Planning a visit to Glacier Country and wondering whether you should do a Franz Josef Glacier experience or a Fox Glacier experience?
Don’t stress. If you’re staying at Franz Josef Glacier, you have two of New Zealand’s most incredible glaciers just 25 minutes apart. It’s easy to experience both glaciers, as long as you leave time in your itinerary.
With options that include taking a scenic flight by helicopter or plane over the glacier, taking a heli-hike or heli-ice climb on the glacier or a valley walk (guided or solo), you’re in the right place for a truly unforgettable glacier experience.
New Zealand’s Most Accessible Glaciers
This is Glacier Country! Whatever you do, don’t miss out on seeing a glacier (or two) while you’re here.
There are around 3,100 glaciers scattered throughout the Southern Alps. With just about all of these glaciers inaccessible because of the high altitude and harsh geography, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are your best bet for getting up close to a glacier.It’s no wonder they are two of New Zealand’s most popular glaciers with thousands of visitors experiencing the glaciers each year.
What’s the Difference?
The truth is, there is not a lot of difference between a Franz Josef and a Fox Glacier experience. But if you want to get technical, here are a few glacier facts.
Franz Josef Glacier
– Franz Josef Glacier is the fourth largest glacier in New Zealand.
– It is 10.5 kilometres long and descends from a height of 3,000 metres to 240 metres above sea level.
– Franz Josef Glacier terminates 19 kilometres from the coast. (This is one of the things that make both Fox and Franz Josef Glacier exceptional – there are not many other places on the planet where you find glaciers this close to the ocean).
– The walk from the car park to the terminal face viewpoint takes about 45 minutes.
There are two different companies that offer guiding at either glacier. Fox Glacier Guides offer valley walk trips, heli-hiking trips and heli-ice climbing trips at Fox Glacier. Franz Josef Glacier Guides offer the same experiences on Franz Josef Glacier.
Neither glacier is accessible from the valley floor. A dramatic retreat that occurred in the last few years at both glaciers has resulted in ice loss and instability around the terminus. All glacier experiences now involve helicopter access.
What Benefit Does Being Steep Bring?
The most dramatic formations occur on a glacier when it moves downwards on a steep gradient. Fox Glacier has a gradual incline whereas Franz Josef is steeper. The surface of Franz Josef Glacier is full of crevasses and ice caves, where you have a much better chance of seeing the famous blue ice.
Staying at Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier Township has more on offer than its quieter neighbour, Fox Glacier. Franz Josef has more options for shops, eating and drinking. You will also find the Glacier Hot Pools at Franz Josef Glacier. This is an incredible West Coast experience where you can soak in hot pools surrounded by native bush. Franz Josef also offers nearby Lake Mapourika and Okarito Lagoon for exploring.
The incredible and often photographed reflective Lake Matheson is found closest to Fox Glacier.
Both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are natural wonders and each one is worth some taking some time to explore. However you choose to explore the glaciers, don’t leave the West Coast without taking at least one unforgettable memory with you.
– Fox Glacier is the third largest glacier in New Zealand.
– It is 12 kilometres long and descends from the same height as Franz Josef Glacier, but is not as steep.
– Fox Glacier terminates just 12 kilometres from the Tasman Sea.
– The walk from the car park to the terminal face viewpoint takes about 30 minutes.