lauren viewing fox glacier on the west coast of the south island new zealand - best glaciers to visit new zealand
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10 Epic Glaciers To Visit In New Zealand

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In this blog post, we take a look at the 10 best glaciers to visit in New Zealand that are deserving of a spot on any explorer’s bucket list.

New Zealand is a country renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes and having the opportunity to visit glaciers is one way to experience New Zealand’s stunning natural beauty. New Zealand is an amazing country to see glaciers as many are very accessible for visitors. In New Zealand, you have the opportunity to see glaciers with little effort! Many glaciers can be seen for free with a short walk through the South Island’s dramatic and beautiful scenery. For the more adventurous, a quick helicopter ride will take you right above the glacier and in some cases you can land on it and take a hike.

Glaciers offer a glimpse into a world frozen in time and captivate the hearts of adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. New Zealand’s glaciers have attracted visitors for generations with their dramatic ice formations and ethereal blue hues.

The majority of New Zealand’s glaciers are nestled within the mountains of the South Island, and the glaciers found there are the most accessible for visitors. We will take a look at the famous Franz Josef Glacier and its neighbour the iconic Fox Glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Across the Southern Alps are the remarkable Hooker Glacier, Tasman Glacier and Mueller Glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Among the grandeur of Mount Aspiring National Park are five further glaciers that will compete for your attention – Bryant Glacier, Dart Glacier, Rob Roy Glacier, Mount Earnslaw Glacier and Brewster Glacier.

If you’re interested in a particular glacier or section, then use the table of contents below to jump ahead.

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New Zealand Travel Inspiration 💖 🇳🇿:

Check out my New Zealand Travel Guide for awesome tips and ideas for your trip!

10 Best Glaciers To Visit In New Zealand

In this post, we will look at the 10 best glaciers to visit in New Zealand. These glaciers are:

  1. Hooker Glacier (Aoraki Mount Cook National Park)
  2. Tasman Glacier (Aoraki Mount Cook National Park)
  3. Mueller Glacier (Aoraki Mount Cook National Park)
  4. Fox Glacier (Westland Tai Poutini National Park)
  5. Franz Josef Glacier (Westland Tai Poutini National Park)
  6. Bryant Glacier (Mount Aspiring National Park)
  7. Mount Earnslaw Glacier (Mount Aspiring National Park)
  8. Rob Roy Glacier (Mount Aspiring National Park)
  9. Dart Glacier (Mount Aspiring National Park)
  10. Brewster Glacier (Mount Aspiring National Park)

I have split the 10 glaciers into two groups of 5:

  • The first 5 glaciers are the most accessible in New Zealand and are easy to visit for most people.
  • The last 5 glaciers can be visited but they do require more effort, for example, a full-day hike or an overnight trek.

All of these glaciers are located in the South Island of New Zealand in three different national parks.

We will look at each of these glaciers in turn. You will find out how to visit and see these glaciers for yourself if you are exploring New Zealand.

The glaciers can be viewed and explored in different ways, from viewpoints, hiking and helicopter rides. I share the best options for visiting each glacier.

Can You Walk On The Glaciers In New Zealand?

Very few of the glaciers in New Zealand can be accessed on foot or ‘walked on’. The idea that the glaciers can be hiked to and explored on foot is a popular misconception by many visitors to New Zealand.

The two most visited glaciers in New Zealand, the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, can be ‘walked on’ but only after travelling to them by helicopter first.

If you do want to hike to a glacier in New Zealand and then explore it on foot, there are a few options. These glaciers are located in Mount Aspiring National Park and require a bit more effort to reach.

Most glaciers must be admired from a distance. Thankfully, there are fantastic lookouts and locations to see glaciers very easily in New Zealand. All will be explained in this post so keep reading!

How Is Climate Change Impacting New Zealand’s Glaciers & Tourism?

All of New Zealand’s glaciers are experiencing retreats due to the impact of climate change. When visiting the glaciers, you will be able to see first-hand the direct impact of climate change, and I can assure you it is quite a shock to see. It shows the urgent need to protect and preserve these natural wonders.

Steps have been taken by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation to help attempt to conserve the glaciers, highlighting the importance of sustainable tourism and environmental stewardship. However, more work needs to be done. It is worth keeping in mind the values of ‘Tiaki’ when you are travelling in New Zealand, to care for nature and people.

Being able to see New Zealand’s glaciers is a real privilege and pleasure. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where you can see glaciers so close to the sea level. In many years, if the glaciers keep retreating at the pace they are, there may no longer be any glaciers to discover in New Zealand. That is a very devastating idea, but one that is very feasible within our lifetime.

Glaciers 1-5: Top 5 Easy & Most Accessible Glaciers To Visit In New Zealand

My recommendations for the top 5 glaciers to visit in New Zealand are:

  1. Hooker Glacier
  2. Tasman Glacier
  3. Mueller Glacier
  4. Fox Glacier
  5. Franz Josef Glacier

These five glaciers are the most easily accessible in New Zealand which makes them the most popular to visit. Three of these glaciers are located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and two are located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

Keep reading to learn more in-depth about how to visit and see these top 5 glaciers in New Zealand. I have visited all of these locations so the information comes from my own experience as well as research.

Glaciers To Visit In Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is one of my favourite places to visit on the South Island! It is such a beautiful location with stunning views of the mountains and lakes.

The drive to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is one of the most amazing drives in the whole of New Zealand! You will drive alongside the vibrant blue waters of Lake Pukaki with views of Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps in front of you.

It is well worth making a road trip to this part of New Zealand!

lauren on the road to aoraki mount cook new zealand national park
Lauren on the road to Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

New Zealand’s Longest Glaciers & Highest Mountains

The national park is the home of New Zealand’s highest mountains, reaching up to Mount Cook at 3,724 metres. All of New Zealand’s mountains above 3000 metres are in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park apart from Mount Aspiring (located in Mount Aspiring National Park which we will come to later).

Nestled between the mountains are many glaciers of varying sizes. In Aoraki Mount Cook National Park there are 72 named glaciers and 8 of these are some of the largest glaciers in the country. Approximately 40% of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park (National-Parks.org) is accounted for by glaciers. The biggest glacier is the Tasman Glacier which is the largest in New Zealand at 23 km long.

Along with the Tasman Glacier, the Hooker Glacier and Mueller Glacier are three of the most visited glaciers in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. All of these glaciers have a terminus point at a lake with the same name and can be viewed via a walking track.

Murchison Glacier also has a lake terminus but it is not as easily visited as the other three. Murchison Glacier can be accessed on a multi-day guided expedition. If this is something you are interested in, you can get some helpful information on these websites: ClimbNZ, Queenstown Mountain Guides, and Alpine Recreation. As it is not as easily accessible as the other three, I have not included it as one of the glaciers in this list. However, it is definitely still worth a mention!

1. Hooker Glacier

The Hooker Glacier is the most well-known glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. It is very accessible because it can be seen clearly at the end of the Hooker Valley Track.

lauren on the hooker valley track boardwalk in aoraki mount cook national park
Lauren on the Hooker Valley Track looking towards Mount Cook – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

How To See Hooker Glacier On The Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is an absolute must-do in New Zealand. The stunning walk is easy and takes just 3 hours out and back.

The walk starts just at the White Horse Hill Campsite car park, a short drive from Mount Cook village. The track ascends and descends gently through the Hooker Valley to Hooker Lake which is the terminus of the Hooker Glacier. There are three suspension bridges to cross over the Hooker River along the track.

In the spring you can see beautiful the Mount Cook Buttercup flower (endemic to this part of the world) in the alpine environment in the valley. Views of Mount Cook also provide excellent photo opportunities on the walk. You can also see avalanches often in the surrounding mountains, in summer and in winter.

Once you reach the lake, you can often see icebergs floating in the water in the summer and the glacier can be seen with Mount Cook in the background.

I have done the Hooker Valley Track multiple times in different seasons (winter, spring and summer). It is excellent at any time of the year and the changing seasons provide different views of the landscape. It is one of my favourite short walks in New Zealand!

hooker glacier aoraki mount cook national park - best glaciers to visit in new zealand
Hooker Glacier & Mount Cook – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Hooker Valley Track Maps

See below for the Google map of the location of the Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park.

See below for the NZ Topo Map of the Hooker Valley Track.


View Larger Topographic Map

Hooker Lake & Glacier Retreat

hooker lake with icebergs and hooker glacier and mount cook in the background
Hooker Lake with icebergs and Hooker Glacier and Mount Cook in the background – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Before the 1970s, Hooker Lake did not exist. It is forming because the glacier is retreating rapidly. It is expected that the lake will continue to grow as the glacier continues to melt. Currently, the glacier is 11 km long. The length of the lake doubled between 1990 and 2013, from 1.2km to 2.3km long.

2. Tasman Glacier

lauren at tasman lake in the summer with views of tasman glacier in the background
Lauren at Tasman Lake in the summer, with Tasman Glacier in the background – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Tasman Glacier is the largest glacier in New Zealand. It is 23 km in length and has a terminus at Tasman Lake.

Tasman Lake & Glacier Retreat

Like other glaciers in New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier is retreating. The scale of the retreat is rapid and shocking! The glacier was 28 km long before the 1990s. Since then the glacier has melted a significant amount. Since the 1990s it has been retreating at a rate of about 180m a year. As mentioned above, the glacier is now around 23 km in length.

In 1973, Tasman Lake did not exist. By 2008, the lake was 7 km long. Unfortunately, the Tasman Lake will continue to retreat and it is possible that Tasman Glacier will disappear and no longer exist in 10 to 19 years.

You can see some images of how the Tasman Glacier used to look and how it looks now on the NASA Earth Observatory website.

How To See Tasman Glacier On The Tasman Glacier View Walk

The most accessible way to see the Tasman Glacier and Lake is to take a short walk to the viewpoint. The walk starts at a small car park about 7km from Mount Cook village. The walk climbs steps up to a viewpoint of the Tasman Lake and Glacier in the distance. There are information signs here about the glacier’s retreat. It takes about 40 minutes out and back.

tasman glacier mount cook national park - best glaciers  to visit in new zealand
Tasman Glacier – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Tasman Glacier Lake Walk

There is another walk that goes to the lake’s edge. This walk branches off the viewpoint walk (described above). It is mostly flat and heads to a jetty at the shore of the lake. You can see icebergs in the lake in the summer. It takes 1-hour out and back to do the Tasman Glacier Lake walk.

Tasman Glacier Lake Walks Maps

See below for the Google Map of the location of Tasman Lake and walks.

See below for the NZ Topo Map showing the Tasman Lake Tracks.


View Larger Topographic Map

3. Mueller Glacier

lauren in mt cook national park new zealand
Lauren in Mount Cook National Park – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Another long glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is the Mueller Glacier. It is 13 km long. Like many other geographical features in Australia and New Zealand, the glacier was named after the German-Australian botanist and explorer Baron von Mueller.

The Mueller Glacier is the closest glacier visible from Mount Cook Village. It’s possible to see the Mueller Glacier and lake in a variety of ways.

How To See Mueller Glacier From The Kea Point Track

The Kea Point track is an easy short walk that will lead you to the Mueller Glacier moraine wall. The walk ends at a viewing deck that will give you wonderful views of Mueller Glacier Lake. You will also be able to see waterfalls on this track coming from the Mueller Glacier. Stay at the viewpoint for a while and you will likely see avalanches on the mountainside.

From the White Horse Hill Campsite, it will take you around 1-hour return to do the Kea Point Track. From the village, the walk is around double the time at 2 hours return.

You will not be able to see the glacier completely on this walk but just the head of it as it leads into the lake.

Kea Point Track Maps

See the Google Map below showing the location of the Kea Point Track in Mount Cook National Park.

See below for the NZ Topo Map showing the Kea Point Track.


View Larger Topographic Map

How To See the Mueller Glacier On The Mueller Hut Route

If you want a closer look at the Mueller Glacier then you could try the challenging Mueller Hut Route. This 5.2 km one-way hike will take you around 4 hours one way.

The track leads to the Mueller Hut located at 1800 m on the Sealy Range. With the accessibility of the hut and the location, the Mueller Route is a popular one-night overnight hike for many walkers. Despite its popularity, the walk is pretty challenging, however, so should be considered wisely before embarking upon it!

The track zigzags steeply up hundreds of steps, straight up the mountainside. But if you do it you will be rewarded with amazing views of the Hooker Valley and the peaks in the national park, including Aoraki Mount Cook.

The Sealy Tarns (small mountain lakes) are another highlight of the route. Once you get to the ridgeline above the tarns, you will be able to enjoy a spectacular view of the Mueller Glacier sweeping down the valley as well as smaller hanging glaciers and the Mount Sefton ice shelf.

From the Mueller Hut, you can also take a side trip to Mount Ollivier. This is the first mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary climbed and began his climbing career which led him to make the first ascent of Everest!

Visit the DOC website for information on the Mueller Hut Route.

Mueller Hut Route Maps

See the Google Map below showing the location of the Mueller Hut in Mount Cook National Park.

See the NZ Topo Map below for the location of the Mueller Hut and tracks.


View Larger Topographic Map

Glaciers To Visit In Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

Lauren in Okarito on the West Coast view a panoramic view of the Southern Alps
Lauren in Okarito on the West Coast with a panoramic view of the Southern Alps – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located on the stunning and wild west coast of the South Island. The national park was established in 1960. The park incorporates the glaciers of the mountains on the West Coast, the most famous being the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier.

New Zealand’s wonderful temperate rainforest surrounds the glaciers here! The West Coast gets a lot of rainfall throughout the year and creates the perfect conditions for the environment.

In the park is also the coastal wetlands around Okarito Lagoon, the largest in New Zealand.

The famous Lake Matheson offers an opportunity to see the mountains of the Southern Alps, including Mount Tasman and Mount Cook, reflected in its water. I’ve written a complete guide to Lake Matheson which you can read here.

Glacier Country

This whole area of the South Island is known as ‘Glacier Country’ and incorporates a small section of the West Coast between Fox Glacier in the south and Okarito in the north. All of the best attractions in Glacier Country are within a short driving distance of each other and very easy to access. The villages of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, for example, are around a 30-minute drive from each other.

It’s well worth spending a few days exploring what ‘Glacier Country’ has to offer as there are many awesome things to do. There are plenty of accommodation options available in Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. For recommendations of where to stay in Fox Glacier, check out my guide to Fox Glacier here.

Related read: 10 Free & Cheap Things To See & Do In Fox Glacier

West Coast Glaciers Retreat

franz josef glacier retreat from 1908 to 2022 west coast new zealand
Franz Josef Glacier in 2022 (left). In 1908, the glacier ended at the sign on the right. – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

As with many glaciers in New Zealand and around the world, the glaciers on the West Coast face the imminent threat of climate change. Unfortunately over the years, both the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier have been retreating at a rapid pace. As you can see in the photo above, the Franz Josef Glacier has shrunk considerably from 1908 to 2022. The acceleration of this retreat in recent years serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to protect these natural wonders.

The glaciers’ retreat and recent weather events (floods and slips/landslides) have also caused the glaciers to become inaccessible on foot. In the past, people could walk right up onto the glaciers from the trails leading through the valleys and up into the mountains. Now, many of the paths and roads to the glaciers have been destroyed.

black and white photograph of the franz josef glacier as seen in 1908
Photograph of the Franz Josef Glacier in 1908 – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The effects of climate change have changed how tourism operates in Westland Tai Poutini National Park as measures have been put in place to try to protect the glaciers. Now, many of the trails have been blocked off or closed by the Department of Conservation.

Even though it is no longer possible to walk to the glaciers, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are still some of the most accessible glaciers in the world. This is because the glaciers come down low to just a few hundred metres above sea level. So, there are still other awesome ways to see the glaciers.

Several tracks and viewpoints can be visited to enable beautiful views of the glaciers. In addition, helicopter rides and guided glacier hikes are popular ways to see the glaciers up close.

4. Fox Glacier

view of fox glacier from the fox glacier viewpoint
View of Fox Glacier (and the Moon!) from the Fox Glacier Viewpoint – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Fox Glacier is the longest of the two glaciers between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Fox Glacier is 13-km-long and Franz Josef is 12-km-long.

The Fox Glacier is visible and visited from the village of Fox Glacier located on the rugged West Coast of the South Island. The majestic glacier is stunning to see and will be a highlight of your trip to the West Coast!

Even if you are just driving down the West Coast without many stops, it is worth taking a detour to the Fox Glacier viewpoint for a quick look at the glacier.

If you have more time, then there is a short bush walk you can do to see the glacier from another viewpoint.

In addition, taking a guided helicopter tour is a way to see the glacier from above and have a chance to walk on it. Many helicopter companies will do these glacier tours. To help you out, I have listed my recommendations below.

I lived in Fox Glacier for around 5 months and it is a special part of New Zealand with a ton of hidden gems. Check out my post for tips on the best things to see and do in Fox Glacier.

How To See Fox Glacier At The Fox Glacier Viewpoint (Peak Lookout / Te Kopikopiko O Te Waka)

The easiest way to see Fox Glacier is to visit the Fox Glacier Viewpoint which is located a 5-minute drive outside of Fox Glacier village. All you need to do is drive to the viewpoint and get out of your car! You can see the Fox Glacier from the side of the road. On a clear day, you will be able to see (most of) the entire glacier in all its glory. It is a wonderful and stunning sight. It puts into perspective how big the glacier really is.

In 2022 the Peak View lookout was redeveloped as a Tohu Whenua cultural heritage site called ‘Te Kopikopiko o te Waka’ meaning ‘the capsized canoe’. This refers to the Maori legends and story of the creation of the Southern Alps, the glacier, the land and the sea. The waka and the stone pavement show the journey leading from the mountains, glacier, river and out to the ocean and how it is all connected. It is a nice place to stop and admire the glacier as there are picnic tables and benches there.

visit waka canoe sculpture at peak viewpoint Te Kopikopiko o te Waka fox glacier lookout glacier country west coast new zealand
Te Kopikopiko o te Waka / Peak Viewpoint – the Fox Glacier Lookout in Glacier Country, West Coast – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Fox Glacier Lookout / Viewpoint Map

See the Google map below for the location of the Fox Glacier Viewpoint.

How To See Fox Glacier On The Southside Walk

Another free way to see the Fox Glacier is along the Southside Walk. The Southside walk follows an old road to an old car park. The old car park was damaged in a flood so that is why the new car park is closer to the main road.

The whole walk will take around 2 hours out and back. There is the first viewpoint about 45 minutes up the track. Another 15-minute walk will take you to the old car park. From the old car park, you can continue for around 15 minutes down to the river bed.

From the edge of the river, you can see the glacier from another viewpoint. However, the view is not as impressive as at the Fox Glacier Viewpoint described above (in my opinion!).

view of fox glacier from the southside walk viewpoint
View of Fox Glacier from the Southside Walk viewpoint (my camera has awesome zoom!) – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Fox Glacier Southside Walk Map

See the Fox Glacier Southside Walk on the NZ Topo Map below. Note that the walk now goes up the old road to the viewpoint at the river. Parking for the track is now at the highway.


View Larger Topographic Map

How To See (& Walk On) Fox Glacier On Helicopter Tours

Taking a helicopter tour to Fox Glacier is by far the most popular way to see and experience the glaciers. This is the safest and easiest way to get closer and onto the glaciers.

There are different options available. These range from a helicopter flight with a snow landing (around 30 minutes in duration, approx $200 per person) to a heli hike tour where you can explore the glacier on foot (around 3 hours in duration, approx $500 per person).

Here are my recommendations for which helicopter tours to join in Fox Glacier:

Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing (Glacier Helicopters Fox Glacier)

If you’d like to take a helicopter flight over the Fox Glacier and then land in the snow then this is the tour for you (via Get Your Guide). This tour will take you over the impressive West Coast scenery and allow you a chance to see the Fox Glacier close-up! It is the cheapest option for all the Fox Glacier helicopter trips. The flight is 20 minutes. This tour costs approximately $200 per person. Book the Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing (Glacier Helicopters) here (Get Your Guide).

Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight Franz Josef & Fox Glacier (Helicopter Line Fox Glacier)

To see both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier in one trip then take this tour (via Viator). You will fly over the majestic mountains and view both glaciers before landing at the head of one of them. Marvel in the beauty of nature at your feet and from the air! The flight is 30 minutes. This tour costs approximately $350 per person. Book the Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight Franz Josef & Fox Glacier (Helicopter Line) here (Viator).

Heli Hike Fox Glacier (Fox Glacier Guiding)

The most expensive but most popular tour of the Fox Glacier is this Heli Hike tour (via Viator). On this tour, you will fly to the glacier and then spend up to 3 hours hiking. You will follow the ice steps cut by your guide as you explore the amazing formations. You will be outfitted with boots and crampons specially designed for the ice conditions. A once-in-a-lifetime experience! This tour costs approximately $500 per person. Book the Heli Hike Fox Glacier (Fox Glacier Guiding) here (Viator).

Planning a trip to Fox Glacier? Check out my ultimate guide to Fox Glacier for the best advice on things to do, places to stay, where to eat and my best tips!

5. Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is the third most visited tourist spot in the whole of New Zealand! The village gets 500,000 overnight guests each year, according to the Otago Daily Times. Despite being such a popular tourist location, Franz Josef is a very small village with a low population. The village relies heavily on tourism for its economy.

The name of the Franz Josef Glacier in Maori is Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere.

The glacier stretches over 12 km in length and descends from the towering peaks of the Southern Alps to the lush rainforests below, creating a surreal landscape where frost and greenery harmoniously coexist.

The best way to visit Franz Josef Glacier is from Franz Josef village. You can see Franz Josef Glacier on several walks and guided helicopter tours. We will look at all of these options below.

The easiest way to access all of the walking tracks to see Franz Josef Glacier is to drive to the Franz Josef Glacier car park which is located just a 5-minute drive outside of Franz Josef village. This is the closest that you can drive to the glacier. From the car park, there are many options for walks and viewpoints to see the glacier.

See the Google Map below for the location of the Franz Josef Glacier car park.

How To See Franz Josef Glacier On The Franz Josef Glacier Viewpoint Walk/Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk

The most popular and easily accessed trail to view the Franz Josef Glacier is to follow the short trail through the rainforest to the Franz Josef Glacier viewing point.

The viewing area in the glacier valley is just a 30-minute return walk from the car park. The track is 1.7 km return and you must return via the same way.

At the viewpoint, you will be able to see the top of the glacier through the valley with the Waiho River running through it. It is the best sight you will get of the Franz Josef Glacier with the least effort! You can also see many waterfalls spilling from the cliffs into the valley below.

lauren and fiachra standing smiling at the camera at the fence at the viewpoint of the franz josef glacier, visible in the distance
Lauren and Fiachra at the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

You will see signs about the glaciers’ retreat on your walk in the valley. In 1908, the Franz Josef Glacier ended at the viewpoint. Today, you will see the end of the glacier far away and high above the valley floor nestled in the mountains.

Unfortunately, you cannot proceed beyond the viewpoint because the original trail was damaged by flooding from the Waiho River. You will see plenty of signage telling you not to proceed further – as shown in the photograph I took below.

franz josef glacier trail closed with danger - do not go past here - signs and a realistic cardboard cutout of a DOC ranger dressed in uniform holding his hand up indicating 'stop'
Current end point of the Franz Josef Glacier Track – closed due to flooding and landslides. The DOC Ranger is a cardboard cutout! – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Sentinel Rock (Addition To The Franz Josef Glacier Viewpoint Walk)

To get a better view of the glacier and the valley, climb to the summit of the Sentinel Rock. It is a short and steady climb up to the top of the rock.

The track is a turn-off from the Franz Josef viewpoint walk and going up and down will add about 20 minutes to your total walk time.

franz josef glacier viewed from sentinel rock viewpoint with a sign showing the glacier's retreat over the years. the glacier used to fill the entire valley and now it is barely visible in the distance high above the valley floor.
Franz Josef Glacier viewed from the Sentinel Rock viewpoint. Note the sign which shows the glacier’s retreat over the years. – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk Map

See the Franz Josef Glacier Walk on the NZ Topo Map below. Note that the walk follows the start of the Franz Valley Track however, access is restricted along the whole route due to track damage. You can also see the Sentinel Rock walk on this Topo Map.


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How To See Franz Josef Glacier On The Roberts Point Track

If you have the time, energy and ambition for a greater view of the Franz Josef Glacier on foot, then follow the Roberts Point Track. The route will take approximately 5 hours out and back and is 11 km return in distance.

Beginning from the car park, you will trek through the valley alongside the Waiho River. You will cross over a suspension bridge and climb upwards to a viewpoint high above the glacial ice. You will be rewarded for your effort with views of the glacier, sheer rock walls, waterfalls and mountain peaks.

The Roberts Point Track is a popular day walk for hikers staying in the Franz Josef area with more time on their hands. If you attempt this route, you will be able to see the Franz Josef Glacier from a closer distance than you can any other route on foot. You will have a sense of adventure as well as epic views of the Franz Josef Glacier.

Roberts Point Track Map

Below is the Topo Map for the Roberts Point Track.


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How To See Franz Josef Glacier On The Alex Knob Track

If you want the best view of Franz Josef Glacier without taking a helicopter flight then you will need to hike the Alex Knob Track. This hike will lead you up a mountain called Alex Knob (1303m) located opposite the Franz Josef Glacier. From the peak, you will have amazing views of the glacier, but it is a challenging day hike and you need to be well-prepared to attempt this walking route.

The track is 17.2 km return via the same trail and it will take around 8 hours to complete. The Department of Conservation class this route as an Advanced tramping track.

The first part of the track will take you on a steady climb through the lowland forests to Rata lookout and takes around 2 hours. After that, you will follow the trail for a further hour on a gentler grade to Christmas lookout. The next part is a climb again through the forest to the sub-alpine scrub zone and alpine herb fields. From there you will get the best views of the glacier, mountains and seascapes at various points on the way to the Alex Knob summit.

Many people who attempt this track on a clear day will say it was well worth it for the views of the Franz Josef Glacier and the surrounding Southern Alps. In the summer you will need to ensure you start early in the day to avoid the afternoon cloud.

Alex Knob Track Map

Below is the Topo Map for the Alex Knob Track.


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How To See (& Walk On) Franz Josef Glacier On Helicopter Tours

Taking a helicopter tour to Franz Josef Glacier is by far the most popular way to see and experience the glaciers. This is the safest and easiest way to get closer and onto the glaciers.

There are different options available. These range from a helicopter flight with a snow landing (around 30 minutes in duration, approx $200 per person) to a heli hike tour where you can explore the glacier on foot (around 3 hours in duration, approx $500 per person).

Here are my recommendations for which helicopter tours to join in Franz Josef Glacier:

Franz Josef Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing (Glacier Country Helicopters Franz Josef)

If you’d like to take a helicopter flight over the Franz Josef Glacier and then land in the snow then this is the tour for you (via Get Your Guide). This tour will take you over the impressive West Coast scenery and allow you a chance to see the Franz Josef Glacier close-up! It is the cheapest option for all the Franz Josef helicopter trips. The flight is 20 minutes. This tour costs approximately $300 per person. Book the Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Tour with Snow Landing (Glacier Country Helicopters) here (Get Your Guide).

Franz Josef & Fox Glacier Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing (Glacier Helicopters Franz Josef)

To see both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier in one trip then take this tour (via Get Your Guide)On this twin glacier flight, you will view both glaciers before landing at the head of one of them. Admire the panoramic glacial views from the sky and see two very different glacial formations. The flight is 30 minutes long. This tour costs approximately $400 per person. Book the Franz Josef & Fox Glacier Helicopter Flight With Snow Landing (Glacier Helicopters) here (Get Your Guide).

Heli Hike Franz Josef (Helicopter Line West Coast)

The most expensive but most popular tour of the Franz Josef Glacier is this Heli Hike tour (via Get Your Guide). On this tour, you will fly to the glacier and then spend up to 3 hours hiking. You will follow the ice steps cut by your guide as you explore the amazing formations. You will be outfitted with boots and crampons specially designed for the ice conditions. A once-in-a-lifetime experience! This tour costs approximately $500 per person. Book the Heli Hike Franz Josef Glacier here (Get Your Guide).

Glaciers 6-10: 5 Challenging Glaciers To Visit In New Zealand

Here are five more amazing glaciers to visit in New Zealand. These glaciers are still accessible but will require a bit more effort! All of these glaciers are located in Mount Aspiring National Park. The glaciers here are slightly more remote and may require a full day’s walk or an overnight hike to visit. They are:

  1. Bryant Glacier
  2. Mount Earnslaw Glacier
  3. Rob Roy Glacier
  4. Dart Glacier
  5. Brewster Glacier

Keep reading to learn more in-depth about how to visit and see these 5 other glaciers in New Zealand. As I have not visited any of these glaciers myself, this information comes from research I have done and from other travel bloggers.

Glaciers To Visit In Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

Mount Aspiring National Park (NZ DOC website) stretches from Glenorchy (northwest of Queenstown), the north and west area of Lake Wanaka, and the Haast Pass. It is named after the highest peak in the mountain range which is Mount Aspiring at 3,033m high.

In Maori, Mount Aspiring is known as Tititea which means ‘steep peak of sparkling white’.

Mount Aspiring National Park is home to over 100 glaciers! The glaciers here have shaped the landscape and created deep valleys and pointed peaks.

The Mount Aspiring National Park forms part of the Te Wahipounamu (South Island) World Heritage Site.

(Source: PeakVisor)

6. Bryant Glacier (near Glenorchy)

The Bryant Glacier is accessible in the summer by hiking the Glacier Burn Track.

The track begins near Kinloch in the Glenorchy area. This is a steep and challenging route.

It takes around 2 hours one way (4 hours return, via the same track) to reach the end of the Glacier Burn Track.

To reach the Bryant Glacier, you must continue onwards via an unmarked route for around another 1 hour.

See the Google Map below for the location of the Glacier Burn Track car park.

Helpful links about the Bryant Glacier:

7. Mount Earnslaw Glacier (near Glenorchy)

view of the mount earnslaw glacier hanging on the mountainside with many waterfalls falling down the cliff face, with a helicopter in the foreground blurred behind long grass
Mount Earnslaw and Glacier – Photo by Thomas Hetzler on Unsplash

The Mount Earnslaw Glacier looks truly stunning! Mount Earnslaw is a ‘hanging glacier’ and is known for its breathtaking waterfalls that cascade down the mountainsides.

You may have seen Mount Earnslaw and various sites surrounding Glenorchy in The Lord of the Rings movies. The location is also very popular for photoshoots, in particular wedding photography.

For access to the Mount Earnslaw Glacier you have two options – take a guided helicopter tour from Queenstown or hike the Earnslaw Burn track.

The Earnslaw Burn Track starts near Paradise, north of Glenorchy. To reach the start of the trail, you must drive along an unsealed road to the small parking area on grass.

The 8.3 km one-way track will lead you to the head of the valley for impressive views of the Mount Earnslaw Glacier. It will take 4-6 hours one way to reach the viewpoint. The DOC considers this a challenging route.

See the Google Map below for the location of Mount Earnslaw.

Helpful links about the Mount Earnslaw Glacier:

  • Chur New Zealand has a great blog post on the Earnslaw Burn Track to see the glacier with lots of photos.
  • Visit the DOC website for more information on the Earnslaw Burn Track.

8. Rob Roy Glacier (near Wanaka)

view of rob roy glacier through the valley and the rob roy stream
View of Rob Roy Glacier – Photo by Will Turner on Unsplash

The Rob Roy Glacier is another hanging glacier located in Mount Aspiring National Park. This glacier is very well known and has been a popular location to visit for tourists to the region for over 100 years.

The Rob Roy Track is a hike that will take you along the Rob Roy Stream and reward walkers with good views of the glacier.

The out-and-back track is a 10km return and will take around 3-4 hours to complete. The route is considered one of the easier glacier-view hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park and is suitable for families with older children.

The track starts at the Raspberry Creek Flat car park, 54 km west of Wanaka. The last 30 km of the road are unsealed, so take care when driving this road. Check the conditions and weather before you go because the road is also subject to floods that can be impassable.

Avalanches can happen on terrain that crosses the track, usually from May to November.

The Rob Roy Track begins by crossing the Matukituki River via a swing bridge. Then the trail leads up into the Rob Roy Valley to a lookout at the end. You can see Rob Roy Falls at 261 meters tall, free-falling down the sheer cliff face south of the glacier.

You can also view the Rob Roy Glacier about 20 minutes along the Raspberry Creek Flat car park on the trail to Aspiring Hut.

See the Google Map below for the location of the Rob Roy Glacier Track.

Helpful links about the Rob Roy Glacier:

  • Visit the DOC website for information on the Rob Roy Glacier Track.
  • See photos of the Rob Roy Glacier Track and read about the experience on the blog GirlEatWorld.

9. Dart Glacier (between Glenorchy & Wanaka)

The hike to Dart Glacier is considered a very challenging route and only suitable for people with navigation skills and experience. To reach the Dart Glacier you need to embark on a multi-day route.

First, hike to Aspiring Hut along the track from the Raspberry Creek Flat car park (2.5 hours). From there, take the Cascade Saddle Route which is an alpine crossing track from Matukituki Valley to the Dart Valley (4-5 hours).

The Dart Glacier can also be accessed as a 4-5 hour one-way side trip from the multi-day Rees-Dart Track (NZ DOC website).

See the Google Map below for the location of the Dart Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park.

Helpful links about the Dart Glacier:

10. Brewster Glacier (from Haast Pass)

A popular overnight hike for many travellers in New Zealand is the hike to the Brewster Hut. The iconic red Brewster Hut has flooded the internet in recent years with stunning photos of it perched on the mountainside. If you are looking to do an overnight tramp in New Zealand then the Brewster Hut could be a good adventure.

The Brewster Hut is a serviced alpine hut with 12 bunks including mattresses, non-flush toilets and non-treated water. Bookings are required on the DOC website.

The Brewster Track can also be done in one day, as the trail is only 5 km return and will take around 6-8 hours to complete.

The Brewster Track starts from the pretty Fantail Falls located along the Haast Pass. The Fantail Falls is a recommended stop on your drive from Wanaka to the West Coast of the South Island. The Haast River is also a lovely spot for a post-hike swim!

view of the fantail falls along the haast pass road in the south island new zealand. stony river in front of the falls with bush either side of the falls.
Fantail Falls, a lovely stop along the Haast Pass road in the South Island, New Zealand. – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

From the Brewster Hut experienced hikers can continue on unmarked trails to the Brewster Glacier. The views of the Brewster Glacier are amazing and you can see lots of photos and videos online from hikers who have been there.

See the Google Map below for the location of the Brewster Hut.

Helpful links about the Brewster Glacier:

10 Epic Glaciers To Visit In New Zealand – Thanks For Reading!

In this post, we have looked at 10 amazing glaciers that you can visit on New Zealand’s South Island.

From the famous Franz Josef Glacier and its neighbour the iconic Fox Glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, to the Hooker Glacier, Tasman Glacier and Mueller Glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park across the Southern Alps. These five glaciers are very accessible to visitors to view and enjoy their amazing natural beauty.

Further south in Mount Aspiring National Park, five glaciers can be visited on full-day and overnight hikes. These are the Bryant Glacier, Dart Glacier, Rob Roy Glacier, Mount Earnslaw Glacier and Brewster Glacier. Most of these are considered challenging and advanced hiking tracks and are only suitable for experienced walkers.

New Zealand is a fascinating country with glaciers that can be seen unlike anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, due to climate change, New Zealand’s glaciers may soon be a wonder of the past. Let’s keep this in mind during our visits and do what we can to keep these amazing natural formations alive for future generations to see. – Lauren x

wild lovely world thanks for reading end of blog post
Thanks for reading! 🙂 – © Wild Lovely World

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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