New Zealand contains many stunning glaciers, most located near the Main Divide in the Southern Alps in the South Island.
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers – some of New Zealand’s largest and most-visited – descend down from the Southern Alps and flow almost to sea level. Seeing ancient rivers of ice descending past emerald green rainforest is a sight you'll never forget.
Fox Glacier, tucked into the foothills of the Southern Alps, was named after New Zealand's Prime Minister from 1869 - 1872, Sir William Fox. The village near the glacier holds the same name. A short 30 minute drive away lies Franz Josef Glacier, located in a World Heritage area and named after an Austrian Emperor. It's an easy walk to the terminal faces of both glaciers, but if you're after a closer encounter a guided ice walk or heli-hike is highly recommended.
The largest glacier in New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier, is 27km long and covers an area of 101 square kilometres, sitting below our highest mountain – Mount Cook. The Tasman Glacier's rapidly growing terminal lake is fascinating to explore by boat; come face to face with icebergs of every shape and size.
To reach the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, it's a 3-hour drive from Wanaka or 4-hour drive from Queenstown. A great alternative to consider is taking the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth, renting a car in Greymouth then exploring the West Coast on the way to the glaciers. This is no ordinary train trip - venturing past the peaks of the Southern Alps, it's an unforgettable journey from the East Coast to the West Coast of the South Island.
Because the Tasman Glacier lies on the opposite side of the Southern Alps to Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, the easiest way to get there involves a 4.5-hour drive from Christchurch.