The rapid descent and accessibility make the West Coast's glaciers unique.
A special combination of climate and shape means that Fox Glacier moves approximately 10 times quicker than other valley glaciers around the world, making its terminal face and ice features look quite different from one year to the next. At Fox Glacier this is due to the funnel-like shape of the glacial valley and the huge nevé (the snow accumulation area, at the top of the glacier). Fox Glacier’s nevé is 36 km², bigger than the whole of the city of Christchurch!
ClimateThe weather in the area is very variable and prone to change, so bring layers. Mornings are generally clear, though clouds start to gather in the afternoon, which may lead to cancelled tours, slippery walks and poor photography conditions. Winter is drier and there might be fresh snow on the glacier, but the roads will be icier.
Drive on State Highway 6. The drive from Franz Josef is about 30 minutes.
- From the south, travel from Queenstown approximately 4½ hours by car, Wanaka approximately 3 hr by car, Haast approximately 1½ hr by car.
- From the north, travel from Christchurch approximately 5½ hr by car, Greymouth approximately 2½ hr by car and Hokitika approximately 2 hr by car.
The following locations offer bus bookings through various bus companies.
Fox Glacier Guiding Buildingphone: +64 3 751-0825address: State Highway 6Atomic Shuttle and Intercity Coachlines bookings.
Fox Glacier Information Centrephone: +64 3 751-0044address: Sullivan Road
Lake MathesonTake the 1½-hr walk around the lake to see the beautiful reflection of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman on its dark waters. The lake was formed during the last Ice Age retreat by Fox Glacier 14,000 years ago. The track is well maintained, and there are board walks and specially made platforms for getting the right angle for your pictures. The best light is at dawn, and it's about 20 minutes to the first lookout (and 20 minutes back if you don't want to walk the whole way) and 40 minutes to a floating pontoon.
Peak View LookoutDrive down Cook Flat Rd for 10 km west of the township past the Lake Matheson turnoff until it becomes an unsealed road for the best view of the peaks of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. There's a picnic area and a plane table which can be used to identify the different peaks of the Southern Alps.
Gillespies BeachAn 11-km drive down a twisting unsealed road through a rimu rainforest leads to a camping area. From here, walk a bit more and you'll find yourself on a black sand/quartz pebble beach on the Tasman Sea. Near the beach entrance is the rusted and overgrown historic gold dredge, remnants of an old mining settlement. Several kilometres up the beach you can visit a seal colony on Galway Beach, which is a three-hour round-trip walk.
address: Fox Glacier Access RdIt's roughly a 1- to 2-hour round-trip trek to the glacier. The track can be cumbersome in places, requiring balance to scramble down slick rocks and across small streams, but still easy enough for inexperienced trampers. Unlike Franz Josef, the glacier will not be in sight for some parts of the walk, but you can get much closer to it. Do not proceed past the barriers at the terminal face of the glacier, as the area is extremely dangerous. Two tourists were killed by falling ice after they crossed the barriers in 2009. If you want to step onto the ice, take a guided walk. As of Apr 2019, the Fox Glacier access road (north road of Fox River) is closed due to landslide. Glacier View Road (south road of Fox River) is also closed to vehicles but you can walk on the road.
phone: +64 3 751-0825The most experienced New Zealand glacier guiding company, offering guided trips onto the glacier. There's the Fox Trot: half-day walk, Flying Fox: heli-hike, Nimble Fox: all-day walk, Fox Trail: Terminal Face walk, Fox It Up: ice-climbing adventure, Chancellor Dome day and overnight heli-treks. The heli-hikes have limited spaces, so booking beforehand could guarantee a spot.
Scenic flightsSeveral helicopter services operate out of Fox Glacier township and offer breathtaking flights over the glacier and the Southern Alps, weather permitting. It's a marvellous aerial view that demonstrates the vastness of the slow moving frozen river, with an option to make a snow landing on the nevé. An early morning flight could get you to the top of Fox Glacier, just as the sun rises over Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Fox & Franz Josef Heliservicesphone: +64 3 752-0793Flights last for 20-40 minutes, from a simple fly-around and glacier landings, to an extended flight for a closer look at Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and a loop towards Franz Josef Glacier.
Skydive Fox GlacierTake a tandem jump. This is probably the best place in New Zealand to skydive thanks to its amazing scenery.
TrampingWalks on pebble-covered beaches, around lakes and through a glacial valley – and that's without heading into Fox Glacier's backcountry and less-trodden trails. Check with the local DOC office on SH6 for maps and information.
Copland Track - Welcome Flat6 to 8-hr tramp one way to the Welcome Flat hot pools. Transport available with Intercity.
Chalet Lookout Walk1 hour 15 minute round-trip with a stream crossing to find a beautiful lookout point over the glacier.
Minnehaha WalkA 20-min round trip through the rainforest on the outskirts of town. Take a torch at night to see glow-worms in the tree trunks and along the banks of the stream.
address: Located along Glacier View RoadTramp over moraine surface into native bush for a 40-min round trip.
Mount Fox Track8-hr round trip on a steep marked route through to alpine grasslands that afford views of the mountains, glacier, and the coastline.
Swing Bridge WalkWalk down to the valley before crossing a historic swing bridge that spans Fox River. 40 min return.
phone: +64 3 751-0825address: 44 Main Rd, Fox GlacierIn the Fox Glacier Guiding Building on the Main Rd, offers a range of gifts and souvenirs.
phone: +64 3 751-0753address: Lake MathesonContemporary merchandise with a New Zealand flavour: jewellery, designer merino garments, greenstone & souvenirs, New Zealand artwork & photos. Overseas shipping available. Friendly, efficient service.
Eat and drink
Cafe Nevephone: +64 3 751-0110address: State Highway 6One of the cheaper eateries in Fox Glacier. Has pizzas as daily specials.
Cook Saddle Cafe and Saloonphone: +64 3 751-0700address: State Highway 6Decorated as a rustic cabin with old antiques and paraphernalia, and even a fireplace. Serves both lunch and dinner indoors or out. Family friendly and full of local history.
Fox Glacier Guiding Cafephone: +64 3 751-0005address: State Highway 6A convenient stop before early morning guided hikes. Serves breakfast and lunch daily. Offer a range of homemade deli style food.
The Last Kitchenphone: +64 3 751-0058address: Sullivan RoadA pricier option, but the food is pretty good. Quite busy for dinner.
Further away from the village:
phone: +64 3 751-0878address: Lake Matheson RoadCoffee, and during the busy season, breakfast; dinner is on blackboard menus and change to suit seasonal ingredients. Deli style sandwiches, cakes, pies, cookies and salads with all products made on site. Great views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.
phone: +64 3 751-0837Fresh and smoked salmon in a variety of dishes like sashimi and pasta. Not really value-for-money, but it's the only stop to eat for the two-hour journey between Fox Glacier and Haast. Check out the salmon ponds at the side.
phone: +64 3 751 0821address: Kerr Road14-room lodge, campsites, powered campervan sites, and bunkhouse cabins are available.
phone: +64 3 751-0838address: Sullivan RoadIn the winter, rooms are freezing cold; they do not have adequate heaters.
Fox Glacier Homestayphone: +64 3 751-08170.5 km from the village, this homestay offers three bedrooms and a continental breakfast.
Roaring Billy Lodgephone: +64 3 751-08152 minutes from the town centre, this homestay offers two bedrooms with shared bathroom and a special cooked breakfast. Your host Billy is a seasoned bushman and offers educational walks in the evenings.
Ropatinis B & Bphone: +64 3 751-07793 minutes drive from town's centre, this is a lovely homestay with inviting hosts. The gardens and views are beautiful. There is a choice of en suite units or rooms inside the main house (with and without en suite). Breakfast is provided, dinner by arrangement.
Distinction Fox Glacier Te Weheka Boutique Hotelphone: +64 3 751-0730address: State Highway 621 rooms with beautiful en suites and balconies. Guest lounge, internet, library, lift, undercover parking. Breakfasts included.
phone: +64 3 751-0888address: Sullivan Road8 en suite rooms. Some rooms with kitchens, double spa baths & gas fire places. B&B Lodge rooms include continental selection breakfast. Also Fox Glacier Campervan Park: 24 powered campervan sites. Showers, toilets, kitchen & coin operated laundry. Fresh drinking water & dump station. Free BBQ in sheltered BBQ area & picnic tables for guest use. 1-min stroll to all cafes/shops, etc.
phone: +64 3 751 0131address: 163 Cook Flat Road - Lake Matheson Road54 rooms with bathrooms.
Scenic Circle Glacier Country Hotelphone: +64 3 751 0847address: State Highway 651 rooms.
phone: +64 3 751-0022address: 39 Sullivan Road16 en suite rooms, 12 basic share rooms.
phone: +64 3 751-0830address: Corner Cook Flat Rd & Pekanga Drive
Lake Paringa Heritage Lodgephone: +64 3 751-0894Motel, backpackers and van sites near Lake Paringa.
Rainforest Motelphone: +64 3 751 0140address: Cook Flat Road - Lake Matheson Road
phone: +64 3 751-0062address: Cook Flat Road25 motel units opened in November 2003.
phone: +64 3 751-0084address: State Highway 6Queen and King motel units.
Fox Glacier Campervan ParkSee under "Inns and Lodges" above.
Nurse's Clinicphone: +64 3 751-0836There is a nurse's clinic on the north edge of town open daily. Doctor available on Thursdays only.
- North on State Highway 6 to nearby Franz Josef, which is the larger of the two West Coast glacier townships, with more accommodation, restaurants and bars as well as the brand new Glacier Hot Pools
- South to Haast