Ron LaughlinThe Ultimate New Zealand Travel Guide
West Coast Glaciers
Glacier Country - http://www.glaciercountry.co.nz/
Have you ever seen a glacier? How about walking on one? This is the place! Along with the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers you can enjoy views of New Zealand's two highest mountains Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman and explore the lowland rainforest of Westland National Park and Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.
Where else can you be where a glacier meets a rain forest by the sea?
Check out Lake Matheson - the most picturesque lake in New Zealand and take a walk on Gillespie’s Beach just down the road. Watch the sunsets turn the snow covered mountains pink.
This is one of the most spectacular areas of the country and not to be missed.
All kinds of independent walks and hikes along with guided glacier hikes, ice climbing and mountaineering. How about a helicopter snow landing with one of the world class operators.
Something for everyone no matter your fitness and hot pools to ease your aching muscles afterwards.
Franz Josef –
The Franz Josef Glacier is a 12 km long glacier located close to the town of Franz Josef and together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, forms part of a World Heritage Site. For those who have never experienced glaciers this area is fantastic. Franz Josef has numerous accommodation options for every budget along with cafes/restaurants.
Adventure activities include scenic flights over the glaciers, heli-hiking and guided glacier tours. There are also several good walking tracks around Franz Josef. Be sure to check out the Visitors Centre to see the video. One of my most memorable experiences is landing on the glaciers by helicopter and walking around throwing snow balls in the middle of the summer. You can also get close to the base of the glacier by driving the access road and a short walk. Stay within the barriers please for your own safety.
Fox Glacier -
23 kilometres south of Franz Josef is Fox Glacier. In addition take the Cook Flat Road to Lake Matheson and do the walk around the lake. If you can get there early in the morning you may get one of those spectacular photographs where there isn’t a ripple on the water and the mountains are reflected in perfection. Continue past Lake Matheson to the Gillespies beach Road that is a 21 km drive to the beach. There is a seal colony out there too but it is over a three hour walk. The access road to the Fox Glacier is only a 10 minute drive and a short walk shorter than the one to Franz Josef. For the hikers Fox Glacier provides enjoyment for everyone who wants to do from a half hour walk to a 3 day hike.
David and I went south first to Fox Glacier late afternoon and walked to the base. Then we turned back north to settle in at one of my favourite holiday parks - the Rainforest Retreat. There you are with the camper van surrounded by rain forest the snow capped mountains in the background and right in the town of Franz Josef...
The Holiday Park provides a top quality place to stay along with a fantastic bar/restaurant where everyone can regale each other with their tales of conquest on the mighty glaciers.
This was the first time this trip where the park had lots of other campers.
So after a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast we were off to walk to the the base of Franz Josef glacier. I hadn't been there for several years and was totally surprised with the fine work on the walks and parking area that has been accomplished.
I was also quite surprised how far back the glacier had retreated since I had been there last. We walked along the path provided until you got to the canyon floor and then walked along the dry river bed enjoying the views and the waterfalls. Nice way to stat the day....
Had a hard time leaving it was so enjoyable but leave we must as we have a big day ahead. We will be going back north probably stopping in Hokitika again for supplies or perhaps a couple of flat whites then off to Arthurs Pass to cross over from the West Coast to the Mackenzie Country and Mt Cook. I will also introduce you to a very special place to stay overnite.................
Check out my earlier videos on the West Coast: (new ones coming from this trip)
West Coast Part One -The northern end to Hokitika
West Coast Part Two - From Hokitika to Haast
Win a free night's accommodation
Isn't he so co-ordinated!