Very few places in the world offer the adventure seeker the opportunity to walk on glaciers like New Zealand does. The West Coast contains remnants of the ice age cascade created from the enormous snowfields of the Southern Alps. Resting just 300 metres above sea level, New Zealand’s glaciers are the most accessible in the temperate zone. They cover almost half of the land mass of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Science has taught us that the formation of rivers and mountains take millions of years of geological movement to create. With glaciers, we get a much more up front and personal view of things in a more comprehensible time scale. The glaciers of New Zealand move up to about 200 metres each year.
The most famous glaciers in New Zealand are the Fox and the Franz Josef glacier on the West Coast of South Island. Mountaineers and hikers have easy access to these locales that nature took thousands of years to create.
You have your pick of companies that can escort you on journey to one of the most spectacular sites in all of New Zealand. The benefit of taking a tour is that you get expert information concerning the flora, fauna and geological formations.
Nothing beats an aerial view of the glaciers. From either a helicopter or a fixed wing plane, you can take in the majesty of these glaciers, soaring above the highest peaks. For those less inclined to the skies, walks can offer superb vistas and unmatched views of the glaciers as well as letting you explore surrounding rainforests.
Nowhere else on the planet will you find this dynamic combination of side-by-side ecosystems with both rainforests and glaciers. The combination is unique to New Zealand.
The Franz Josef Glacier
Of all the glaciers in New Zealand, the Franz Josef Glacier, located within the Westland National Park, is the steepest and fastest moving glacier. The Franz Josef is about 7000 years old and 12 kilometres long. The glacier can be seen from as close as 15metres. It was named for the Emperor of the Austro- Hungarian Empire by Julies von Haast, a geologist and explorer in 1863
The Fox Glacier
Just 25 kilometres from the Franz Josef is the Fox named got New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Sir William Fox, in 1872. This glacier is 13 kilometres long and 300 metres deep. It falls nearly 2500 metres across its trek.