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    Gordon Atlantic employees Travel Blog

    Glaciers of New Zealand - Fox and Franz Josef

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Wed, Dec 07, 2011 @ 07:37 AM

    The backbone of New Zealand’s south island are the spectacular Southern Alps, the home to many glaciers.  Two of these are easily accessible by tourists traveling Route 6 along the western shore: the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glaciers.   Both are major glaciers working their way from high mountain valleys down to near sea level.  Each has unique characteristics; and both can be seen in a single day if you choose to do a self-guided tour.  Alternatively, pick either one -- you can't go wrong with either -- if you prefer to get right on the glacier via helicopter or a guided hike.

    Our approach from the south began with a stop for coffee and fresh salmon filets (which we’d have for dinner) at a salmon / coffee shop by a river near the Tasman Sea.  (Nice people, god coffee and pastry selection, and the salmon was great) Further up the road was a long sandy beach with inviting surf and broad views.  Once we left the Tasman Sea, the road began to serpentine as mountains came closer to the western shore.  One of the remarkable aspects of these glaciers is the proximity to the sea; almost as close as Glacier Bay, where glaciers fall right into the ocean.  But unlike glaciers falling into the sea, these glaciers leave large moaines and rubble accretions. 

    river from Franz Joseph resized 600

    The walk in to the Fox Glacier was a short and easy walk from the parking lot across a broad alluvial plain set between steep walls carved out over the past several hundred years.  Similar to the two century trend in Glacier Bay in Alaska, the Fox Glacier has retreated leaving

    Fox Glacier view

    moraines and a broad plain behind.  The access road from Route 6 is well maintained on a bed of glacial tailings, and the parking lot provides informative boards on the Glacier’s history and ecosystem.

    If you want to get up and actually get on the glacier, you’ll have to pay someone:  guided walks or helicopter tours are two primary choices, and several options are available on-line, or right in the towns of Fox Glacier.  Glaciers can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing or aren’t familiar with the topography.   This ranger stops you from going past a demonstrably safe zone.

    Fox Glacier ranger syas stop

    Further north on Route 6 (aka Fox Glacier Highway) is the Franz Josef Glacier.  The main difference up in to the furthest free walk is the distance.  The walk is much longer, though flat and easy going.   The walk is definitely worth it if only to watch the river pouring out of a snow cave at the base of the glacier.  But the high waterfalls coming down the steep rocky walls were also worth the walk.  The combination of thunderous volume and cold humid air remind visitors of the power and size of these rivers of ice.

    Franz Josef Glacier with river


    We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t walk up the relatively well worn path to the glacier itself, but were reminded only a week or so later in a news item that rocks had fallen near the paths in a very close call for some visitors. 

    Franz Josef glacier snow cave disgorge


    The dynamic nature of glaciers may not be readily apparent when snow melts slowly and seems timeless.  But the  river disgorging from its accretion base is a stark reminder that a lot of snow is melting underneath, and eventually, something in the structure has to give.

    If we had it to do over again, we probably would have taken a tour up into the glacier for a deeper look, with trained guides and known safe access.  But having seen both in one day, we know that either glacier would be a great choice.












    Geoff Gordon

    Tags: travel plans, New Zealand, southern hemisphere, glaciers, fox, franz joesph, franz josef glacier

    New Zealand south island Camper van trip overview

    Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 @ 08:32 AM


    Our visit to New Zealand was prompted by our daughter’s attending university in Auckland, but we spent most of our time far from the capital city.  This blogspot is an introduction to our camper van trip on the south island.

    Our arrival to Auckland coincided with the finals weekend of the World Cup Rugby tournament so we decided to evade the crowds (without missing any of the national buzz) and get south right away.  

    A flight from Auckland to Christchurch made the most sense; two tickets were less than NZ$90 each, less than the cost to cross with an RV. One option we did not take was to spend an additional $20 to change flights once at the airport; we would spend the $20 next time, since we managed to get to the airport early enough to watch two unfilled flights depart without us.  New Zealand air won’t put you in those empty seats unless you paid the additional $20 at point of purchase.  It's not like the U.S. where you can do this without opting in ahead of time.

    We stayed at an airport hotel near Christchurch, both for the free courtesy pickup and the offer by Wilderness Campers ( for a free pickup from the hotel to their facility.  It was here that we really began to get a sense of the general New Zealand courtesy and friendliness. The hotel staff were friendly in a personal way that seemed to go beyond standard industry hospitality.  The next morning we immediately liked and felt comfortable with our Wilderness Camper van courtesy driver, Merv, who arrived in someone’s personal Volvo station wagon to shuttle us into town (only about 3-5 klx).  In the rental facility itself, Matt was especially helpful.  Not only did he explain clearly and precisely how all the legal and financial part worked; he reviewed our internet-planned itinerary and helped us to modify it to fit more top destinations in and make the whole experience flow smoothly and realistically.  This was particularly valuable; we like a broad overview on our first trip anywhere, so we can visit it better, with more focus, on subsequent trips. 

    We grabbed a "Lonely Planet" guide to New Zealand from their borrowing bookshelf, too, a great guide for our kind of travel.  Armed with their terrific road atlas, Matt's detailed and personal advice, we were ready to go.  We now understood what we would not squeeze in (e.g. Marlborough wine country); all our decisions were based on good information.  If you don't get a Matt at the start of your trip, don't worry.  One great thing about exploring New Zealand’s south island is that so many great destinations are about 3 hours from one another; even bouncing along randomly will give every visitor a grand experience through breathtaking country.

    Before we left on our adventure, we decided to spend the middle part of the day in Christchurch, to see first hand the lingering destruction from the February 2011 earthquake.  It reminded me of a service trip to New Orleans about a year after Katrina: empty space, lack of commerce, continued large scale clean-up.  Christchurch has lost many people during the recovery, but the attitude of the remaining folks is one of stoic determination.  But the destruction still rendered most of the downtown a ghost-town. 

    Christchurch earthquake devastation

    The first change that Matt recommended was to visit Lake Tekapo instead of a straight run due south to Donedon (Dun–EE-dun).  Here we got lucky both with the location and especially with the weather.   The sky was perfect for night sky observation.   Anyone’s first trip south the equator deserves an early look into the nighttime sky.   The direction you’re looking is indeed, down under.    Be treated to the Southern Cross (also on the NZ and Aussie flags), the Magellanic Clouds, Alpha Centauri (the brighter of the Southern Cross’s pointer stars and our Sun’s nearest neighbor), pinwheel galaxies and other uniquely southern sky delights.

    Lake Tekapo

    Properly introduced to driving on the left, a completely different sky, and even a place where a southern wind means cold and a northern wind comes out of the tropics, we were immediately into our adventure.

    See our follow up blogs for details on our generally counter-clockwise trip down the east coast, westerly along the south land, and up along the west coast before turning back east to Christchurch.

     -By Geoff Gordon of Andrew G. Gordon, Inc.

     Geoff Gordon

    Tags: travel plans, New Zealand, gordon insurance, agordon,

    Wellfleet, MA: A Day Trip to the Cape

    Posted by Gordon Atlantic Staff on Wed, Sep 07, 2011 @ 07:03 PM

    From Bourne to Provincetown, New Englanders flock from all corners, fighting traffic and children, to vacation in Cape Cod. A few friends and I decided to adventure out on a day trip to one part of the Cape: Wellfleet.

    nextday013 resized 600


    Located about an hour from the Cape Cod Canal by route 6, it’s almost a straight shot down the highway after the Sagamore Bridge. Some prefer to take the bus in and fewer fly into Provincetown.


    For only $15 parking, one can enjoy a day along the long White Crest beach where the sun sets a little earlier due to the enormous sand dunes. These natural hills are state protected so climbing and rolling are strictly prohibited. These dunes are steep enough to cause some damage if not taken lightly. However, once you make your way done the designated path, one can relax on almost rock-less sand and watch the sea. Fortunately, I was with a photographer who was able to capture the surrounding images.

    The Beach

     Frisbee and lacrosse are common activities, but watch out for the occasional kite flyer. My group was fortunate enough to arrive a few days after Hurricane Irene left her mark, so the waves were about four to five feet high. Not many braved the chilly waters, but kids will be kids. To our rear we had views of 85 ft high dunes with some odd vegetation that d

    id not realize it was on a steep sand hill. To our front we could see sailboats and also a few seals searching for oysters.

    Wellfleet: white crest beach sand dunes, wikipedia







    The Town

    Another type of animal searching for oysters was the average tourist trying to find the famous Wellfleet oysters. Previously a whaling port, Wellfleet now makes its fishing successes with mollusk hunting. No Ahabs anymore. Many beaches exist in Wellfleet; however, many are town permit required. The town is also known for its glacier created kettle ponds which provide a freshwater experience.

    The Downside

    Apart from the distance required to truck to Wellfleet, there were few downsides to this day trip. The restaurant did not provide the most inviting atmosphere and cover charges deterred younger customers. Showers and public restrooms were difficult to track down, but keep your eyes open, they are around. If I were to go back I would probably want more time to spend around town.

    More To Do

    Wellfleet is a treasure trove of activity during the summer tourism months. Not only is there the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for more natural tastes, but also a local theater, a museum, and several bike rentals and tours for the entire family. Campgrounds and hotels scatter this part of the Cape.

    Steven McClelland


    Tags: Wellfleet MA, white crest beach, wellfleet sand dunes, cape cod day trip, travel plans

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