advertisement

En Route to Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers

There are no banks or ATMs in either glacier village, so remember to get money before going south - you won't be able to do so again until you get to Wanaka, some 450km (280 miles) away. Credit cards are accepted in most places, though. If you're driving nonstop to Wanaka, allow 6 to 7 hours. The drive to Franz Josef from Hokitika takes about 2 hours.

If you're in the Whataroa area (35km/22 miles north of Franz Josef) during the November-to-February nesting season of the kotuku (white heron), book one of the White Heron Sanctuary Tours  (tel. 0800/523-456 in NZ, or 03/753-4120; www.whiteherontours.co.nz). Entry to the country's only white-heron nesting colony is by permit and starts with a 20-minute jet-boat ride. You then walk through native rainforest accompanied by a guide. The excursion costs NZ$120 for adults, NZ$55 for children 12 and under.

A little farther west, Okarito Lagoon, 10km (6 miles) off State Highway 6, is a beautiful spot where Okarito Nature Tours  (tel. 03/753-4014; www.okarito.co.nz) can introduce you to the wonders of New Zealand's largest unmodified wetland - home to over 70 species of birds including the Great White Heron and the Royal Spoonbill. Guided kayak tours have fabulous photo opportunities and are priced from NZ$80 per person. Kayak rental is NZ$45 per person for 2 hours, NZ$65 per person for a full day.

Kiwi Spotting -- Okarito is also the only place in the South Island where you can venture into bush at night in the hope of spotting kiwi in their natural habitat. Okarito Kiwi Tours, The Strand, Okarito (tel. 03/753-4330; www.okaritokiwitours.co.nz), offers a low-impact, ecominded jaunt into the night bush for NZ$75 per person. Numbers are limited to eight and the tour takes 2 to 3 hours, leaving just before sunset.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.