On the West coast of the South Island two glaciers (Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier) attract huge numbers of tourists every day. Both glaciers run down from the Southern Alps into the rainforest so be prepared to get wet! The two towns, Franz Josef and Fox (named after the glaciers), are only 25 kilometres apart via an incredible mountain road.
Both glaciers offer a number of tours e.g. helicopter rides and walking on the glacier. For us it was a little down heartening when we arrived in Franz Josef to find how expensive these tours were. If you do not have the budget for helicopter rides, costing between $240-450 depending on what tour you pick, you can still enjoy being in Glacier Country.
There are incredible walks to both glaciers which I suggest doing on a day when you can see the tops of the hills. To get close to Franz Josef Glacier, including taking pictures, it takes about 1.5 hours – 2 hours and to Fox Glacier from the car park it takes around 1 hour – 1.5 hours. Both of these walks are extremely impressive and drum home how spectacular and extreme New Zealand’s landscape really is. On the walk to both glaciers you also see some beautiful waterfalls.
So which one is better? Really I enjoyed the walk to them both. Both glaciers are impressive but to me what was more impressive is the landscape the glaciers have carved. I think because Franz Josef was the first glacier we visited I was so shocked at how beautiful the walk was that I enjoyed it a little more. When we arrived at Fox I almost expected it to be phenomenal (which is was). It was also busier when we arrived at Fox Glacier so I would suggest going either early morning or later in the afternoon for a quieter route to both glaciers (always check weather conditions before starting your walk).
A number of tourists who have done tours on both of the glaciers suggest that Franz Josef is the better glacier if you want to do tours (e.g. Helicopter rides) and also the town Franz Josef had more restaurants, bars and hotels than Fox Glacier.
Both are definitely worth the visit and if time allows in your schedule seeing both is a must! Don’t worry if you do not have enough money for the helicopter tours you will still be wowed by the awesomeness of both glaciers!