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New Zealand's Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

Updated on April 7, 2011

Take a helicopter to the top of the Fox Glacier


There are few places in the world that boast the beauty and rugged landscape of the west coast on New Zealand’s South Island.  Standing with your toes in the Tasman Sea, glace behind and you’ll see the snow topped caps of the Southern Alps.  The west coast gets less hype than the South Island’s showier and better known tourist towns but this sparsely populated region has plenty to offer holiday makers, in particular the stunning and dramatic Glacier region.


There are over 3000 glaciers in New Zealand, rivers of slow moving ice that form when winter snow fall in the mountains surpasses the amount that melts during summer.  This ice, over time, becomes compacted and forms a glacier which gravity forces to move slowly downward.  The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers of the west coast are two of New Zealand’s most accessible glaciers, ending in rainforest, just 300 metres above sea level. They are also fast moving in the world of glaciers, moving up to 200 meters a year.


To fully appreciate the magnitude of these relics of the ice age a helicopter scenic flight is a must. Flights can be taken from the townships of both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, and an option that is in reality a must is the snow landing.  Landing on the top of a glacier, surrounded by fresh white snow and rocky mountain tops is breathtaking, both for the view and the seemingly precarious landing surface.  Once out of the helicopter you can throw a few snow balls remembering that minutes earlier you were in the township wearing a t-shirt. After the obligatory photos it’s back into the helicopter for a look at New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook.  While walking tours are an option, taking a helicopter sure is a grand way to get to the top of a mountain.  


After such a thrilling morning it’s hard to believe that the afternoon needs more exhilaration but if adventure is your thing a quid bike tour from Franz Josef Township will satisfy any further needs. The tour allows you to truly appreciate the diversity of the landscape of this region. Ride through stony river beds with undulating paths to dense green rainforest all with the glacier as a backdrop.  But it is not all speed and adrenaline.  Our tour included an impromptu facial.  Our guide, speaking of the healing virtues of the volcanic river mud suggested we rub it into our skin.  We were dubious until she proceeded to rub it into her own face.  So following her lead we polished our faces with the natural face mask that would have cost us a fortune if we’d had it done at a day spa. 


The perfect end to the day in Glacier country can be found at Neve Café.  On the main street of Fox Glacier Township, its large deck is a great spot to watch the sun set.  Order a pizza, try a local beer and try to imagine what excitement your New Zealand holiday could possibly bring next.

Fox Glacier up close


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    • Bianca Rose profile image

      Bianca Rose 6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Sam9999. New Zealand is definitely worth a visit!

    • Sam9999 profile image

      Sam9999 6 years ago

      Glaciers are so beautiful. I have seen them in Greenland and the icebergs that come from them. Interesting hub.