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Glacier Country | The best things to see and do 👀 👍

Embrace the 'last chance tourism' movement when you take the opportunity to witness a mighty river of ice that spectacularly winds its way down to temperate rainforest for yourself. Then reach for your camera dozens more times as you adventure through spectacular beaches, dunes, lakes and wetlands, all with a soaring backdrop of the Southern Alps. To give you a taste of what to expect from your visit to New Zealand's Glacier Country, here's an overview of great itinerary ideas I've collated for you.


New Zealand's Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are among the most accessible glaciers in the world. Further south a visit to Haast reveals lost world that's so spectacular and remote UNESCO designated it a World Heritage area.

Highlights can include:

  • a stunning 50 minute scenic flight with Air Safaris over the vast snowfields and dramatic icefalls of the Fox & Franz Josef on a trip called the Grand Traverse 🛩️🏔️

  • renowned for great vistas of beaches and forest Bruce Bay or Mahitahi is a photogenic spot to break up a drive on your journey through this region 📸

  • From Swamp Forest to windswept sand dunes Ship Creek Lookout will give you give a real taste of the wild West Coast 📸

  • picturesque Lake Mapourika often offers mirror lake reflections - perfect for a kayak experience or boat cruise 📸🛶🛥️

  • get wild and remote with the Waiatoto River Safari on an incredible jet boat cruise where you experience both the alps and the ocean in one journey 🛥️

  • take a quiet drive through rainforest to stunning Gillespies Beach, a wild stretch of coastline strewn with river-borne rocks 🌊

  • Franz Josef Glacier is the steepest glacier in New Zealand, and moves faster than others creating some truly incredible features such as ice caves, tunnels and crevasses - take the opportunity to heli-hike or heli-ice-climb ❄️⛏️🚁

  • immerse yourself in nature at the Glacier Hot Pools - nestled in lush rainforest the pools are the perfect way to unwind and experience a blissful state of pure relaxation ♨️

  • the splendid isolation of Jackson Bay offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Southern Alps and boasts more resident seals and penguins than people 🌊

  • appreciate the vast scale and grandeur of both glaciers on a Scenic Heliflight where you can easily encounter both glaciers along with jaw-dropping scenery 🚁

  • combine awesome scenery with adventure through rain forest tracks, river and grassland areas complete with a glacial backdrop with Across Country Quad Bikes

  • allow plenty of time to journey over Haast Pass taking time to see towering Thunder Creek Falls, pretty Fantail Falls and through the humbling Gates of Haast 📸

  • heli-hiking and heli-ice-climb opportunities are on offer at Fox Glacier, the longest glacier on the West Coast that caters to a wider range of fitness abilities because of its more gradual gradient ❄️⛏️🚁

  • enjoy magnificent photo opportunities along the Monro Beach Track an easy walk through coastal forest where you may be lucky enough to encounter penguins in the surf and on the beach 🌊

  • satisfy your curiosity about earthquakes when you discover significant the Gaunt Creek exposure site on an Alpine Fault Tour - where geology meets ecology ⛰️

  • bound by ocean, estuary, sea cliffs, lush forest and unsurpassed views of the Southern Alps, Okarito Lagoon is the perfect setting for a kayak experience or boat cruise 🛶🛥️

  • a gentle walk leads to views of the mountains reflected on the still waters of Lake Matheson, a favourite for photographers and instagrammers especially on a sunny day 📸👟

  • follow an old 4WD road then tracks that climb to old water tunnels on the Tatare Tunnels Walk - remember a torch and a raincoat to get the most out of exploring the tunnels 👟🔦

  • if you’re going to skydive only once, fall up to 16,500 feet above the amazing subtropical rainforests, rivers, lakes, the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s highest mountains, and the glaciers here with Skydive Fox 🛩️

  • view the magnificent Kotuku and other bird life all in their natural environment from October through February with White Heron Sanctuary Tours 🐦

GLACIER COUNTRY AT A GLANCE 🛏️ minimum 2 night stay recommended 📅 visit any time of year

📍 5.5 out of 10 visitors include Glacier Country in their New Zealand itinerary

🌦️there is a chance of rain 4.5 days each week on average each year 🍽️Food + Wine experiences in this region were almost always mentioned as a highlight 🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQI+ friendly 👍

This part of New Zealand is home to:

Largest town:  Franz Josef Village

Popular places:   Fox Glacier, Haast, Okarito, Whataroa, Lake Matheson, Gillespies Beach, Bruce Bay, Jacksons Bay, Lake Moeraki, Paringa and more...

Accessible by:

🚗 self-drive on a road trip

✈️ board a plane to land at the region's closest airport Hokitika Airport (HKK)

🚌 take a bus from the Heart of the West Coast, Lake Wanaka or Central Otago

Be adventurous. Be spontaneous. Embrace the unknown.

Let us plan your getaway. The catch?

Your destination is a surprise.

Book A Surprise Kiwi Adventure today and you might just end up in Glacier Country - it's Time 2 Go!


Explore Aotearoa New Zealand

Great Kiwi Trips provide the best of each region in bite-sized travel packages

Combine several trips together to create the ultimate experience!

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