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New Zealand,  South Island,  West Coast

18 FREE & Cheap Things To See & Do In Fox Glacier

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Last Updated On 6th February 2024 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

Home » Blog » Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » West Coast » 18 FREE & Cheap Things To See & Do In Fox Glacier

This post will tell you the best free and cheap things to see and do in Fox Glacier on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Taking a trip on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island? Then a visit to Fox Glacier is a must.

Fox Glacier on the West Coast became a hot spot for tourism in the 1920s and has remained on the major New Zealand tourist trail ever since. Thousands of tourists visit Fox Glacier every year to enjoy the beautiful scenery and exciting activities you can do there.

The best FREE and cheap activities in Fox Glacier are mainly walks, sightseeing, areas of historical and natural interest, and great places to eat. This post covers all these awesome things to see and do!

Why Visit Fox Glacier?

Fox Glacier is in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park area and part of the Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. The area around Fox Glacier is known as “Glacier Country” because of the two glaciers – Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Both glaciers are located in the Southern Alp mountains. You can get an impressive view of the Fox Glacier from the Fox Glacier viewpoint a short drive from the Fox Glacier village.

Nearby to the Fox Glacier village and the viewpoint is Lake Matheson. The lake was made famous by the reflections it can show of the mountains in its waters. Lake Matheson is now one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand.

Many people take expensive helicopter rides up onto the glacier to do heli hikes. These tours can cost between $200-500 per person! Taking a helicopter ride is the most well-known activity to do in Fox Glacier (and nearby Franz Josef). (If you want to do one of these tours, click here for the best heli hike tour or check out my recommended activities at the end of this article!). However, if this is out of your budget or interest then there are still plenty of free and cheap things to do in Fox Glacier, including seeing the famous glacier!

History Of Fox Glacier Village

The cute and historic settlement of Fox Glacier is quaint and remote. The population of the town is only around 250 people, but thousands of tourists visit every year. The settlement was originally on nearby Gillespies Beach and was a hub of gold mining activity, starting in the 1860s.

When the gold rush ended, many of those settlers moved inland to be closer to the connecting roads to places like Franz Josef and Haast. Two main families of miners, the Sullivans and the Williams’, moved inland to try farming in the valley. Where they settled is now where the present-day Fox Glacier village is. Many of the two families’ descendants still live in the village and own much of the land there.

The village was originally called Weheka, but was changed to Fox Glacier in the 1940s to be the same as the name of the glacier. The glacier is called Fox Glacier because of the New Zealand premier who visited in 1872. His name was William Fox.

The Best FREE & Cheap Things To See & Do In Fox Glacier

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

1. Visit The Fox Glacier Viewpoint – FREE

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

The best free thing to do in Fox Glacier is to visit the Fox Glacier Viewpoint. Head here to get the best view of the Fox Glacier.

The viewpoint is a short 5-minute drive from the village. The viewpoint is located at the end of the Cook Flat Road/Gillespie Beach Road (sealed) at the one-lane bridge. Pull over to the side of the road and admire the view. From this viewpoint, you can see almost the whole of the Fox Glacier.

You are best going on a clear day, otherwise, you might not have that great a view. The West Coast is well-known for rain, so there could be clouds covering the glacier. However, the view is magnificent if you catch it on a sunny day!

Going to this viewpoint is the best way to see Fox Glacier, not only for free but in total. The only other way to see the glacier is to do the Southside Walk (free and described further below) or an (expensive) helicopter trip.

2. See The Famous Lake Matheson & Do The Loop Track Walk – FREE

view of lake matheson from the view of views
View of Lake Matheson from the View of Views – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The Lake Matheson loop walk is easily the second-best free thing to do in Fox Glacier. Lake Matheson has been a famous tourist destination in New Zealand for many years. It has been featured on tourism postcards and posters since the 1930s. Marcus King was a designer who worked for the New Zealand Tourism Department. He created beautiful pictures of iconic scenic New Zealand destinations that really put them on the map.

Lake Matheson Is One Of The Most Photographed Lakes In New Zealand

Lake Matheson has become famous as the “Reflective Lake” of New Zealand. However, to see the reflections you will need to go on a very clear or still day. The lake is often rippled by the ducks that live on the water! The best time to see the lake still and reflective is at sunrise or sunset. The lake reflects the mountains of the Southern Alps, including Mount Tasman and Aoraki/Mount Cook (New Zealand’s highest mountain).

Even if you don’t see Lake Matheson on a still and clear day, the views are still beautiful and the walk is a gem! Lake Matheson is a glacial lake and is surrounded by ancient bush forest. The track goes all the way around the lake and can be done as a loop in either direction.

lake matheson loop walk trail map
Lake Matheson Loop Walk trail map – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Scenic Stops On The Lake Matheson Loop Track

Drive to the start of the walk and park at the car parking area (outside Lake Matheson Cafe). The walk starts by crossing a bridge over the Clearwater River. From there, you can choose to go left or right, taking the track clockwise or anti-clockwise. I have done this walk in both directions and they are much the same in terms of ascending/descending.

If you want to do a shorter walk, then you could take the left and go straight to “Reflection Island”. This is a platform on the lake which will give you a nice view of the famous reflective scene of Mount Tasman and Aoraki/Mount Cook on the lake. From there you could return back to the car park or keep going on the loop.

A stop close by to Reflection Island is the “View of Views”. Climb up the stairs to a small viewing platform across the lake. The View of Views is the scene of many iconic photos of Lake Matheson. It is worth the effort up the short stairs to see the viewpoint.

It takes around 1 hour to 1 hour 30 mins to complete the Lake Matheson Loop Walk. There are several good stops on the track including picnic benches, so take a snack or packed lunch with you!

The Lake Matheson walk is easy and well-formed the whole way. You can do this in trainers or walking shoes. I recommend taking a rain jacket with you, just in case!

view of views doc sign on the lake matheson loop walk fox glacier
View of Views DOC sign on the Lake Matheson loop walk – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
view of lake matheson from the reflection island viewpoint fox glacier
View of Lake Matheson from the Reflection Island viewpoint – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Related Read: Lake Matheson Loop Walk: Easy & Beautiful Track In Fox Glacier

Lake Matheson FAQs

Can you kayak on Lake Matheson?

I wouldn’t recommend kayaking on Lake Matheson. Firstly, it is very far from the car park so you will have to carry your kayak a long way. Secondly, the lake is also very small and has a lot of birdlife. Thirdly, I think that the DOC may have banned kayaking in Lake Matheson. Lastly, you may annoy a lot of tourists if you begin creating ripples in the water by kayaking! The best options for kayaking in the West Coast Glacier Country are Okarito Lagoon and Lake Mapourika.

Can you swim in Lake Matheson?

Lake Matheson is not really suitable for swimming, although you could try it! But it is quite wild and there are not any good spots to enter the water. Again, if you do go swimming there you may end up annoying tourists who want to try to take a photo of the reflective lake. Unfortunately, there are not really any good places for a swim in the Glacier Country (Franz Josef/Fox Glacier). However, there are a few good spots further up the West Coast. If you want to have a swim in a West Coast lake, I recommend visiting Lake Kaniere and Lake Brunner. Both of these lakes are excellent and safe for swimming.

Are dogs and drones allowed at Lake Matheson?

NO, dogs and drones are not allowed at Lake Matheson!

lauren and fiachra at lake matheson fox glacier new zealand
Lauren and Fiachra at Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

3. Walk To Lake Gault – FREE

A turn-off on the Lake Matheson Loop Track will take you to Lake Gault. This is another glacial lake and is picturesque but not as much so as Lake Matheson.

The walk to Lake Gault takes you through the ancient forest and climbs uphill around 200m. On a clear day, you will be able to see reflections in the lake of the Southern Alps mountains.

It takes around 4 hours return to do the Lake Gault track. To get to the turn-off, begin the Lake Matheson walk by turning right after the bridge (anti-clockwise direction). Shortly you will come to a sign showing the way to Lake Gault on your right-hand side. The track is an in-out so you will need to return the same way you came.

lauren standing at the edge of lake gault in fox glacier, new zealand
Lauren standing at the edge of Lake Gault, West Coast, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

4. Enjoy Breakfast & Coffee At Matheson Cafe – CHEAP

The cafe at Lake Matheson is a really excellent breakfast spot! I recommend the Salmon Benedict. The coffee is also good.

While waiting for your order, you can admire the views or wander around the gift shop. They sell a range of souvenirs and crafts locally made in New Zealand.

Breakfast at the cafe costs around $20 and drinks are around $5. The cafe opens at 8:30 am. It’s a great way to start the day!

Visit Matheson Cafe’s website to see the menu.

5. See The Wild West Coast At Gillespies Beach – FREE

gillespies beach fox glacier west coast new zealand
Gillespies Beach near Fox Glacier on the West Coast of New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The West Coast of New Zealand is well known for its remote and wild beaches. Gillespies Beach is one of these gems.

The remote beach is accessed via an unsealed road around 10km long. The road begins at the Fox Glacier Viewpoint on Gillespies Beach Road. After leaving the plains of the valley, the road travels through the hilly, ancient bush forest. It is a scenic and beautiful drive! Once you arrive on the other side of the forest, the scenery flattens and opens out again. Continuing to the end of the road you will come to the car park by the beach. Here there are toilets and some information about the area and maps of the walks.

Gillespies Beach was one of the old gold mining settlements on the West Coast. The area has history and this can be discovered through many of the walking tracks.

Walks At Gillespies Beach – FREE

There are several interesting spots to visit in Gillespies Beach. Here are six walks that you can enjoy at Gillespies Beach.

6. Gillespies Beach Walk – FREE

fiachra walking along gillespies beach on the west coast, new zealand
Fiachra walking along Gillespies Beach – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Firstly, you can visit the beach itself! The beach at Gillespies is a pebble beach so there is no sand. There is a lot of driftwood on the beach and you may also see seals. The waves here are so wild and powerful so it is dangerous for swimming. However, you can enjoy the beauty of the ocean and a walk along the beach.

7. Gillespies Gold Mining Bucket Dredge Walk – FREE

gillespies beach bucket dredge gold mining remains west coast new zealand
Remains of the Gillespies Beach bucket dredge gold mining – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

If you walk along the beach, after around 15 minutes you will come across a pathway on the right that leads up over the sand dunes. This track will take you to the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk and Miners Tunnel Track.

The Bucket Dredge Walk shows you the remains of an old 1930s gold dredge. Gillespies Beach was an area of gold mining activity in the early 20th century and there are many ancient artefacts abandoned in the area. In the water, you can see the old buckets on the machinery used for dredging. It is quite fascinating!

From here, you can return back to the car park via the gorge-covered dredge tailings (around 15 minutes). Or, you can continue on the Miners Tunnel Track.

gillespies beach bucket dredge gold mining sign historical town west coast new zealand
Sign on the Gillespies Beach bucket dredge walk in historical gold mining town – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

8. Gillespies Lagoon & Miners Tunnel Track – FREE

gillespies miners tunnel track on the west coast new zealand
Miners Tunnel Track on the West Coast, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The Miners Tunnel Track will take you to the scenic Gillespies Lagoon. At the lagoon, there is a bridge and views across the Southern Alps on a clear day. From the lagoon, you can continue along the gold miners’ track to a tunnel. The tunnel was built to provide an all-tide access route for miners. Go through the tunnel to access a viewing point above the beach. This walk will add around a 1-hour return to your walk (total 1 hour 40 minutes from the car park).

9. Walk To Galway Beach & See The Seal Colony

If you want a further walk and to see the seal colony at Galway Beach (the beach north of Gillespies) then follow the Galway Beach Tramping Track. This walk follows those as above but turns off onto the Galway Beach Track just before the miners’ tunnel.

The track goes through the forest and leads to a remote beach. At the beach, there is a seal colony and resting spot for seals in the winter. Be careful of the seals and make sure to keep your distance. Also, never go between the seals and the sea.

To return, you must go back the way you came.

Sometimes the track to the seals will be closed due to the weather or to protect wildlife. If this is the case, then there will be signs on the information boards at the Gillespies Beach car park.

The Galway Beach Tramping Track takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes return from the car park.

10. Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk – FREE

An alternative walk from the car park is the Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk. This short walk takes around 15 minutes to complete in a loop. The track goes around a small pond and shows the history of the suction dredge. This machinery was used by miners in the late 19th century to search for gold. There are information panels that explain how the suction dredge worked and show how things looked in the past. On the loop walk, there are artefacts abandoned from the gold mining days, just left to rust!

rusty historical artefact on the gillespies beach suction dredge loop walk old gold mining west coast new zealand
Rusty historical artefact on the Gillespies Beach suction dredge loop walk West Coast, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

11. Visit The Historic Gillespies Gold Miners Cemetery – FREE

Back along the road before the turn-off to the car park is a short walk to a historic miners’ cemetery. Park by the side of the road and take the small, grassy path to the grave site. It only takes around 5-10 minutes to walk to the cemetery from the road.

Once you arrive at the cemetery there are several marked graves as well as some unmarked ones. Many of the people buried there were from Ireland and Scotland, who travelled to Gillespies Beach to work in gold mining. The environment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was harsh and unforgiving. Many people died as they succumbed to the wild and remote circumstances they were living in.

There is an interesting blog post at Kiwi Adventures about the graves and those buried there.

gillespies beach historical gold mining settlement cemetery west coast new zealand
Gillespies Beach Cemetery – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

12. Camp At Gillespies Beach – CHEAP

If you’re looking for a remote camping site on the West Coast, then Gillespies Beach could be a good option. The Department Of Conservation (DOC) allow camping overnight here for $10 per adult per night.

At the car park/camping area there are toilets, picnic tables and water (boil before use).

To use the campsite, you can book online in advance through the DOC website or use the honesty box (cash).

13. See The Sunset At Gillespies Beach – FREE

sunset gillespies beach west coast new zealand
Lauren and Fiachra seeing the sunset at Gillespies Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Being on the West Coast, you can see incredible sunsets at Gillespies Beach. The sun will set into the ocean and the colours are usually wonderful, with stunning pink and purple skies.

If you want to catch sunset on the beach, you could stay overnight in the DOC camp or travel back to Fox Glacier afterwards – just be careful of the dark, unsealed and windy road!

14. See Fox Glacier On The Southside Walk – FREE

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

If you’d like another opportunity to see the Fox Glacier then you could give the Fox Glacier Southside Walk a try.

This walk follows the southern bank of the Fox River through the ancient podocarp forest. The track heads gently up the valley, mainly along a 4WD track.

The walk is not that interesting to me because it is a wide, open 4WD track that passes through the forest. I have done many walks like this in New Zealand and I think there are better ones. However, it is still a good walk to do in Fox Glacier if you have the time. There are also a couple of highlights on this walk.

Warm Spring

Firstly, along the track, there is a natural “Warm Spring”. This is a small warm water spring just next to the path. It is very small so you can only just about dip your fingers in it! There is a signpost next to it so you can’t miss it!

Flood & Landslide Damage

Secondly, you can see the remains of the old tracks and roads that were there prior to the damage. In 2018, there was a huge flood and in 2019, there was a huge landslide in the Fox Glacier/Franz Josef area. In both of these events, many of the roads, bridges and tracks were washed away. The northern track of Fox Glacier is closed indefinitely due to the damage following these events. So now, the Southside Track is the only one still open.

At one point on the Southside track, you can see where the road used to be and how it now disappears over the cliff above the river. On the other side of the river, you can see where it used to continue on the other side. It is quite spooky and eerie to think there used to be a road there but it was completely washed away by the power of the river!

Viewpoints Of The Fox Glacier

Around 45 minutes of walking along the Southside Track, you will arrive at the first viewpoint of the Fox Glacier. There is a sign here with a photo (of how the glacier used to look) to mark the spot. Unfortunately, the glacier has retreated a lot so you cannot see much of it now. The viewpoint is also very far from the glacier and it is obscured by trees, so there is not much to see.

From here, you can return back to the car park the way you came or you can continue. If you continue uphill and downhill for another 15 minutes, you will eventually come to an old car park (used prior to the landslide/flood damage) and then the river with another viewpoint of the glacier. Again, you will be very far away however you will see some nice scenery of the river and mountains.

Returning is back via the same track. The total walk to the end and back from the new car park will take around 2 hours.

It is possible to cycle this track too up until the old car park. From the old car park, you need to dismount and walk the rest of the way. If cycling it will take around 1-hour return.

15. Explore Ancient Rainforest On The Minnehaha Walk (& See Glowworms At Night!) – FREE

lauren walking on the minnehaha walk track fox glacier west coast new zealand
Lauren walking on the Minnehaha Walk in Fox Glacier – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Glowworms are a MUST DO in New Zealand and luckily there is an awesome FREE spot to see glowworms in Fox Glacier. If you haven’t seen glowworms yet during your trip to New Zealand then you should definitely check them out while you’re on the West Coast!

The Minnehaha Walk is a short walk in Fox Glacier village. The walk follows a stream through the rainforest. The walk is beautiful as it passes ancient trees covered in thick moss. There are several small bridges to cross over the streams.

You can do the walk during the day but if you go at night you will have a chance to see glowworms. Take a look through the trees and bushes close to the stream. You may need to bend down a little and look low to see the glowworms. They will be glowing bright blue and look like little stars!

The Minnehaha Walk is a well-formed track and is suitable for wheelchairs and prams (bikes are not permitted and no dogs are allowed).

It takes around 20 minutes to complete the Minnehaha Walk in a loop.

The walk starts at the south of the village near the Bella Vista Motel. Follow the track from the sign post that says ‘Glacier Valley Cycleway Walkway’. The Minnehaha Walk is signposted from there.

I highly recommend giving the Minnehaha Walk a go during the day or at night. It is one of my favourite short walks in Fox Glacier!

Keen To See More Glowworms On The West Coast?

If you’re travelling along the West Coast and heading north to Hokitika, then check out the Hokitika Glowworm Dell. It is free and is an excellent location to see glowworms! There are hundreds of glowworms in a small grotto, just outside of Hokitika town.

Discover all the best places to see glowworms for FREE in the North Island in this post!

16. Eat Dinner At Betsey Jane Eatery & Bar – CHEAP

The best place to eat in Fox Glacier is Betsey Jane! This lovely restaurant is a great spot to go for dinner and the place I always recommend. They have stellar reviews and they are well deserved. The fries ($9) are particularly good. They also do steak ($35), salmon ($33), salads ($34), fish and chips ($29) and burgers ($24).

Betsey Jane is open from 4 pm seven days a week. The restaurant opened in 2020 and so is new and modern. The building was an old cottage that has been converted. It has a lot of style and character still despite the upgrade. Definitely give Betsey Jane a go if you’re looking for somewhere to eat out in Fox Glacier.

Visit Betsey Jane’s website here to book and see the menu.

17. Walk The Copland Track & Stay At Welcome Flat Hut (& Relax In FREE Natural Hot Pools!) – FREE/CHEAP

If you’ve got time and up for a challenge, you could take the Copland Track walk to Welcome Flat Hut. This is a long and gruelling 18km walk. It takes about 8 hours minimum one way to get to the hut. The walk is for intermediate/experienced hikers only.

The walk follows the Copland River inland through the valley in the amazing Westland wilderness. The scenery is supposedly spectacular. From everyone I have heard do this walk, they all had an exciting experience with it!

Once you reach Welcome Flat Hut, you can stay overnight in the hut for $20 per night per person. Bookings must be made in advance.

Just a short walk from the hut are several natural hot pools. You can bathe in these pools for free and at your leisure. Just be careful of the sandflies! As this is a very remote location in the rainforest, you’ll likely be a welcome feast for the little buggers. Take plenty of insect repellent, as well as all your usual overnight backcountry hiking supplies.

Before embarking on the Copland Track, make sure to check the weather and any alerts or warnings in place. As the walk has many river crossings, the walk can be closed during storms and periods of heavy rain.

Make sure to tell someone your plans and take emergency supplies with you just in case.

The Copland Track walk is an out and back walk, so you must return the same way. Most people start early and hike in to Welcome Flat Hut, stay the night and enjoy the hot pools, then walk back out the next day.

The start of the Copland Track is about 20km (20 minutes drive) south of Fox Glacier village. There is a small parking area by the side of State Highway 6, just before the Karangarua Bridge.

For more information on the Copland Track and to book the Welcome Flat Hut, visit the DOC website here.

18. Hike To The Summit Of Mount Fox – FREE

Another challenging walk is the Mount Fox Route. The DOC recommends only experienced and well-equipped hikers attempt this walk.

The walk heads up Mount Fox to the summit of 1345m. The route is steep and rough, but your efforts will be rewarded with fantastic views across the Southern Alps, Fox Glacier, farmland and the coast.

Although the track is only 7.4km long (one way), it will take around 8 hours return at a minimum.

The start of the track is 3km south (5 minutes drive) of Fox Glacier village. There is a small parking area on the right-hand side of the road and the track starts on the left-hand side of the road.

This blog from Alice Adventuring shares her experience of doing the Mount Fox Route, with plenty of photos.

For more information on the Mount Fox Route, visit the DOC website here.

Fox Glacier Travel Tips

Where To Stay In Fox Glacier – Accommodation Options

Here are my recommendations of where to stay in Fox Glacier – from campsites and motels to B&Bs and hotels.

Ivory Towers Backpacker Lodge

  • Great For: Singles, couples, and budget travellers.
  • Price: $ (per night: $30 for a dorm bed, $65 for a standard double room).
  • Facilities: Kitchen/dining area, lounge/games room, showers/bathrooms, hot pool (charge), laundry (charge), BBQs, outdoor area, WiFi.
  • How To Book: Book Ivory Towers Backpacker Lodge on Booking or Hostelworld.

Fox Glacier TOP 10 Holiday Park & Motels

  • Great For: Campervans, tents, singles, couples, groups and families.
  • Price: $ (per night: $30 for a single adult in an unpowered site; $50 for 2 adults in a powered site; $99 for a double bed self-contained unit).
  • Facilities: Kitchen/dining area, lounge/games room, showers/bathrooms, hot pool ($15 for 30 minutes), laundry ($4 per wash/dry), playground with trampoline, tourist information and maps in reception, WiFi, dump station, small glowworm walk.
  • How To Book: Book Fox Glacier TOP 10 on Booking or Tripadvisor.

Gillespies Beach DOC Campsite

  • Great For: Campervans
  • Price: $ (per night: $10 per adult)
  • Facilities: Toilets, shelter, water (boil before use).
  • How To Book: Book on the DOC website.

Bella Vista Motel

  • Great For: Couples, singles, groups and families.
  • Price: $$ (per night: $105 for a queen studio)
  • Facilities: Modern comfortable rooms with a kitchenette. Located in the heart of Fox Glacier.
  • How To Book: Book Bella Vista Motel on Booking or Tripadvisor.

Distinction Fox Glacier – Te Weheka Boutique Hotel

  • Great For: Couples and singles.
  • Price: $$$ (per night: from $180 for a king or twin room)
  • Facilities: Modern, spacious rooms with satellite TV. Each room has a balcony, overlooking the lush countryside. The restaurant serves breakfast daily (can be included with room rate).
  • How To Book: Book Distinction / Te Weheka Boutique on Booking or Tripadvisor.

How Long To Spend In Fox Glacier

Most travellers only pass through Fox Glacier and barely make any time to stop! Those who do stay overnight tend to only stay one night in the village before moving on.

If you have any more time on your schedule then I would recommend you spend another night in Fox Glacier (2 nights total). Many travellers do not realise how much there is to see and do. You can fill 1-2 days full of fun, adventurous and relaxing activities in Fox Glacier. Many hotels also offer discounts if you stay more than 1 night.

That said, if you are on a really tight schedule then you can do the best of Fox Glacier in 1 day. In that case, my recommendation is to focus on the Fox Glacier Viewpoint and Lake Matheson Loop Walk.

Where To Buy Groceries & Get Fuel In Fox Glacier

NPD Fox Glacier is the only fuel station in Fox Glacier. It is the last place to get fuel before going south to Haast and further south of that is Wanaka.

There is an Allied Fuel Station in Franz Josef, a 20-minute drive north of Fox Glacier, that is slightly cheaper than the Fox Glacier NPD.

On The Spot is a small supermarket that sells basic items. It is open from 8 am and closes around 6 pm. The shop is expensive compared to other grocery stores because it is remote and is the only supermarket in Fox Glacier. There are limited fresh food options but it will have all the essentials and shelf-stable foods you need.

In Franz Josef, there is a Four Square supermarket. Again, it is expensive but it is slightly cheaper than On The Spot in Fox Glacier. The Four Square also has more options available.

More Incredible Activities To Do In Fox Glacier

Helicopter Flights

The safest and easiest way to get closer and onto the glaciers is to take a guided tour. These tours take you on scenic flights over and guided tours onto the glaciers by helicopter. There are several options for visiting the Fox Glacier. Here are my recommendations…

Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing (Glacier Helicopters)

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. 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.

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

To see both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier in one trip then take this tour. 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.

Heli Hike Fox Glacier (Fox Glacier Guiding)

The most expensive but most popular tour of the Fox Glacier is this Heli Hike tour. 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.

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18 Free & Cheap Things To See & Do In Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand – Thanks For Reading!

In this post, we have looked at awesome free and cheap things to see and do in Fox Glacier. Everything from stunning walks, impressive glaciers, abandoned relics from the past and magical glowworms can be found in Fox Glacier. It’s well worth spending at least 1-2 days exploring this unique region of the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I hope that this post has given you inspiration and advice to help you on your journey! Happy adventuring! 😊 – Lauren x

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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

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