Glaciers in New Zealand
On the West Coast, remnants of the ice age cascade from vast snowfields of the Southern Alps to valley floors just 300 metres above sea level. Nowhere in the world's temperate zones are glaciers so accessible - glaciers cover nearly half the area of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
While rivers and mountains are usually formed as a result of millions of years of geological activity, glaciers enable us to see geological movement in a more comprehensible time scale. Glaciers in New Zealand move quite quickly - up to 200 metres a year.
New Zealand's most famous glaciers are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the South Island's West Coast. Gouged out by moving ice over thousands of years, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are easily accessible to mountaineers and hikers.
A range of companies offer guided excursions to explore the spectacular ice formations. All companies provide professional guides that give full explanations regarding the geological features, flora and fauna of the area.
Helicopter and fixed wing aircraft also provide scenic flights and snow landings amidst New Zealand's highest peaks, overlooking these glaciers. A range of walks exist, surrounding glaciers in New Zealand that provide excellent vantage points for viewing the glacier as well as exploring the rainforest environments.
The combination of ice and temperate rainforest is a unique feature of New Zealand's glacier country, and is an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world.
The massive Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the West Coast are a must for any visitor!
Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier in Westland National Park, is one of New Zealand's most spectacular natural attractions.
Franz Josef is the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand. At 12 kilometre long, this 7000 year old body of ice is sliding down a mountain valley into a rainforest. Franz Josef can be safely viewed from as close as 15 metres.
Geologist and explorer Julius von Haast named Franz Josef Glacier in 1863, after the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Named in 1872 after Sir William Fox, New Zealand's then Prime Minister, the Fox Glacer is only 25 kilometres from Franz Josef Glacier.
At 300 metres deep, and 13 kilometres long, Fox falls about 2600 metres throughout it's journey. The Fox Glacier township is perhaps a little more laid back, offering a more relaxed atmosphere to soak up the surrounding beauty.
At 27 kilometres in length, the mighty Tasman Glacier is a powerful piece of landscaping equipment. While it slowly carves the valley sides, it provides a landing place for small ski planes and helicopters.
Surreal, milky lakes are a feature of this park - suspended, glacier-ground rock sediment makes the water opaque. Around only 15,000 years ago, this New Zealand glacier would have stretched out to the shores of Lake Pukaki.
The Tasman Glacier in New Zealand is an excellent choice for intermediate skiers, while the Murchison, Darwin and Bonney glaciers promise excitement for advanced skiers.
Landing among spectacular ice formations and caverns is the start of an unforgettable experience. From October until May, you can explore the Tasman Glacier's terminal lake by boat.
Click here to view tourism operators for glaciers in New Zealand.