ok so don’t hold me to this but Okarito is possibly one of my favourite places on the West Coast. I know what you’re thinking, didn’t you say that about Reefton – no wait Granity or was it Cape Foulwind – hang on wasn’t it where you live…….
Yeah, yeah but that’s what happens when we live in paradise!
Okarito is a sleepy little seaside village in South Westland near Franz Josef Glacier. It has a magnificent backdrop of the Southern Alps and is surrounded by beautiful native bush. It boasts New Zealand’s largest natural lagoon that opens out to the sea. So yes, it has beach, lagoon, native bush and mountains – you see where I’m heading with this!
For us a visit to South Westland isn’t complete without a visit to Okarito. Our latest adventure was to walk the 3 mile lagoon beach walk. It can be done as a loop – along the beach and back through a bush track or visa versa but we have the dogs with us and this is a Kiwi Zone so no dogs allowed in the bush or on the bush walks.
That’s ok, who doesn’t like a beach walk and having to walk it both ways, we can cope with that. If planning on walking the beach you have to check the tides as it can only be done 2 hours either side of low tide. Our friend Bernie had that sorted and we had the optimum time organised for our afternoon walk.
Off we headed – Stephen ahead on a mission with the camera while the rest of us just meandered along and enjoyed the scenery – puppies included. Although we did have the tides right, they weren’t particularly low tides so we had to take care in some sections where the waves were coming up quite close and not leaving much beach to walk on – especially in the more rocky sections of the walk.
We had perfect weather – gorgeous clear sunny skies, a bit chilly but nothing that jackets and a beanie didn’t fix. I love this particular photo – Mission Impossible crew or perhaps Charlies Angels, coming round the rocks…… I know my mind is warped…….
Last rocky section to negotiate and we can see the headland in the distance for 5 mile lagoon so we know the 3 mile isn’t much further.
Eventually we reach our destination – the 3 mile lagoon. What a contrast to the rocky beach we’d just been walking. You can continue on along the beach to 5 mile lagoon – but this was far enough for us – that is another 2 miles – each way and we had incoming tides to beat – come on – we did!!!!!
The views here are magnificent – the expanse of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef glacier off in the distance, Mt Cook looming.
Stephen and I headed up the bush track to check out the swingbridge and get a better view of the lagoon while Bernie and Gerard stayed down on the beach with the dogs. In the photo above you can just make out a spec of red – that is Gerard still down on the beach.
The lagoon is always changing and moving so the bridge is to enable access to continue up the beach should the lagoon be flowing out to sea. On this visit the lagoon mouth was closed so the bridge access wasn’t necessary – just as well as with the way the lagoon was sitting it was a bridge to no-where.
Time to start heading back – 3 more miles to hike and swells to avoid.
We contemplate driving the last section but the car seems to go even slower than our legs – that and the backseat is darn uncomfortable!
This cute little fella was enjoying soaking up the sunshine until we rudely interrupted him. He wasn’t too concerned though – thought about having a swim and then realised we weren’t going to bother him so headed back to his rock for some more sun bathing.
Soon enough Okarito welcomed us back with open arms. We stuck around for the sunset and moon to come out as it was the “super moon” and you often get some wonderful reflections in the lagoon.
Unfortunately since the tide was out it also meant there was not enough water in the lagoon for the reflections. Stephen did get the sun reflecting in the window of the historic boat shed by the lagoon which was pretty cool – with the moon high up above us and some lovely colours on the snow-capped mountain tops.
With weary legs and hungry tummies all round it was time to head back to the comfort of Holly Homestead in Franz Josef – the lovely bed and breakfast of our friends Bernie and Gerard and our home for the next couple of nights.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Together with their faithful friends Nico and Ziggy, they enjoy getting out and exploring the many wonders of the West Coast of the Southern Alps. Named one of the top 10 regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet.