The Must-Dos in Fox Glacier: The Heart of Glacier Country
When hitting the West Coast of New Zealand, Fox Glacier is unmissable – not just because it’s an awesome place but it’s literally on the main road through the West Coast. Along with Franz Josef Glacier, the town of Fox Glacier or “Fox” is home to one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. The glacier has left a number of stunning land formations in its wake, from mirror lakes to a dramatic glacier valley. Many of these formations make up this list of the best things to do Fox Glacier.
While you’re here, find a place to stay in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Fox Glacier & Haast and more attractions nearby in 5 Franz Josef Glacier Must-Dos.
1. Heli-Hike on Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is one of the world’s fastest-moving glaciers meaning that heli-hike tours are always changing and exciting! Thanks to its tunnel-like valley, ice caves are frequent with plenty more fascinating features to check out, whether its waterfalls, crevasses, stream and more. The Fox Glacier also sees a lot let “traffic” than its neighbour, the Franz Josef Glacier, so you might want to take that into consideration when planning your glacier adventures. Needless to say, we recommend taking the opportunity to get on the glacier for the awesome valley views from the helicopter and to explore this surreal force of nature with Fox Glacier Guiding. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more attractions around the country like this in our 10 Things to See in New Zealand Before They Disappear.
Location: Fox Glacier Guiding Base, 44 Main Road, Fox Glacier township.
2. Admire the Views at Lake Matheson
For that postcard-perfect picture of New Zealand, head to Lake Matheson. A 1h30min loop walk takes you all the way around the lake or it’s just a 45-minute return to a jetty viewpoint and back. Lake Matheson is New Zealand’s most famous “mirror lake” with vivid reflections in its dark waters. On a clear day, you’ll see reflections of all the highest peaks in New Zealand, including Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. Guided walks of Lake Matheson are also available with Glacier Valley Eco Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor. For more awesome lakes check out the 21 Mind-Blowing Lakes in New Zealand.
Location: From the Fox Glacier township, take the Cook Flat Road for 5km (3 miles) where Lake Matheson is signposted on the right with a huge car park.
3. Watch the Sunset on Gillespies Beach
Gillespies Beach offers a number of walks with views of the Southern Alps behind and the Tasman Sea in front, as well as mining tunnels and even a tramping track to the next beach over with a seal colony. However, to keep things simple, ending your day at Gillespies Beach watching the sun go down is something not to be missed while in Fox Glacier!
Location: Gillespies Beach is 21km (13 miles) from Fox Glacier township. Head west along Cook Flat Road for 8km (5 miles). Turn off to Gillespies Beach Road and follow for 11km (7 miles) to the end.
4. Do the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway/Cycleway
Whether you are doing a glacier heli-hike, scenic flight, skydive, or whatever, we first and foremost recommend the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway. Here you’ll cross ancient glacial moraine surfaces with the ever-changing forest reflecting the rate at which it has colonised the moraines. The 2-hour return walk features two viewpoints of Fox Glacier. An alternative to doing the hike yourself; learn more about the area on a guided hike with Glacier Valley Eco Tour. Find out more about the guided hike on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: From the Fox Glacier town, take State Highway 6 south for 2km (1.2 miles) crossing the Fox River Bridge. There, you’ll find a car park on the left side of the road (when facing south).
5. Take a Helicopter Flight Over Fox Glacier
Get closer to Fox Glacier and the alpine environment of the Southern Alps with a scenic flight from Fox Glacier town. Flights with The Helicopter Line West Coast (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Glacier Helicopters (on Viator and Tripadvisor) allow you to see both the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier along with a snow landing above the ice falls. Flights last approximately 30 minutes.
Location: Both operators can be found on Main Road, Fox Glacier township.
6. Hike to a Natural Hot Pool in the Mountains
For those feeling active and adventurous, an awesome overnight hike awaits in the mountains surrounding Fox Glacier. Hike through bush and sub-alpine environments on a 6-8 hour one-way hike on the Copland Track. Your reward at the end is Welcome Flat, home to a Department of Conservation hut to stay overnight and a natural hot pool. Ease your muscles in the hot water and enjoy the mountain scenery of this stunning hidden gem.
Location: Well signposted off State Highway 6, 26km (16 miles) south of Fox Glacier town.
7. Discover the Wild West Coast Rainforest
There’s plenty more to discover on your own two feet in the Fox Glacier area. Check out the forest that has grown from the debris of the Fox Glacier on the Moraine Walk (40 minutes return) and see glowworms after dark along the Minnehaha Walk (20-minute loop). While there used to be many more walks to access along the Glacier Access Road in the Fox Glacier Valley, the road is closed for the foreseeable future. Check out our 9 Best Walks in Fox Glacier for updates and more details about each of the walks discussed.
Location: All around Fox Glacier town – see specific locations in the link above.
[CLOSED] Skydive Over the Fox Glacier
Skydiving over Fox Glacier is a double-whammy of epicness. First, you have one of the most scenic flights you can have in New Zealand (and the world, but we might be biased) as you fly over the Southern Alps, see Mt Cook and Fox Glacier. Then you get the adrenaline experience of freefalling at 200km/h from up to 16,500ft! If you’re considering doing a skydive in New Zealand then Skydive Fox Glacier is a strong contender. Compare the skydives at 12 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.
Location: 1 Cook Flat Road, Fox Glacier township.