Which New Zealand Glacier to Visit? - NZ Holiday Planner

New Zealand Glacier

There are many stunning glaciers in New Zealand. Exploring these majestic rivers of frozen ice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most glaciers are located near the Main Divide in the Southern Alps in the South Island. These are our favourites.


The West Coast Glaciers

The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

The South Island's West Coast is home to New Zealand's two most famous glaciers - Fox and Franz Josef. These living remnants of the ice age carve a spectacular landscape from the vast snow and ice fields of the Southern Alps to their terminal faces in the lush rainforests of the West Coast. Nowhere else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea, making Fox and Franz Josef quite unique.

Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by Austrian Julius Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The township itself is five kilometres from the glacier, and is a bustling little town providing a variety of ways in which to visit the glacier, as well as a variety of accommodation and restaurants. Although busy during the summer months, Franz Josef is a good base for exploration of the glaciers as well as Westland National Park and the Okarito Lagoon to the north.

It’s an easy walk to the terminal faces of both glaciers. Or, if you’re adventurous, then a helicopter ride, or a guided ice walk are simply unforgettable experiences. The Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glaciers are a short 30 minute drive apart. Franz Josef Glacier is located in a World Heritage Area.

To reach these glaciers it’s a four-hour drive from Queenstown or a three-hour drive hour from Wanaka.


The Tasman Glacier

The Tasman Glacier

On the other side of the Southern Alps, the Tasman Glacier is the largest in New Zealand. Sitting below Aoraki/Mount Cook in the National Park, it’s 29km (18 mi) long, up to 3km (1.8 mi) wide and covers an area of 101 square kilometres (62 mi).

The Tasman Glacier has a beautiful terminal lake. It’s a short walk to view the glacier. Or the terminal lake makes a breathtaking boat trip. The Tasman Glacier is about a 4.5-hour drive out of Christchurch.


The Rob Roy Glacier

The Rob Roy Glacier

The Rob Roy Glacier is a giant hanging glacier to be found just 1 hour from Wanaka in the beautiful Mt Aspiring National Park. This massive glacier beginning high above on Rob Roy Peak – 2,606 metres (8,549 ft), clinging to the ever-steepening mountainside as it descends into the Rob Roy Valley.

To see this majestic there are various helicopter options the only way to see the glacier but the most scenic and rewarding is to walk. The Glacier Track offers an easy route (achievable by older children) into a dramatic alpine landscape that includes snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and waterfalls.


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