It is a known fact that New Zealand is synonymous with beauty and nature. The diversity and amount of stunning landscapes is just enormous. Among all these, we can find outstanding glaciers!
Where can we find these true gems of remarkable geology? In the Westland Tai Poutini National Park in the middle part of West Coast of the South Island.
This National Park is part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes three other National Parks. It covers 136,000 hectares with not only glaciers but forests, beaches, lakes and rivers, snow-capped mountains, grasslands, wetlands and much more. But let’s face it, the two unmissable treasures of this site are two glaciers: the Franz Josef Glacier (Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere) (Tears of the Avalanche Girl) and the Fox Glacier (Te Moeka o Tuawe) (Tears of Tuawe).
These two wonders of nature are two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. They are really steep and expect the highest respect from visitors. Do not venture beyond limits if you want your integrity left intact.
Both are good choices but have their differences. On one hand, Franz Josef Glacier is the most impressive of the two (and the most visited), it has more action-packed activities in and around it, and offers more of an experience on the ice. On the other hand, Fox Glacier let’s you get closer to the ice, offers a more interesting approach walk, and has this charming touch to it. In any case, both are wild and not disappointing at all.
From the two townships that give access to the glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox villages (23 km -14 mi apart from each other) you can arrange a large amount of activities that will suit any ice and nature lover! The most popular or interesting would be the following:
1. Short walks:
2. Longer walks (30 minutes to 8 hours return):
3. Aerial Sightseeing
6. Mountain Biking
7. Ice climbing
8. Horse excursions
9. Gold fossicking
Remember to be careful while in this region to enjoy a memorable experience!
From December to February it can get a bit busy and more expensive so plan accordingly or visit during low season.
Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located about halfway down the rugged West Coast of the South Island. The only road access is on State Highway Six, via Hokitika in the north (approximately one and a half hours drive) or from the south via Haast (approximately two hours drive).
The townships of Franz Josef/Waiau and Fox Glacier/Weheka are on the park boundary and offer various services including accommodation, service stations, grocery stores and souvenir shops. Ōkārito is also on the edge of the park and has several accommodation options.
The closest commercial airport is in Hokitika, which offers daily flights from Christchurch.
There are also regular bus services along the coast.