Helicopter flights with an optional snow landing take visitors above the glacier or onto it for a heli-hike, with safety gear and instruction provided. Guides lead small-group treks through otherworldly ice caves and past blue seracs. For visitors who prefer a slower pace, an eco-walk along the glacier valley floor offers an up-close look at the rain forest terrain. Nearby Lake Matheson allows photographers to capture mirrored reflections of the Southern Alps’ famed summits.
Things to Know Before You Go
Helicopter flights and heli-hikes on the glacier are weather permitting, so plan ahead.
Be sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and bring plenty of water; the high-altitude sun is strong here.
Heli-hiking tours equip you with weatherproof pants, jacket, and boots plus ice ax and crampons.
Flying drones is prohibited at both glaciers, with a hefty fine and drone confiscation for those who disregard the rule.
How to Get There
Situated on the west coast of the South Island, Fox Glacier village is a 25-minute drive from Franz Josef village on Highway 6. Both townships lie about a 1-hour drive from Okarito, a 3.5-hour drive from Wanaka, and a 5.5-hour drive from Christchurch (via Arthur’s Pass). Most visitors arrive by car or as part of a guided tour from either direction; bus companies also drive the route daily.
When to Get There
More than 1,000 people visit Fox Glacier daily, just a third of those that visit Franz Josef. Wintertime offers clearer days so there’s less chance of flight cancellations, while November through February sees the peak of summer tourist crowds. Many people stay in the eponymous town; it is small and remote, but there are plenty of tourist beds available to experience this year-round attraction.
Facts About Fox
Fox Glacier, or Te Moeka o Tuawe in Maori, is surrounded by striking mountains that tower around 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) high, including Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Rarakiroa/Mt. Tasman—New Zealand’s tallest peaks. The river of ice has been advancing since 1985 and offers dazzling views as it travels through the valley into the temperate rain forest below.