About Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is a 13-kilometer-long (8.1 mi) temperate maritime glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. It is one of New Zealand's most iconic natural wonders.
This dynamic glacial environment, surrounded by lush forests, offers travelers a unique opportunity to witness the majesty of nature up close. The glacier's proximity to the main highway makes it easily accessible, both by driving and walking.
History and Geology
Fox Glacier, like its neighboring glaciers, is a living testament to the ice age that continues to shape our world. Over its 13-kilometer stretch, Fox Glacier descends a staggering 2,600 meters from the lofty heights of the Southern Alps.
This descent is fed by four alpine glaciers that receive an impressive 30 meters of snowfall annually. This snow, under immense pressure, compacts into deep blue ice, which forms the heart of the glacier. The glacier's rapid flow, almost ten times faster than most valley glaciers, is a result of the melting ice lubricating its movement and the high snowfall feeding its upper reaches.
This constant movement has led to the formation of deep ravines, cracks, and a dramatic frozen landscape on the glacier's surface.
Where is Fox Glacier
Located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, Fox Glacier is a jewel in the crown of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. This glacier, along with the Franz Josef Glacier, offers travelers a unique experience: the chance to witness vast valleys of ice extending below the snowline, almost reaching the sea.
The glaciers' unique positioning means they flow almost to sea level, set amidst a temperate rainforest, making them among the most accessible glaciers globally.
Climate and Weather in Fox Glacier
The climate surrounding Fox Glacier is as varied as the landscapes it carves. While the region is known for its rainfall, the weather can shift rapidly, emphasizing the need for preparation.
The temperate climate at this low altitude ensures that the glaciers remain accessible for most of the year. However, the glacier's environment is dynamic, with the ice melting at lower altitudes, feeding frigid rivers that flow through the rainforests and eventually into the Tasman Sea.
Flora and Fauna in Fox Glacier
The biodiversity around Fox Glacier is nothing short of remarkable. The ancient podocarp rainforest that flanks the glacier is a sanctuary for a myriad of plant and animal species.
As you traverse the paths leading to the glacier, you'll be serenaded by the melodies of native birds, while the dense foliage provides a lush green backdrop. This juxtaposition of icy blues and forest greens creates a visual spectacle, a stark reminder of nature's ability to thrive in diverse conditions.
Things to do at Fox Glacier
Hiking is undoubtedly one of the most immersive ways to experience Fox Glacier. The Fox Glacier South Side Walkway/Cycleway is a trail that allows visitors to traverse through ancient rainforests, feeling the cool breeze and listening to the sounds of nature.
This trail provides glimpses of the glacier, making it a favorite among travelers. On the other hand, the Lake Gault Track is a gem for those seeking panoramic views. As you ascend, the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook comes into view, creating a picturesque backdrop against the shimmering waters of Lake Gault.
Guided tours are perfect for those who wish to delve deeper into the intricacies of Fox Glacier. These tours, led by experienced guides, provide insights into the glacier's formation, its movement, and the unique flora and fauna surrounding it.
Walking on the glacier with crampons, exploring ice caves, and understanding the geological significance of the region are some of the highlights of these tours.
A helicopter flight over Fox Glacier is an experience like no other. As you soar above, the vast expanse of the glacier unfolds beneath, with its deep crevasses, serpentine rivers, and the pristine snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps. This bird's-eye view offers a unique perspective, capturing the sheer scale and beauty of the glacier.
Fox Glacier is a paradise for photographers. The diverse landscapes, from dense rainforests to icy terrains, provide ample opportunities for capturing stunning shots. One of the most iconic photography spots is Lake Matheson, often referred to as the 'Mirror Lake'.
On a calm day, the reflection of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman on the still waters of the lake creates a mesmerizing mirror image, a must-capture for any photography enthusiast.
Visiting the Fox Glacier Visitor Centre
The Fox Glacier Visitor Centre is a treasure trove of information. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the center offers valuable insights. From detailed maps and brochures to exhibits showcasing the region's history and geology, there's something for everyone.
The friendly staff are always on hand to answer questions, provide recommendations, and ensure that visitors have all the information they need for a memorable trip.
What to Wear to Fox Glacier
The dynamic environment of Fox Glacier necessitates preparation in terms of attire. Given the ever-changing weather conditions, layering is key. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat at bay, followed by an insulating layer like fleece or wool, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support are essential, especially if you're venturing onto the glacier itself. Given the reflective nature of ice and snow, UV protection in the form of sunglasses and sunscreen is crucial. Additionally, a hat and gloves can provide added warmth, especially during cooler months.
When to go to Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is a year-round destination, but the experience can vary depending on the season. The summer months (December to February) offer warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it a popular time for visitors. However, the glacier can be more crowded during this period.
The shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) provide a balance between pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Winter (June to August) brings colder temperatures, but the crisp, clear days can offer some of the best views of the glacier.
Regardless of when you choose to visit, always check the local weather forecast and be aware that conditions can change rapidly in alpine environments.
Fox Glacier's beauty is undeniable, but it's essential to approach it with respect and caution. Here are some safety guidelines to keep in mind:
- Stay on Designated Paths: The glacier's landscape is continually changing. What might seem like a stable surface could be a thin ice layer covering a deep crevasse. Always stick to marked paths and avoid venturing onto the glacier without a guide.
- Heed Warning Signs: These are placed for your safety. Whether it's a risk of rockfall, unstable ice, or other hazards, always take these warnings seriously.
- Inform Someone: Before embarking on any hike or tour, let someone know your plans, including your expected return time. This can be invaluable in case of emergencies.
- Guided Tours: If you're keen on exploring the glacier up close, consider joining a guided tour. Experienced guides have in-depth knowledge of the glacier's current conditions and can ensure a safe and informative experience.
- Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a whistle, and a communication device. Familiarize yourself with the emergency number in New Zealand, which is 111.
Fox Glacier is more than just a natural wonder; it's an experience. Whether you're hiking its trails, capturing its beauty through a lens, or simply soaking in its majesty, Fox Glacier promises memories that will last a lifetime.
And if you're considering exploring more of New Zealand's Fox Glacier region, why not do it in style? Rent a campervan from campervannewzealand.co.nz and embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of New Zealand. Safe travels!