New Zealand is a fantastic country where tourists can explore some offbeat adventures. One such offbeat destination in New Zealand is Fox Glacier. However, in order to reach Fox Glacier, you will have to cross Arthur’s pass as well. Hence, I am covering both these in the blog post.
Why Arthur’s Pass & Fox Glacier Route?
If you are planning a road trip in South New Zealand, you will have to take either the Dunedin route or the Arthur’s pass – Fox Glacier route. There’s a 3rd route as well which will take you through the Lake Tekapo & Mt Cook.
We chose the Arthur’s Pass – Fox Glacier route as it seemed interesting and also because we intended to participate in skydiving above Fox Glacier. This skydive zone is considered to be the dive offering best views while free falling. However, we couldn’t dive at Fox Glacier due to the weather and finally ended up diving above Glenorchy, near Queenstown.
About Arthur’s Pass
When you head towards Queenstown from Christchurch, you first cross Arthur’s Pass. It’s a destination, more than journey that counts in case of Arthur’s pass.
Also Read: 10 Amazing Facts about New Zealand
Staying in Arthur’s Pass
We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb near Bealey Bridge; The Loft at Bealey. It was a peaceful set up and played its role perfectly, letting us break the journey and relax. However, it’s bang on the highway so you can hear the zooming vehicles very clearly. Also, it’s pretty much self operated and if there is any issue, there’s no way to get urgent help. So decide wisely.
Unfortunately, we got a negative review from our Airbnb host as we didn’t clean up well after leaving from the house. I am embarrassed by that and would try to be a better guest, but I didn’t know it was expected of me to change the bed sheets and washing utensils after paying INR 10,000 for one night!
Attractions & Activities near Arthur’s Pass
If you are driving along the Arthur’s Pass stretch, you will be able to see a very beautiful landscape all along. However, if you have more time to spend around the Bealey Bridge, there are a few activities that you can consider.
You can take some hikes around and visit attractions like Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall, Avalanche Creek waterfall, Lake Misery or Avalanche Peak. If you want to do longer treks, you can consider Bealey Valley Trek or Mount Rolleston trek. But do check the requirements thoroughly as these might be tough for beginner level trekkers.
However, we decided to leave for Fox Glacier sooner and just stopped on our way there.
The best way of enjoying the views through Arthur’s Pass is having ample of time to take stop in between. The wide wide landscape will give you company all the way till fox glacier town. From there, the landscape changes, so take as much of Arthur’s pass as you want by stopping many times.
About Fox Glacier
The sheets of ice covering the lands embraced with rain forests and picturesque beauty will win your heart. Over 3000 meters above the sea level in the Southern Alps, the Fox Glaciers is one of the lowest altitude glaciers in New Zealand. Even if you are not an experienced hiker or mountaineer, you would love the adventure trip to the glaciers.
The road to Fox Glacier is a very beautiful stretch
Reaching Fox Glacier
If you are following route from Christchurch to Queenstown via Arthur’s Pass you will drive through Fox Glacier.
But if you prefer flight, the nearest airport to Fox Glacier is Hokitika on the West Coast which is 160 kilometres away. If you are coming from Hokitika, you can stop at Hokitika Gorge for a beautiful view.
All seasons are fun at Fox Glacier, but winters are quite chilling and freezing. To avoid unpredictable weather obstacles, visit Fox Glaciers in the summers.
As you reach the Fox Glacier, enjoy a brunch at Café Neve located on the main street. Known for its good taste and hospitality, cafés and restaurants here wouldn’t disappoint you. A famous restaurant at the main highway is the Cook Saddle Café and Saloon where travelers can stop and enjoy some drinks.
Staying in Fox Glacier
Travelers can find innumerable places to stay at Fox Glacier ranging from high-end hotels, motels to camping, hostels, and bed and breakfast lodges.
We suggest staying at the Lake Matheson Motel located in the Fox Glacier village which is one of the oldest hotels providing a leisurely stay for climbers, hikers, and skydivers. It also has a great view of Fox Glacier.
There are plenty other options around like Heartland Hotel, Fox Glacier Lodge, Mt Cook View Motel etc. But frankly, these are more or less similar within same price range and located in proximity. Most of them also offer a good view of the Fox Glacier amidst the scenic mountains. Be sure to have a view from your motel.
Our experience of staying in Lake Matheson Motel was very satisfactory!
Also Read: Admiring a beautiful sunset at Muriwai Beach
Attractions & Activities near Fox Glacier
Travelers immerse themselves completely in the landscapes and alpine snowfields, paramount rain forests, awesome beautiful Lake of Matheson, jet boat up the glacier river, and the wilderness of the blue ice caves. Here is a list of amazing attractions and activities to include in your plan when you are visiting Fox Glacier.
We were focused towards skydiving above Fox Glacier. So just chilled at our hotel and relaxed for the other time. The view and scenery around our hotel was enchanting and we were pretty much satisfied by that!
Crystal clear waters of the lake are known for its mirror reflection. A walk beside the lake would mesmerize you with its splendid and natural beauty. If you are lucky on a clear sunny day, you can see reflections of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman.
In order to reach Lake Matheson, you will have to hike your way to the lake. So be prepared accordingly and set time aside for the hike.
It’s one of the most visited locations in Fox Glacier where you can find attractive cafes, well-known restaurants, and hotels. Lake Matheson Café is a must-visit when you land in Fox Glacier. A freshly served breakfast can charge you up for the thrilling adventures at the freezing sheets of ice.
Glacier hikes and scenic flight tours
Walking on a glacier is an unforgettable experience. Fox Glaciers and Franz Josef Glaciers are known for glacier hike tours. Another one that you can consider is the Heli hike tours. They are managed with ultimate safety and security.
If you wish to enjoy the panoramic and breathtaking views from the top, you can book a scenic flight tour. The view of the upper icefall, remote parts of glaciers, and valleys from the helicopter is a thrilling and mesmerizing experience. Travelers can also enjoy ice climbing adventure under the guidance of experts. From the sky, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of thick rainforests, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, alpine snowfields, freezing rivers, and majestic natural beauty. After a marvelous tour of the glaciers, it is the perfect time to dine at the Fox Glacier Guiding Café at the Fox Glacier Guiding Building. A welcoming atmosphere with freshly cooked dishes would leave you impressed.
Skydiving at Fox Glacier
To experience freefall in Fox Glaciers is a lifetime opportunity. The west coast glaciers surrounded by rainforests, Tasman Sea, Mount Cook, and Mount Tasman make Fox Glacier the second-best place for skydiving in the world. Skydiving at Fox glaciers pumps up the adrenaline with thrilling activities. The freefall is done in safe hands surrounded by a fun-filled environment.
Unguided walks and hikes
Given the mountainous terrain near Fox Glacier, there are many walks & hikes that you can consider for a leisurely account with nature.
Glacier valley walks
The free hiking trails in proximity to Fox Glacier allow you to enjoy excellent viewpoints and untamed landscapes. The Fox Glacier Valley walk is a short walk that starts at the end of the Glacier Access Road, north of the Fox River.
The Chalet Lookout Track passes through the old forest and gives you an amazing glance at Fox Glacier’s ice fall. If you love hiking, you can enjoy both as they are connected to the River Walk Footpath. The toughest trail is the Mount Fox Route. The trail is very steep and adventurous from where you can view the paramount peaks.
Travelers can also enjoy walking at the Gillespies beach. Just 20 kilometers from the Fox Glacier, travelers can explore a wonderful stay at a beach. At the beach, you can enjoy the famous walks Miners Cemetry Walking Track, Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk, Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk, Miners Tunnel Track, and Galway Beach Tramping Track.
A short 1.2 kilometers walk near the Fox Glacier village would surprise you with the amazing scenic beauty. A stroll to the lush green forests via Te Weheka Walkway/Cycleway would mesmerize you. Bikes are not allowed on the Minnehaha walk. If you are having a walk in the evening, carry a torch to identify glow worms in the forests. If you are staying at the Bella Vista Motel, the Minnehaha Walk is just 50 meters away.
Peak view Lookout
A drive down the Cook Flat Road and just before the Clear water Creek Bridge is the Peak View Lookout area. On a clear sunny day, you can identify the paramount peaks of the Southern Alps from the mounted plinth. People come here for a half-day picnic and feel close to nature.
If you have a few more days on your trip, you can plan to visit some nearby places such as Franz Josef Glacier, Whataroa, and Okarito. We weren’t able to visit these as most of our time went chilling at the motel and waiting for the weather to allow skydiving.
Franz Josef Glacier
A one hour ride from Fox Glacier, you can denote a half day time at Franz Josef Glacier. It is a village from Franz Josef Glacier with amazing attractions, restaurants, activities, and accommodations. In the village, you can enjoy the scenic flights, guided glacier hikes, forest hikes, walk tours, kayaking, and other activities adventures. Travelers can also relax and experience the hot pools and spa services at affordable prices in the village.
It is a small town on the West Coast just 34 kilometers from the Fox Glacier. Travelers visit the township to explore Alpine Fault tours, scenic flights of glaciers, Sunday markets, short walks, tramping, river rafting, and kayaking. From Whataroa, travelers often plan to go for the White Heron Sanctuary Tours where you can view the beautiful white herons, shags nesting, and royal spoonbills. The tour includes a short minibus ride to the jet boat ride. The jet boat passes through the Kahikatea rainforests to view the rare species.
Just 50 kilometers from the Fox Glacier, Okarito is located on the west coast of the South Island. At the Okarito lagoon, travelers explore the shallow open waters and tidal flats perfect for water sports such as kayaking. Enveloped with snow-capped mountains and lush rainforests, Okarito surprises with its natural beauty with thousands of wading birds. It is home to more than 70 bird species. Travelers visit Okarito to explore water sports and kiwi tours.
In conclusion, the road trip stretch from Christchurch to Queenstown via Arthur’s pass & Fox glacier is a beautiful insight into New Zealand’s countryside. The landscape changes so fast that we were left awestruck. One time we are cruising amidst mountains in a desert terrain, in half an hour we are cutting through a lush green forest. In another hour or so, we are in line with a beautiful ocean!
I’d rate the combination of Arthur’s Pass & Fox Glacier as 8/10.
The two points are deducted because the unpredictable weather due to which we neither able to see many attractions around nor take skydive above Fox Glacier.
Though the landscape looked very beautiful due to the low clouds!
I hope you liked this account of Arthur’s Pass & Fox Glacier. Happy to answer if you have any questions.