Glaciers aren't just for show. Over millions of years, these mind-bogglingly large rivers of ice (albeit slow-moving) have quite literally shaped our world. In New Zealand's South Island, many of our valleys, sounds and other geographical features are products of ancient activity of this type, stemming from when these beasts carved their way across the land. Though the vast majority of Earth's glaciers have since vanished, there are still those in existence that can be visited relatively easily - making for awe-inspiring tourist attractions.
Walk on a glacier in New Zealand
When you alight from a NZ train trip in the West Coast hub of Greymouth, you'll be but two or so hours from the famous Franz Josef glacier (we'll talk about how to get here shortly). This means you're also very close to being able to literally step onto this glittering icescape and hike across it, studying its intricate details. How? By booking an unmissable heli-hike experience with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.
This company was established back in 1990, and has become world-renowned since. It offers tours to the eponymous glacier located in the Southern Alps, which begins its life at an altitude of around 2,400 metres (above sea level), and descends straight down to 240 metres in just 11 kilometres. This makes Franz Josef the steepest commercial glacier in the entire world, and also the fastest-flowing. Curious to see for yourself? We thought you might be.
On a Glacier Heli Hike trip, you'll be flown up the slope on a thrilling aerial adventure, landing at its peak. Here, you can get out with a friendly, knowledgeable and highly trained guide, who will lead you on a fascinating two-hour walking adventure around the area. You'll witness a surreal world of sparkling formations, with hues of brilliant blue and white blending together in surroundings that'll make you feel like a true explorer.
So how do I get to Franz Josef?
If scenic vistas are your cup of tea, KiwiRail Scenic's TranzAlpine route will almost certainly delight. Beginning in Christchurch, you'll weave across the expansive Canterbury Plains (the largest plains in NZ), finally meandering up into the Southern Alps, through Arthur's Pass and on to the West Coast. From there, it's just a matter of busing south with a provider such as our friends at InterCity and you'll be boarding your helicopter in no time.