Must see

Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers

Directions

About

Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are among the most accessible glaciers in the world.

More information

Glacier Country is one of only two places in the world where you can view glaciers descending into temperate rainforest and the most accessible glaciers in the world.
Snow rarely falls in Franz Josef and Fox Glacier townships - but a whole lot of it falls in the nearby mountains, just what a glacier needs to produce ice.

While you can’t walk up and touch it with your hand by yourself, there are guides available to take you safely up and onto the glaciers.

Guiding on the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers

  • Take a guided tour with one of the many glacier guiding companies that operate in Glacier Country.
  • You can view the front of Franz Josef Glacier yourself with a valley walk.
  • Please do not go beyond the signposted barriers. The glaciers are a very dynamic area and rocks and ice are constantly falling off the terminal faces.

How glaciers are formed

The land where the glaciers are located is sandwiched between the sea and the highest mountains in New Zealand.

Warm, moist air travelling from Australia drops snow in the higher elevations of the Southern Alps, piling it up to form large neves or snowfields.

Gravity then squeezes it down the valley as if it were toothpaste and the once fluffy snowflakes are compressed into hard blue ice.

The valleys are so steep and narrow that the tongues of ice have pushed far down into rainforest and not much above sea level.

The forces generated by the moving tongue of ice grinds away at everything in its path to reach the terminal face at the front of the glacier.

A glacier likes to find equilibrium, where the amount of ice produced in the neve is equal to the amount of ice lost to melting in its tongue. This results in the dramatic advances and retreats of the terminal face of the two glaciers.

History of Fox and Franz Josef Glacier

The Māori name for the Franz Josef Glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere (‘The tears of Hinehukatere‘).

The legend of the Makawhio people (a sub tribe of the Nga Tahu) says that Hinehukatere was a fearless young woman who loved climbing in the mountains.

She persuaded her lover, Wawe to climb with her even though he was less experienced. Disaster struck when an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death.

The Fox Glacier was his final resting place, or moeka. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears flowed down the mountain.

The gods froze these tears in a river of ice and the Franz Josef glacier was formed as a reminder of her grief.

The choice of the glacier's European name is a little less romantic. In 1865 Julius Von Haast decided to name the Franz Josef glacier after “His Imperial Majesty” Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and the local village later took its name from the glacier.

He also named the Fox Glacier in honour of Sir William Fox, the New Zealand Premier.

This was only a couple of a number of landmarks that Mr Haast did not actually ‘discover’ as a European explorer, yet, he took the liberty of naming.

Directions

Franz Josef Highway, SH 6, South Westland, West Coast, NZ
Get directions

Related Listings

Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
Accommodation
bella vista motels fox g Bella Vista Motel Fox Glacier

Superior affordable accommodation in the heart of Fox Glacier Village.

$108 - $210
Learn more
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
See & Do
Across Country Quad Bikes.jpg Across Country Quad Bikes

The only quad bike ride in New Zealand with glacial views and the thrill of riding through West Coast dense rainforest, riverbeds and glorious mud.

Learn more
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
See & Do
West Coast Wildlife Centre.JPG West Coast Wildlife Centre Cafe

West Coast Wildlife Centre is the home of the official breeding programme for the world's rarest kiwi called the Rowi and now the Haast Kiwi!

Learn more
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
Eat & Drink
King Tiger Eastern Eating House & Bar King Tiger Eastern Eating House & Bar

King Tiger is located in the heart of Franz Josef township, offering dishes from South East Asia.

Learn more
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
Accommodation
Heartland Fox.jpg Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier

The historic Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier is situated in Westland World Heritage Park at the foot of the Southern Alps.

$120 - $319
Learn more
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier
See & Do
Waiho Hot Tubs Franz Josef-54.jpg Waiho Hot Tubs

Hidden in one of the most beautiful locations in the world the Waiho Hot Tubs in Franz Josef Glacier is the perfect way to unwind. Enjoy the nature while indulging in your own private wood fired hot tub.

Learn more