic lunch break
From the bridge, we have a mix of pristine pebble beaches to walk along to get some stunning views across the still lake to the Southern Alps. Oh how we want to get across this lake! We watch as boaties whiz around the lake every so often. Can we hop in your boat from over here, sir?! Luckily, tomorrow we are lined up to join a guy on a boat tour around the lake. Eek!
When we are having lunch with such epic views in front of us, it occurs to us that we get the best lunch breaks!
The Rakaitane Track
We walk back along the lakeside and into the forest on the Rakaitane Track, a 30-minute return. The podocarp forest is, again, much different to any other forest we’ve hiked in New Zealand! We know we say that all the time, but when you do as many varied forest walks as frequently as we do, you’ll understand!!
This time, the trees have spindly crooked trunks that stretch pretty high, or at least they give that effect because they are so thin. The best way to describe it is it’s a lanky tree.
The Lake Brunner Resort
The hike comes back over the swingbridge. From there, we walk alongside the lake and up to our accommodation for the night, Lake Brunner Resort. The accommodation has a bit of everything: backpacker dorms, cabins, powered sites, and a pub with regular live music! In fact there’s going to be an entertainment sandwich tonight with Stevie K, an acoustic musician, playing on either side of the New Zealand Vs Argentina rugby game.
A frenchman and an English girl walk into a bar…
After watching the sun go down on another day in New Zealand, the orange and blue hue going along with it, we quickly put together some food, then head down to the pub mid-All Blacks game. It’s a bit of a crazy thing walking into a New Zealand bar while an All Blacks game is on. The atmosphere is booming! Reactions are fierce with every try scored and opportunity missed. The game is a nail-biter, but, thankfully the All Blacks win. (We are not sure what would have happened if they didn’t).
Dessert for winners!
To reward ourselves for… watching the All Blacks win? Yeah, we’ll go with that. We treat ourselves to some chocolate cheesecake and brownies! We have to say, the pub is pretty reasonably-priced for the amount of food we get! Its good to know that even when you go off the beaten track, you can find a good feed in Lake Brunner.
Music and many beers
Stevie K comes back on the mic and guitar for acoustic covers well into the night. Meanwhile, the locals are buying Robin beer after beer, and Laura wine after wine. How are we getting up to work at 5am tomorrow?
It will be easier to get up knowing that we have a boat trip booked out on the lake tomorrow, which we’re super stoked about! See you tomorrow!
The perfect pebble picnic spot
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See you tomorrow!