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Fox Glacier village is in "Glacier Country" on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Tucked discreetly into the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, it has a stunning outlook across surrounding farms and offers breathtaking views of New Zealand’s two highest peaks, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The tiny township was founded from a gold strike which soon petered out, and it now mostly serves as a base for visitors to its large icy namesake. There's a quiet, intimate village atmosphere compared to the other glacier town, Franz Josef. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Fox Glacier
Sunrise at Lake Matheson, sunset at Gillespies Beach and glacier viewing in between makes for a pretty great day.
- Lake Matheson (Located five minutes' drive from Fox township). Take the 1.5 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 Lookout. Drive 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 Beach (Cook Flat Rd, then Gillespies Beach Rd). An 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.
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About Fox Glacier
The 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.
A walk to see Fox Glacier is a rather ethereal experience, as it passes through a valley carved by the moving ice. There are several signposts that signal when and where the terminal face of the glacier used to be.
- Unguided walk, Fox Glacier Access Rd (8km from the town centre to the glacier car park, turn left before Fox River bridge). It's roughly a 1-2h 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. In order to step onto the ice take a guided walk. Free.
- Fox Glacier Guiding, ☎ +64 3 751-0825, toll-free: 0800 111 600. The most experienced New Zealand glacier guiding company, offering guided trips onto the longest and least crowded West Coast glacier. There's the Fox Trot: Half Day Walk, Flying Fox: Helihike, 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. $50-700.
Several helicopter services operate out of Fox Glacier township and offer breathtaking flights over the glacier and the Southern Alps, weather permitting. It's a marvelous aerial view that demonstrates the enormity of the slow moving frozen river, with an option to make a snow landing on the neve. 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 Heliservices (Fox Glacier Guiding Building), ☎ +64 3 752-0793, toll-free: 0800 800 793. Flights 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. $195-$375.
- Skydive Fox Glacier, toll-free: 0800 751 0080. Take a tandem jump. This is probably the best place in New Zealand to skydive thanks to its amazing scenery. $225-500 depending on height and options.
Walks on pebble-covered beaches, around lakes and through a glacial valley — and that's without heading into Fox Glacier's backcountry and less well-trodden trails. Check with the local DOC office on SH6 for maps and information.
- Copland Track - Welcome Flat. 6-8 hr tramp one way to the Welcome Flat hot pools. Transport available with Intercity and Atomic Shuttles.
- Chalet Lookout Walk (Track starts at the car park at the end of Glacier View Road). 1 hour 15 minute round trip with a stream crossing to find a beautiful lookout point over the glacier.
- Minnehaha Walk (50 m south of Fox Glacier Village on SH 6). A 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.
- Moraine Walk, Located along Glacier View Road. Tramp over moraine surface into native bush for a 40 min round trip.
- Mount Fox Track (Start from the parking area on State Highway 6 just south of town). 8 hr round trip on a steep marked route through to alpine grasslands that afford views of the mountains, glacier, and the coastline.
- Swing Bridge Walk (River Walk) (Track starts at the car park at the end of Glacier View Road and ends at a picnic spot half way up the Glacier Access road). Walk down to the valley before crossing a historic swing bridge that spans Fox River. 40 min return.
At any of the above restaurants, cafes and bars.
The general store is on State Highway 6 between Cafe Neve and the Glacier Country Hotel, and there is a fuel station on the same main road.
- The Hobnail Shop, ☎ +64 3 751-0825. In the Fox Glacier Guiding Building on the Main Rd, offers a range of gifts and souvenirs.
- ReflectioNZ Gifts and Gallery, Lake Matheson (5 min drive from Fox Glacier), ☎ +64 3 751-0753. Daily from 08.30. Showcases carefully selected, contemporary merchandise with a New Zealand flavour eg: jewellery, designer merino garments, greenstone & souvenirs, New Zealand artwork & photos. Overseas shipping available. Friendly, efficient service.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Fox Glacier on Wikivoyage.