The Best Ways to See New Zealand’s Glaciers

15 Aug 2017

New Zealand features on most travel bucket lists, and it’s not hard to see why; with its deserted beaches, winding coastal paths and undulating mountains, it’s a true outdoor wonderland. But there’s one thing that really sets this country apart, and that’s its epic glaciers. These spectacular frozen formations make for some of the best scenery in the world, and we guarantee the sight of ancient rivers of ice flowing past emerald-green rainforests is one you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry. But what’s the best way to see these glaciers up close? We’ve picked out some of our favourites…

Helicopter

Does it get much better than soaring over the fluffy white snow and jagged ice-capped peaks of Franz Josef glacier on a thrilling helicopter tour? My favourite way to experience the glaciers; incredible close-up views of the towering Southern Alps and Mount Cook, the ice flow winding through the caves beneath. You can even choose a tour where you’ll land on a remote part of the Fox glacier, so you can get out and explore the incredible ice caves.

Hike

Prefer getting around under your own steam? Good news! You can stroll to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, along the rocky riverbed of the mighty Waiho River. This hike will take you through native rainforest and along winding trails, surrounded by the incredible alpine landscape. For the best views of Fox Glacier, hike to Lake Matheson – the most photographed lake in New Zealand. From here, you can enjoy unparalleled mirror views of the glacier.

Skydive

Voted the most scenic skydive in the world, this is heaven for thrillseekers. Board a plane and soar over the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, past rainforests, rivers, lakes and New Zealand’s highest mountains: Mount Tasman and Aoraki. Make sure you’re ready for the moment you fly over the glaciers and snow fields in the Southern Alps; the bird's-eye views here are something else. After soaking up all that scenery, prepare for the exhilarating part; launch yourself out of the plane and enjoy a freefall experience you will never forget.

Kayak

Looking for a more relaxed way to take in the unique landscapes? In the summer months you can hop aboard a kayak and paddle past the dramatic mountains and rugged coastline. Lake Mapourika is my favourite place to experience this; leave the crowds behind and get up close to untouched rainforest, as the hills and glaciers are reflected in the mirror-like water.

Ski

If you’re visiting between July to September, you’re in luck – this is when the Tasman Glacier becomes a ski run. And you don’t have to be an expert to take to the slopes; there are plenty of guides who will happily lead you down the mountains, past epic glaciers and through spectacular ice caves. The towering skyscraper-sized ice-blocks are not to be missed.

Swim

We challenge you to think of a more relaxing way to enjoy the landscape than with a soak in the Franz Josef Glacier hot pools. Nestled among native rainforest, these soothing lagoons are the perfect place to chill out. You can even arrange a private pool for two, so you can lap up those jaw-dropping views in absolute privacy.


Discover New Zealand's majestic ice sheets on our Glacier & Sounds of Silence itinerary – chat to a Travel Expert about tailor making your experience today.


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Tessa Watkins

Formerly a local news editor and reporter covering court cases and crime stories, I’m obsessed with all things travel. Often found exploring a new city and seeking out the world’s best beaches, there are a plethora of destinations I remain desperate to discover. Tweet me @tess1977