Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier village is in "Glacier Country" on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Tucked discreetly into the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, it has a stunning outlook across surrounding farms and offers breathtaking views of New Zealand’s two highest peaks, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The tiny township was founded from a gold strike which soon petered out, and it now mostly serves as a base for visitors to its large icy namesake. There's a quiet, intimate village atmosphere compared to the other glacier town, Franz Josef.



New Zealand glaciers are unique in all the world in descending through rain forest.

At 13 km long, Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe is the longest New Zealand glacier, falling 2,600 metres (8,000 ft) from its start just below Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman to where it terminates in lush temperate rain forest just 250 m above sea level. The rapid descent and accessibility make the West Coast's glaciers unique.

A special combination of climate and shape means that Fox Glacier moves approximately 10 times quicker than other valley glaciers around the world, making its terminal face and ice features look quite different from one year to the next. At Fox Glacier this is due to the funnel-like shape of the glacial valley and the huge nevé (the snow accumulation area, at the top of the glacier). Fox Glacier’s nevé is 36 km², bigger than the whole of the city of Christchurch!


The weather in the area is very variable and prone to change, so bring layers. Mornings are generally clear, though clouds start to gather in the afternoon, which may lead to cancelled tours, slippery walks and poor photography conditions. Winter is drier and there might be fresh snow on the glacier, but the roads will be icier.

Get in

Drive on State Highway 6. The drive from Franz Josef is about 30 minutes.

The following locations offer bus bookings through various bus companies.

Get around

The village is small and all accommodation is within walking distance of the centre. Fox Tours and Shuttles, 0800 369 287, will shuttle people to outlying destinations like Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson and Gillepsies Beach for $12 and up.


A picture postcard view of the Southern Alps from Lake Matheson
Gillespie Beach's quartz pebbles and black sand

Sunrise at Lake Matheson, sunset at Gillespies Beach and glacier viewing in between makes for a pretty great day.


Glacier viewing

Fox Glacier, close-up
The terminal face of the Fox Glacier

A walk to see Fox Glacier is a rather ethereal experience, as it passes through a valley carved by the moving ice. There are several signposts that signal when and where the terminal face of the glacier used to be.

Scenic flights

Several helicopter services operate out of Fox Glacier township and offer breathtaking flights over the glacier and the Southern Alps, weather permitting. It's a marvelous aerial view that demonstrates the vastness of the slow moving frozen river, with an option to make a snow landing on the nevé. An early morning flight could get you to the top of Fox Glacier, just as the sun rises over Aoraki/Mt Cook.


Walks on pebble-covered beaches, around lakes and through a glacial valley — and that's without heading into Fox Glacier's backcountry and less well-trodden trails. Check with the local DOC office on SH6 for maps and information.


The general store is on State Highway 6 between Cafe Neve and the Glacier Country Hotel, and there is a fuel station on the same main road.

Eat and Drink

There's a fairly small selection of restaurants in Fox Glacier, with a few lodgings like the Fox Glacier Inn, Glacier Country Hotel and High Peaks Hotel offering their own in-house food. If your budget is really tight, it might be worth picking up general supplies before coming into the glacier towns.

Further away from the village:






Motor Park


Some of the motels and hotels will offer free Wi-fi, though some will also require payment.

Stay safe

Go next

Routes through Fox Glacier

Hokitika Franz Josef  N  S  Haast Wanaka

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, July 02, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.