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The beautiful landscape of New Zealand is home to many glaciers with a few attracting thousands of visitors ever year. Some are more accessible than others but each ice wonderland has it’s own unique and marvelous characteristics that have been formed throughout millions of years. Here are the top three glaciers to visit in New Zealand.
Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier (Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere) is situated on the West Cost of New Zealand, deep down South. It can be found within walking distance of the main highway in the Westland National Park. This glacier is one of very few that can provide visitors with the opportunity to explore an extremely rare glacial environment. Long tongues of ice extend down through a lush and temperate rainforest, this phenomenon has only been recored in one other location in the world making Franz Josef an extremely popular tourist destination attracting up to 2700 visitors per day!
In the last ice age the glacier expanded in an enormous ice sheet far beyond the existing coastline. Although the glacier has retreated considerably and continues to do so at an alarming rate, you can still view remnants of the regions frozen past in the landscape; experiencing it in person definitely gives visitors a glimpse back in time.
There are plenty of ways to explore Franz Josef, some of which include ice trekking, helicopter rides and guided tours. Take a few days, enjoy some quality kiwi accommodation and check out the unforgettable sights of the Franz Josef glacier.
Fox Glacier (Te Moeka o Tuawe) is located on the West Coast of the South Island and is also accessible within walking distance of the main highway. This glaciers unique feature is that it is one of just two in Westland National park to lie extremely close to the coastline - less that 300m above sea level. Fox glacier also ends within a temperate rainforest and again is an extremely popular tourist spot.
The difference between Franz Josef and Fox is that Fox Glacier is continuing to advance whilst Franz Josef retreats. The reason behind this is still unknown but scientists continue to monitor the area for clues. The advancements causes the ice cliffs to collapse on occasion which can be a marvelous experience from a distance but a danger up-close, for that reason it is important to avoid crossing safety barriers.
Again with Fox glacier being one of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions there is an abundance of fun things to due during your visit. There is sky-diving, ice climbing, hiking and more! The Fox Glaciers township is locate just 6 km from the glacier itself so commuting back in forth isn’t an issue either.
The Tasman Glacier is located within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the South Island. Measuring in at a lengthy 27 kilometers it is the longest in New Zealand and starts at an amazing 3000 metres above sea level! The Tasman Glacier terminates into a lake which is a rare occurrence in the world, the glacier is also in a state of retreat which means visitors can witness amazing spectacles of crumbling cliff faces, melting ice and floating ice burgs from a guided river trip below.
Unlike other inaccessible glaciers that terminate into lakes, the Tasman glacier can be explored up-close. With the only tour of it’s kind in New Zealand, board a boat trip and get the opportunity to witness towering ice-cliffs and huge floating icebergs. The boats provide a safe way to unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier.
Whether you are a New Zealander or visiting from abroad, book into some West Coast accommodation and take the time to marvel at some of these giant natural wonders of New Zealand.