Fox Glacier

The Fox Glacier sits just 30km south of the more well-known Franz Josef Glacier, which is surprising considering Fox Glacier is the longest of the glaciers along New Zealand’s West Coast.  The backside of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman tower over the glacier along with several other grey peaks.  Like the Franz Josef glacier, Fox sits just above the mild rainforest about 250 meters above sea level.  The glacier moves at about 10 times the speed of other similar glaciers around the world, and has been advancing since 1985 (it receives more snow than melt).  The area where Fox actually accumulates snow is about 30 square kilometers, which guides say is bigger than the city of Christchurch.  The depth is greater than the height of the Eiffel tower at 350 meters.

While a visit to both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers is not a must, both differ greatly and their close proximity makes it simply to see both within a single day.  A short drive from the small and quaint town of Fox leads you to the parking area aside a trail head leading to the base of the glacier.  A one hour return hike will take you alongside the massive ice form.  Only experience climbers and guided tour groups are advised to actually traverse the surface of the glacier.  As is the case with Franz Josef, only one tour operator offers guided ice hikes or heli-hikes.  Fox Glacier Guiding offers six tour packages.

The Fox Trot  is their basic half-day glacier walk for those aged 7 and above with a moderate fitness level.  The walk follows the same path you can take for free to the base of the glacier, but the guided group actually walks out on the ice.  The four hour tour will cost you $115.00 nzd and leaves at 8:35am and 1:35pm all year with two additional departures (9:35am and 2:35pm) in the peak summer season.

The Nimble Fox costs slightly more at $165.00 nzd per person and lasts 6 to 7 hours.  This all-day glacier walk lets you explore the ice and what they call “dramatic terrain”.  You must be 13 years old and in good fitness.  Be up and at ’em.. this one leaves only at 9:10am with an additional 10:10am departure in summer.

The Flying Fox Heli-Hike lasts 4 hours, but combines two helicopter flights with the chance to explore a more remote part of the glacier.  If you’re looking to explore ice caves and tunnels, this is the best option – but you’ll pay $399.00 nzd per person for the experience.

Other lower end and higher end options include the Fox Trail (a simple short, guided walk through the valley – not onto the glacier) and the Fox it Up Ice Climbing Adventure.  Extreme adventurers may opt for the Browne Fox multi-day Heli-Trek (prices not listed).