Heli-hikers at Franz Josef. © davidwallphoto.com

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers: monuments to nature’s power and beauty


View the map

TAP FOR MORE INFO:

You can head to these magnificent monuments to nature’s power and beauty in high summer and feel winter closing in all around you.

These are eerie, bleak places, yet all the more arresting because of it. Often the only colour will be the brightly coloured ski jackets of a tour-bus party — and that’s OK, this is ‘wonders of the world’ territory here. And to view them becomes a pressing engagement: like glaciers everywhere, they’re in danger of melting, seemingly before our very eyes. Indeed, having advanced through the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, they then went into retreat again. So fickle, Franz and Fox, so fickle!

Somewhere in the region of 140 glaciers flow from the Southern Alps, but these two are the rock stars (sorry), great grey tongues of frozen ice and snow that have cascaded at, you know, glacial pace down the river valleys. Ironically, as glaciers go, their pace is actually fierce — about 10 time that of glaciers in the Swiss Alps, at anywhere between 1 to 5m a day. Nowhere else do glaciers come so close to the coast: few things are so visually captivating.

Which one? The obvious answer is both. Franz probably pips in on the picturesque front, Fox you can get much closer to it. You can almost smell the ice.

That said, they need your utmost respect — people have died here, trying to get the ultimate selfie. Stay at Franz Josef village and then opt for a guided tour if you want to get on the ice. Safely. If you’re feeling flush, grab a heli and hover above them to get a real perspective, or land on the ice and be truly wowed.

Whatever way you view them, these are almost like prehistoric creatures, with full, slightly intimidating personalities. Just when you thought the West Coast had got as weird as it could, here be glaciers. Ice, ice baby!


Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Things to do

Must-Do's Hawke's Bay: art deco, wine and the largest gannet colony in the world

Traverse beautiful coastline, riverbeds, rolling pastures and native bush before taking in panoramic views and experiencing the exhilarating sight and sound of 20,000 gannets. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Must-Do's Auckland: the show never stops

Summit the city's most iconic volcano, as well as its youngest and largest. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Must-Do's Queenstown: New Zealand's adventure capital

Queenstown Hill, just out of town, is more than worth a peek, and you can make its peak in an hour if you get a wriggle on, and check out the series of information panels showcasing the past, present and predicted future of this stunning part of the world. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

TranzAlpine: the rail journey considered one of the best in the world

Feast on one breath-taking view after another as you travel from Christchurch to Greymouth on one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, drinking in rolling farmland, snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, serene, ice-fed rivers and lush rainforests, all from the comfort of your seat. Read the story . . . 

Show me all Places to stay

10 /10
From $45
10 /10
Pioneer Hotel

Directly opposite the finish of the Westland Wilderness Cycle Trail and offering motorbike and cycle storage and lock up is, The Pioneer Hotel - Budge . . . More . . . 

From $45

Book now

Book now

From $95
Glacier View Motel

RURAL SETTING JUST NORTH OF FRANZ JOSEF TOWNSHIP. Glacier View Motel is 2.5km north of the town centre of Franz Josef and offers guests a quiet, relax . . . More . . . 

From $95

Book now

Book now

From $105
Fitzherbert Court Motel

THE PERFECT BASE TO DISCOVER THE STUNNING WEST COAST.Modern and spacious, The Fitzherbert Court Motels are the perfect place to stay and discover all  . . . More . . . 

From $105

Book now

Book now

From $40
154 Kaniere Road Accommodation

Set down a long driveway with no road noise, we are located only 3.5km from Hokitika Town Centre. We can offer you the best of both worlds. Town is on . . . More . . . 

From $40

Book now

Book now