Glacier Country, with its broad sweep of landscapes from the mountains and famous twin glaciers to the Tasman Sea via lush rainforests and serene mirror lakes, is one of the world’s most diverse, natural landscapes.
From the heady thrills of hiking across the ancient blue ice of a glacier to literally relaxing in it while soaking in a hot tub, Glacier Country is a unique destination brimming with opportunities to experience a complete natural immersion.
Blue skies over Franz Josef Glacier where a river of ice descends into coastal rain forest.
Glacier Country is part of Westland Tai Poutini National Park. A haven for some of the world’s rarest wildlife, this vast wilderness spans alpine-to-coastal environments taking in New Zealand’s highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers and coastlines.
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier — often referred to as the twin glaciers — are among the most accessible glaciers in the world, the only place on earth where glaciers meet coastal rainforest.
Wherever you go in Glacier Country, there’s a well formed walkway or trail leading to an outstanding scenic highlight. Lake Matheson’s famed alpine reflections and Ōkārito’s wildlife-filled waterways are just the start.
Exploring an ice cave in a surreal glacier wonderland on a Franz Josef Glacier heli hike.
Franz Josef is the perfect place to live that bucket list dream of walking on ice, exploring a surreal glacier wonderland of luminous caves, icy towers and crevasses.
Access to the glacier is via a short helicopter flight and a guided hike across the dynamic, beautiful alpine environment. Once you’re up there — fitted out with the right footwear — it’s a surprisingly accessible adventure into a breathtaking environment.
Franz Josef Waiau is a laid-back resort township set against a backdrop of verdant rainforest and snow-capped peaks. This welcoming hub of wildlife conservation, accommodation and hospitality is the beginning of adventures exploring Glacier Country’s natural attractions.
Adventures on Fox Glacier include easy heli hikes, ice climbing lessons and expeditions.
A little town with a warm heart, Fox is the gateway to adventure highs — skydiving, hiking, mountain biking and ice climbing. It’s rare to see snow down in Fox — which is barely above sea level — but in the mountains there is constant snow and ice action.
The main attraction, Fox Glacier, is a dynamic river of ice caught between competing forces as heavy snowfall above battles with melting ice lower down the valley. No two days on the glacier are ever the same as the icescape constantly reshapes.
Guided heli-hiking tours can lift you up onto the glacier for an ice hike (suitable for all abilities and fitness) or a more demanding ice climb. Take a scenic flight over the glacier, a tandem skydive or a walk the trail around Lake Matheson’s serene reflections.
Watch out for kea, often seen around the glaciers, the cheeky mountain parrots that inhabit New Zealand’s alpine regions.
Humans are rare around the tranquil waters of Ōkārito Lagoon — New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland — brims with wildlife encounters unseen elsewhere. The lagoon is home to an extraordinary 70-plus bird species including the stately kōtuku (white heron).
The world’s rarest kiwi, the Ōkārito or rowi kiwi is also found around here and on the shores of Lake Mapourika, both great spots for kayaking and fishing. Meet the locals on a guided eco boat or kayak tour.
Experience rare beauty and grandeur on a heli hike on one of New Zealand’s twin glaciers.
Glacier Country is on SH6, about halfway between Hokitika to the north and Haast on the southern end of the West Coast. Franz Josef Glacier township is an easy drive (1 hr 45 min) south from Hokitika; Fox Glacier township is a 1.5 hr drive north of Haast.
It’s a 25-min drive between Franz and Fox. The tiny coastal settlement of Ōkārito is north of Franz Josef (20-min drive).
Follow the stunning Great Coast Road, one of the world’s Top 10 Coastal Drives, to the incredible Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
At Hokitika Gorge, nature creates a stunning visual sensation of glorious colours and outstanding beauty.
Tranquil Lake Brunner, largest lake on the West Coast, is a popular family holiday spot and a world-class trout fishing destination.
Haast is the gateway to the remote and untouched conservation jewel, Te Wāhipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area.
Experience extraordinary limestone arches and caves, whisky coloured wilderness rivers and lush rainforest in Kahurangi National Park.