My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Day-tripping Through New Zealand’s Glacier Country

2011/03/21by Donna Hull

Updated 09.15.2013

hiking to Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

For a close-up glacier experience, nothing beats the convenience of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand. You don’t have to board a ship for a long cruise to the glacier’s face, simply park your car in the parking lot and start walking. Active travelers choose between moderately easy walks to view the glaciers, visits by helicopter that deposit you onto the ice or adventure company treks where well-equipped guests—think ropes, crampons and ice axe—provide the ultimate glacier visit.

When Alan and I traveled to Westland Tai Poutini National Park with Robert Panzer of Tailored Travel, we opted for walks that introduced us to the glaciers, providing plenty of dramatic photo opportunities.

Glacial runoff at Franz Josef Glacier

The gacial runoff from Franz Josef is a milky white color.

The path to Franz Josef glacier leads from the parking lot through a temperate rain forest’s tree canopy to a dry riverbed. Here, the way becomes rocky, with multiple, small streams to cross. A rope barrier blocks the path near the glacier’s terminal face. The accompanying sign urges visitors to stay safely behind the rope although many ignore it. Ask Alan.

Jagged ice of Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The jagged ice at Fox Glacier

Approximately 15 miles up the road, Fox Glacier offers several short walks. We chose the trail from the parking lot that stays above the riverbed. Although steeper, Alan and I found the Fox Glacier Valley walk to be easier than the one at Franz Josef, but with a more rugged feel to it. At the trail’s end, we were within 130 feet of the glacier’s jagged piles of ice.

Boomer adventure at Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Alan photographs Fox Glacier

With so many hiking, glacier walking and heli-tour opportunities, a visit to New Zealand’s glacier country will keep boomer travelers busy for days. And don’t forget to hike the trails of Lake Matheson, while you’re in the area.

For accommodations in New Zealand Glacier Country, we chose Franz Josef Country Retreat, about five miles outside the village of Franz Josef. The luxury boutique bed and breakfast hotel is located on land that’s been farmed by Marie Coburn’s family for the last 100 years. Update, November 5, 2012: Franz Josef Country Retreat website is no longer live. After much searching on Google, I could not determine if they are still in business.

Have you visited Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers? Did you take a glacier trek? Post a comment to share your experience. Next time I want to walk on the ice.

 


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie McMinn March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I’ve been to both glaciers, but not on the ice. I’d love to take a helicopter up. Maybe next time!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm

My daughter took a half-day guided hike on Fox Glacier last fall. She
loved the close up look at the ice, including standing in a crevasse.

Reply

Barbara Weibel March 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

Oh yes, I’m one of those who ignored the rope at the end of the forest trail at the Franz Josef Glacier. And then I ignored the sign near the glacier that said not to proceed without an experienced guide. I had been told it was OK to do so by a local, as long as I stayed 200 meters or so away from the foot of the glacier, as a safety measure against ice calving. In the end, I looked right into the maw of the ice cave at the foot of the glacier, from which spewed an eerily turquoise-colored glacial stream. It was fantastic!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

You are a brave boomer traveler, Barbara!

Reply

NoPotCooking
Twitter:
March 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I would love to go here! We missed out on seeing a glacier up close when in Alaska (had planned a helicopter trip to it but fog grounded us and we didn’t have time to take a bus to it). We saw them from our cruise ship though and the colors are just amazing.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Inclement weather won’t stop you from taking these walks to New
Zealand’s glaciers. In Juneau, our helicopter excursion was cancelled
also. Sometimes the low-tech way turns out to be the best.

Reply

Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
March 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Gorgeous! What a way to see the earth’s evolution in all its close-up glory.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Glaciers are amazing to visit.

Reply

Skraft March 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm

What a great adventure. We visited a glacier while in Alaska, and I agree that it is a big thrill. Quite an amazing experience!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I never understood the allure of glaciers until I visited my first
one. Then, I was hooked.

Reply

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm

My husband has seen glaciers. I am always awed by the photos of glaciers melting, before and after, that were shown by Anderson Cooper, I believe, on TV, glaciers in Greenland. Are the NZ glaciers melting, too?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Fox Glacier is actually advancing while Franz Josef is retreating a bit.

Reply

Mark H March 24, 2011 at 2:49 am

I am hoping to visit these glaciers next January. I’ve trekked on a couple of other glaciers and by all reports (and as your photos show) these look particular special. Out of interest, would you favour one over the other for wandering near, walking on or whatever?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Both glaciers have their positive points. For a grand view, nothing
beats walking up the river trail to Franz Josef. The trail that we
took to Fox Glacier felt more like hiking and was a more intimate
experience with the glacier. However, we didn’t take any of the
excursions that would have put us directly on the ice. I’d like to do
that next time. Mark, I’ll be looking forward to reading about your NZ
adventures.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Glaciers are lovely, close up or from a distance. They really make one
appreciate protecting the environment.

Reply

BeersAndBeans March 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I saw my first glacier earlier this year in Iceland but didn’t have a chance to walk out on it either. So, who knows may be one of these glaciers will be my first. -Randy

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Randy, Iceland is another destination that’s on our travel list.

Reply

Susan March 25, 2011 at 1:15 am

Love those photos!! I’ve never been to New Zealand but this definitely got me curious about planning a trip someday.

Reply

Christina March 26, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I haven’t visited Fox Glacier yet but I did take a hike onto Franz Josef. You should definitely take a walk on the ice next time you get the chance.
The hike led past crevasses and you could get up close and personal with keas, too. They’re really cheeky! My partner and I filmed our glacier walk, feel free to check it out on my blog!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Christina. I’ll be sure to check out your NZ
glacier video.

Reply

Anil April 1, 2011 at 11:15 am

I have forever tied glaciers and your site in my mind Donna. I’ve never been to New Zealand but from what I’ve seen and read it has a wild quality to it like Iceland. I would love to stop over for a visit, perhaps on the way to TBEX this summer.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
April 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Anil, I’m not sure about the comparison of New Zealand glaciers to
Iceland’s. The unique part of the glaciers in New Zealand, especially
Franz Josef is that you walk through a temperate rainforest with birds
singing and then suddenly there is the glacier. I hope you’ll have the
chance to experience them for yourself.

Reply

Cathy Severson April 23, 2013 at 9:12 am

New Zealand is definitely on the bucket list. I hadn’t thought of seeing a glacier, but loved the experience we had on one in Alaska. Great photos.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)

{ 12 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

We're Donna & Alan Hull. We KNOW boomer travel.

Since 2008, we've published articles and photographs focusing solely on boomer travel: where to go, what to do and how to do it.

Partner with us

Did you know that baby boomers purchase 80% of luxury vacations and adults aged 55 + account for one-third of all trips in the U.S.? We can help you to reach an audience of active boomer travelers.

Learn more:


Have questions? Get in touch.

The fine print:

Media Mentions

We're the undeniable experts on boomer travel.


Need a boomer expert for your publication? Get in touch.