New Zealand boasts two of the most spectacular glaciers in the world - Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. They are also the most famous glaciers in New Zealand and considered to be among the worlds best and most differing in relation to where they start and finish and the temperatures around those regions. These glaciers were formed by the moving ice over thousands of years. The Franz Josef Glacier is a 12-kilometer long glacier, which is located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier, which is only 25 kilometers to its south and 13 kilometers in length, this 7000 year old body of ice is sliding down a alpine valley and in the middle of greenery and balmy wilderness rainforest. Both Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are easily accessible to hikers. And mountaineers. Franz Josef glacier is the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand and can be safely viewed from a close distance of only 15 meters. Due to its steepness and location, the Franz Josef glacier is thought of as the most dynamic glacier in the world, as it responds quickly to variations in temperature and precipitation. Visitors can hike to within meters of the terminal face (we advise extreme caution as falling ice can be very hazardous) or take a guided walk on to the glacier itself. Helicopter flights are also available for tourists, as well as an option of a glacier landing. A number of companies offer guided tours to explore the stunning ice formations of this area. All of these companies provide professional guides, who give detailed information regarding the geological features, flora and fauna of this area.
Fixed wing aircraft and Helicopters also offer scenic flights and snow landings in the middle of New Zealand's highest peaks, overlooking these mammoth glaciers. A number of hikes exist that surround these glaciers and provide fantastic vantage points for enjoying the glacier as well as exploring the rainforest environments of the region. One of New Zealand's most treasured postcard views is the dark waters of Lake Matheson, which is located in the west of Fox Glacier township. This scenery provides an unbroken reflection of the Southern Alps. The combination of ice and temperate rainforest in this region is a special feature unique to New Zealand. The ecosystem found here is unlike anywhere in the world. The area around Franz and Fox glaciers is part of Te Wahipounamu, which is a World Heritage Site park. A commanding river, known as the Waiho River, also emerges from the glacier terminal of Franz Josef and offers fantastic vistas.
Of the two glaciers, Franz Josef glacier is slightly larger in size and offers a wide range of accommodation, with restaurants offering tasty local cuisine. The Franz Josef glacier almost touches the periphery of the village and the Southern Alps tower above. Developers have done their best to create an alpine atmosphere with pitched roofs and pine paneling. It is an bewitching little place, which makes you feel like a local if you stay for more than two days. If you wish to experience the adventure of the glaciers, then come visit the magnificent Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the West Coast of New Zealand. It is an experience worth having!
Franz Josef Glacier: Few sights equal the spectacle of these giant tongues of ice grinding down through temperate rainforest to just 250 metres above sea level (this is the only place outside Argentina where this occurs). The temperate nature of the climate often surprises visitors not expecting such a warm & mld temperatures near a glacial environment (due to the moderating effect of the sea and rain forests). The proximity of these impressive glaciers to some of the highest mountains in the Southern Divide, and the town and then the ocean is quite remarkable.
Fox Glacier: The Fox Glacier township offers a more intimate ‘village’ experience than its bigger neighbour, Franz Josef. At the base of the Southern Alps, and near the coast Franz Josef township offers a range of accommodation, from luxury hotels to backpackers, cafés, a convenience store and gas station for the obvious. Fox glacier offers similar activities and experiences to Franz Josef glacier, and visitors can take their pick between either of them or combine the two to truly experience the region.
- Take a guided tour and take in the beauty of the Glacier’s
- Visit the Glaciers by foot with a local guide
- Take a scenic flight over the glaciers
- Fly above the glaciers in a helicopter
- Indulge in the beauty of the Glaciers with a helicopter flight and a glacier snow landing
- For the more adventurous, view the glaciers with a unique heli-hiking adventure
- Experience an Eco-Tour of the Glaciers
- Enjoy the pristine natural habitat of Okarito lagoon, and spectacular mountain views with a wetland experience onboard a boat designed for quiet cruising
- Take an independent walk along some of the local walking tracks, most of which are easy to moderate walks
- Rent a kayak or take a guided kayak tour of the pristine rainforest lake with a magnificent alpine and glacier backdrop.
- See the Glacier from a new angle, take a tour of the glacier country on a quad bike
- For the more adventurous, have a go at the Indoor Ice Climbing Wall: First of it's kind in the Southern Hemisphere; experience a challenging hands on ice climb on our 10 meter walls
- Enjoy the Glacier’s inside with the Indoor Glacier Experience: Audio visual sensory displays of the glacier region, Maori and European history, eco systems, geology and ice
- Sky dive with the most amazing glacier and mountain views
- Relax at a local café or restaurant while looking out at the spectacular views