What to Do in Fox Glacier: the Heart of Glacier Country
An intimate village with an epic landscape, Fox Glacier town or “Fox” offers a range of experiences to discover an ever-changing glacier and the breathtaking environment left in its wake. Stroll around reflective lakes, fly over the gargantuan Fox Glacier and New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook, and even land on the glacier in a heli-hiking experience. Get inspired with this list of things to do in Fox Glacier on the West Coast.
1. See the Stunning Reflections on Lake Matheson
One of the most picture-perfect spots on the South Island is found just a short drive, or walk, from Fox Glacier town. Lake Matheson was formed by the retreat of the Fox Glacier some 14,000 years ago. The lake is surrounded by mature rainforest depositing tannins into the lake to give it its dark colour, which creates vivid reflections. Do the Lake Matheson walk (1h30min loop) where a jetty 20minutesinto the walk offers stunning reflections of Aoraki Mt Cook and the Southern Alps. The best time to see these reflections is at dawn where there is less likely to be cloud cover over the mountains. At the entrance to the walk is also a cafe, gift shop and art gallery.
Location: Cook Flat Road, 5km west of Fox Glacier town.
2. 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 and Glacier Helicopters 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: Fox Glacier town.
3. Watch the Sunset at Gillespies Beach
Capture a vibrant West Coast sunset from the coast of Fox Glacier at Gillespies Beach. Not only does this area have a campsite, but it also offers a myriad of walking trails to historic sites with spectacular views of the Southern Alps. Check out the Miners Cemetery Walk (5 minutes return), see gold mining relics on the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (30 minutes return), or soak up the scenery on the longer Galway Beach Track (3h30mins return). [UPDATE: the Galway Beach Track is currently closed due to storm damage].
Location: Gillespies Beach Road, 21km west of Fox Glacier town.
4. 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 south of Fox Glacier town.
5. Heli Hike on the Fox Glacier
Discover the grandeur of the awesome Fox Glacier by stepping onto the glacier itself in a heli-hike. Join Fox Glacier Guiding for an adventure of hiking on top of the glacier, climbing through ice caves and learning all about this ice giant. The tour also includes a 10-minute scenic flight onto the glacier. It’s definitely one of the Fox Glacier must-dos!
Location: Fox Glacier Guiding Base, Fox Glacier town.
6. 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), see glowworms after dark along the Minnehaha Walk (20-minute loop), and explore the Fox Glacier Valley on the River Walk Lookout (20 minutes return). 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.