Glaciers are a phenomenon of nature and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to view them from above. Flying up over the ice and snow allows you to admire glaciers from entirely new perspectives.
When hitting the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are two of the most renowned and unmissable Glaciers. There is a whole section of activities for you to choose from including fixed path flights, snow landing, glacier hike and more. Here’s a handy travel guide for your travelling of the west Coast Glaciers, covering all the important information about where to visit, what to expect and what not to miss!
1. Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is a 13 kilometre long glacier located in the heart of Glacier Country. It is the largest and most fluid of the West Coast glaciers. Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier is longer and faster moving than the Franz Josef Glacier. Tucked into the forested foothills of the Southern Alps and surrounded by lush green farmland, the cosy township of Fox Glacier is hugely popular for glacier hikes and scenic flights.
What to expect
Fly in by helicopter over beautiful New Zealand nature and explore a part of the Moeka o Tuawe/Fox Glacier with the most spectacular ice caves and arches.
You will land on a remote and exceptionally beautiful part of the glacier that is untouched by the public. Witness the stunning Victoria Falls, which is the melting river from the hidden Victoria glacier.
At this stage, your guide will outfit you with crampons and you follow the ice steps cut by your guide to explore the amazing formations. Weather permitting, you’ll have up to 3 hours on the ice time to explore and learn about this constantly changing glacier. The truly special part of this tour is that no two hikes are the same, with each hike exploring different areas of the glacier and its ever-morphing features.
You need to self drive to 44 Main Road, State Highway 6, Fox Glacier, New Zealand. It takes approximately 3 hour and 15 minute drive from Wanaka and 25 minute drive from Franz Josef Glacier village.
Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by Austrian Julius Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The 12 km long Franz Josef Glacier is identified by its lakes, rivers, waterfalls and rainforest all with a backdrop of New Zealand’s highest mountains. No two days are ever the same due to its constantly changing and evolving glacier features.
What to expect
Fly in by helicopter and experience exceptional views of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
You will land on a safe section of this largely inaccessible and steep 12km long glacier. There’s nothing like having your feet on the ground at this elevation and really feeling like you’re part of New Zealand’s beautiful landscape.
Then it is time to get outfitted with glacier boots and crampons and follow your experienced guide as they cut ice steps to help you explore. You’ll walk for two hours amongst the ice formations and pinnacles and see first-hand the extraordinary colours of the ice-flow. The guides have an immaculate safety record so you can rest assured, your safety and enjoyment are taken care of.
Touch the ice, breathe in the fresh air and see what only experienced mountaineers can reach on this unforgettable wilderness experience.
You need to self drive to The Helicopter Line, Main South Road, Franz Josef, New Zealand. It is a scenic 5 hour drive from Queenstown and 2.5 hour drive from Greymouth.
You can book the two helicopter tours separately, or you can choose to upgrade to include both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. The weather in the glacier areas is very variable and prone to change so we recommend you bring your layers on the day of travelling.
West Coast is home to New Zealand’s two most famous glaciers – Fox and Franz Josef. While glaciers around the world are retreating, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers still flow almost to sea level. Nowhere else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea, making Fox and Franz Josef quite unique. The temperate climate at this low altitude means these glaciers are among the most convenient to visit in the world.
Have you ever imagined yourself flying through the air, above the lush landscapes and snow-capped mountaintops? Now, this experience doesn’t have to remain a dream or imaginary situation. Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island await you.