Photo by Worldwide Scott
Home to a range of cloud-caressing mountains, and a gaggle of gorgeous fjords and lakes, there aren’t many places in the world that cram as much natural beauty into one place as New Zealand’s South Island.
Oh yeah, they’ve got glaciers down there too.
In fact, the glaciers might just be the most spectacular feature of them all, as these riveting rivers of ice attract the crowds annually to their frozen walls; with the most popular being Franz Josef, Tasman, and the one I want to tell you a little more about today: Fox.
Located on the West Coast of the island, Fox Glacier stretches over 8 miles from dizzying mountain heights to a valley floor full of lush tropical forest; and a visit is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip to New Zealand. And here are a few tips to help you have a fantastic time.
Go In Winter
Okay, this isn’t a “you must go in winter or else!” tip as it is a “if you end up there in winter, it may actually end up better” kind of tip. Winter time in this region of New Zealand is generally calm, which means you may experience clearer conditions than in summer and you’ll definitely have fewer crowds to contend with. Also, the colder temperatures lead to less ice melt, which means the glacier is in its finest viewing form.
Very important to note: Winter in New Zealand takes place at the opposite time of year as it does in North America.
Take A Heli-Hike
While you can certainly appreciate the splendor of Fox Glacier from the ground from a hike to the terminal face of the ice, there is nothing, and I mean nothing like seeing it from above. Heli-hikes, offered most famously by Fox Guides, fly you above the glacier so you can see the sheets majestically sprawl out before your eyes, before landing on the ice to explore. Once you ‘de-copter’, you are then taken across the ice, under frozen arches, and into caves streaked the most brilliant shade of blue. You’ll also get to wear crampons on your boots, which are those spiky metal things made for ice-climbing, and there’s no denying the coolness in that.
Stay Two Nights
Lots of people make Fox Glacier a day trip, arriving by bus in the morning, and heading back out of town by afternoon, but I say you should stay a couple nights in the nearby small village called Fox Glacier. If you stay at a hotel like Te Weheka, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area at your own pace, or even take a sunrise stroll through the rainforest up to the glacier like we did. Secondly, if you’re taking a heli-tour, this gives you a backup day just in case it has to be canceled due to weather conditions, which can happen from time-to-time.
Make Time For Lake Matheson
Created over 14,000 years ago when Fox Glacier receded, Lake Matheson is only a few minutes’ drive from Fox Glacier, and its waters are home to hauntingly beautiful reflections of Mt. Cook - New Zealand’s highest mountain. There’s a walking path around the lake that leads to a jetty, where this visual phenomenon can be witnessed, and I can’t think of a more perfect bookend to a visit to Fox Glacier.