Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s coolest glaciers, and we’re not just talking about the ice.

Fox Glacier is your gateway to Glacier Country on New Zealand’s stunning West Coast. In this slice of icy paradise you’ll be surrounded by the eye-popping Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (Southern Alps) and two epic glaciers on your doorstep – Franz Josef is about 20 km north-east of Fox. Unlike most other glaciers, Fox Glacier terminates just 12 km from the ocean…. only in New Zealand! Our local guides will help you explore Glacier Country the Intrepid way. Wake up and say kia ora to the mountains, admire the shimmering Lake Matheson, wander through mossy alpine forests, soak in soothing hot pools, or get up close to incredible ice architecture on a glacier heli-hike. You could even continue your adventure in Wanaka, Queenstown or Milford Sound.

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Highlights of Fox Glacier

A woman walking at Franz Josef Glacier

Walk to the base of Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is New Zealand’s fourth-largest glacier (after Fox Glacier). It’s steeper, so the ice moves faster (up to 5m per day) and the glacial formations are more dramatic. There are more ice crevices, towers, caves and tunnels, and you have a higher chance of seeing the ethereal blue ice. You can walk the 5km trail to the base of the glacier to get within 750m of the terminal face. If you want to get even closer, you can do a heli-hike or guided glacier walk.

A woman bathing in a glacier hot pool

Relax in Glacier Hot Pools

Hot baths are a great way to relax, but the relaxation factor skyrockets when you’re floating under lush native trees and the sound of birds. There are three hot pools: mahaki (calmness), makoha (tranquillity) and marino (serenity) which were named by the local Māori tribe. Each one intertwines into the rainforest and is a toasty 36 to 40 degrees. Slip into the hot, mineral-rich water to relax, unwind or soothe your tired muscles after a long day of walking. And… exhale.

A helicopter landing on Franz Josef Glacier

Go on a heli-hiking adventure

Is there a more epic way to experience the beauty of Fox Glacier than from the air? Surely not. Hop in a helicopter for a bird’s eye view of the snow-capped peaks and massive sheets of ice. Landing on the glacier is only half the fun. Step onto the snow, pop on a pair of crampons and go on a guided hike with a glacier expert. You’ll walk across ice ridges, trek through hidden ice caves and get close to giant ice sculptures.

A pounamu pendant necklace

Create your own pounamu piece

Take a little piece of New Zealand home with you by carving your own original piece of pounamu. Pounamu is sourced from local riverbeds along the West Coast and the colours range from light to deep forest green. For the local Māori people, pounamu is so much more than a stone – it symbolises power, prosperity, harmony and love. You’ll get to select your stone, design your piece and carve it with tools under the guidance of a local artist.

A clear day with mountains reflecting on Lake Matheson

Walk around the stunning Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson isn’t one of New Zealand’s most photographed lakes for no reason. With Mount Cook and Tasman reflecting on the water like a mirror, the views may leave you speechless. The lake is home to water birds and long-finned native eels, and is a traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for the local Māori people. Wind through the forest before reaching the pontoon where you can soak up the views and get a photo or two.

Two fur seals on the rocks at Gillespies Beach

Walk the wild Galway Beach Track

The Galway Beach Track is full of contrasts – expansive views of the West Coast, an isolated pebble beach, dense bush and the humbling presence of the Southern Alps above you. On this 12.5 km trail you'll walk through the serene Gillespies Lagoon, a historic mining tunnel and an enchanting mossy forest before reaching the rugged Galway Beach. If you’re lucky you might see the resident colony of fur seals hanging out on the rocks. 

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Fox Glacier FAQs

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage.  All travellers are required to produce:

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional.  

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

Although glaciers often evoke images of heavy snow and ice cold temperatures, the weather at Fox Glacier doesn’t change a great deal throughout the year. Winter (June to August) experiences relatively mild weather by typical winter standards, with average temperatures ranging between 5-15°C. 

Snow falls at the top of the mountains, but you’ll rarely see snow at sea level. The warmest months are January through March, but average highs hover just under 20°C and rarely exceed 25°C. Fox Glacier receives a whopping 6-8 metres of rainfall per year (which is amazing for the glaciers) and you can expect at least some rain no matter what time of year you visit. March tends to be the wettest month, while February is the driest.

The easiest way to get to Fox Glacier is by driving or doing a tour. You can drive to Fox Glacier Village on State Highway 6 from Hokitika (2 hours), Wanaka (3.5 hours) or from Franz Josef Glacier Village (25 minutes). A public bus is available with InterCity between Nelson, Queenstown and Fox Glacier. However, you might not be able to rely solely on public transport if you want to get to walks, lookouts and nearby attractions throughout Glacier Country.

You can walk to the base of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and get within about 750m of the terminal face, but if you want to get closer and explore the glacier on foot, you will need to do a guided glacier hike. You used to be able to access the glaciers via the valley floor, but it's no longer safe due to severe flooding in 2019.

The weather at high elevations at Fox Glacier is unpredictable and can change quickly. Bring plenty of warm layers, a pair of sturdy hiking boots and comfortable clothing that will see you through long days of walking and hiking. A warm fleece and a waterproof/windproof jacket are also essential - it rains a lot! If you’re doing a heli-hike experience, your tour leader will provide you with suitable socks, boots and crampons so you don’t need to worry about those.

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. However, we’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

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