A lot of adjectives get casually thrown around when talking about the West Coast. Spectacular, striking, and immense regularly make an appearance in reference to Glacier Country.
Want to know why?
Unless you get a bird’s eye view of this vast wilderness area, it can be hard to grasp just how impressive it is.
So, unless you’re the kind of person who’s handy with an ice axe and a set of climbing ropes, or perhaps a wing suit, it’s going to be tricky to get a good view of what’s on offer.
What’s the best way to soak up the ‘spectacular, striking, immense’ scenery of the West Coast? Take to the air.
Luckily, there is no shortage of options for flying high above Glacier Country.
Travel through the main street of Franz Josef Glacier and you’ll notice all the options for scenic fixed wing and helicopter flights. For the experience of alifetime, all you have to do is make your choice and make your booking. You can do a short flight over Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier (or both). If you’ve got more time and budget, take a longer flight through the mountains of the Southern Alps, including New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mt Cook.
One of the best fixed-wing scenic flights is the Grand Traverse , a one-hour flight taking you high above the glaciers, Westland National Park, Aoraki/Mt Cook, the Main Divide and Mt Cook National Park. You’ll get an informative commentary from the pilot as you fly over New Zealand’s highest peaks and largest glaciers.
There’s no better way to get perspective on how immense Franz Josef Glacier is than by seeing it from above. These days, the only way to access the glacier is by helicopter. Recent retreating of the ice has caused the terminal face of the glacier to become unstable, so all hikers now begin their trip with a helicopter ride. And no one’s complaining! Starting your glacier hike with a helicopter trip is a pretty thrilling way to kick things off.
Because it’s a steep, narrow glacier, Franz Josef offers a stunning display of crevasses, caves and blue ice. If you want to hike amongst these jaw-dropping sights, you need to get a good way up the glacier, and a helicopter transfer is a perfect way to deliver you to the very best bits of the glacier.
If the hard work of hiking on the glacier doesn’t appeal, then you can bypass the strenuous stuff and take a helicopter all the way to the top of the glacier (quite possibly the coolest way to arrive on the ice).
Boarding the helicopter at Franz Josef township, you are flown over theWaiho River valley where you can see where the glacier’s melt water washing out to sea. Fly over the dense, lush, and almost prehistoric rainforest of Westland Te Poutini National Park and you will soon catch a first glimpse of the tongue of the glacier. Keep flying and the incredible view of a frozen river of ice cascading down the mountainside unfolds below you. You come to land on the glacier’s snowfield (or neve), a huge expanse of snow that is slowly feeding the glacier. In this wonderland of white, you are sure to capture some impressive holiday snaps.
For many visitors, the chance to fly above the majestic wilderness of Westland National Park and the Southern Alps is the experience of a lifetime. And if you have never flown in a helicopter or light aircraft before, this would have to be the best place to try it.