FRANZ JOSEPH AND FOX GLACIERS
Where else can you go to the beach, hike through a rainforest, and visit a glacier all before dinner? It’s free to walk the trails to see the ice, but there are also options for guided hiking trips, helicopter tours and probably the coolest sky dive jump on earth.
Here the ice age is still underway. While glaciers around the world are retreating, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers still flow almost to sea level. The temperate climate at this low altitude means these glaciers are among the most convenient to visit in the world. Easy walks to the foot of the glaciers pass along ancient river valleys with steep sides bearing gigantic horizontal scars from when the glaciers have retreated and advanced over millennia. When you stand close to the foot of these glaciers, their sheer enormity is very humbling.
Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier is longer and faster moving than the Franz Josef Glacier. Its terminal face is just five kilometers from the village. Fox Glacier is the name of both the glacier and the nearby village and at night you can walk along a bush path to a fern grotto to see glowworms on show.
Franz Josef Glacier area has some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand. Just six kilometres from the centre of the village, Franz Josef Glacier descends from the tops of the Southern Alps into rainforest close to sea level. This provides a very rare opportunity to experience a dynamic glacier in a temperate environment, within easy driving and walking distance from the main highway.
The small but lively Franz Josef village is surrounded by lush rainforest with the high snow-capped Alps above.
Within a short distance of the village are a number of options for taking in the natural attractions including a cycleway, walks of varying length, guided walks, kayaking, and action adventures like rafting or skydiving. You can take a visit to the white heron colony or the world’s rarest kiwi.
Ten minutes’ drive north of the Franz Josef village on State Highway 6 is the beautiful Lake Mapourika, a great place for fishing, bird watching and kayaking. Ōkārito Lagoon New Zealand’s largest estuarine lagoon is a 20-minute drive north. It is well known for its walks and coastal birdlife, including the white heron (kōtuku). For a taste of gold mining history visit the Ōkārito settlement and explore its historic survivors. Or take the Tatare Tunnels Walk—you’ll get a view of the Tatare Gorge and the option of venturing into the tunnels. Lake Matheson is a highlight with its mirror reflections of the Southern Alps, including New Zealand’s highest peaks, Aoraki/Mount Cook