New Zealand Destinations: Glacier Country

Time is flying past and we’re halfway through our trip in New Zealand. So far, the biggest difference we have noticed is the pace at which we are doing things. Spending at least 2 if not 3 nights in one location has really meant that each spot feels like home and we can explore at our leisure rather than be ‘forced’ to see the sights. Our last three nights have been spent at the top 10 holiday park at Fox Glacier. These are some of the topics which we can shed some light on , though bear in mind that this is our singular experience rather than a collective experience which sites like trip advisor might give you!

Fox Glacier vs Franz Josef Glacier: From the limited experience we had around Franz Josef, I would say that its advantages are predominantly logistic. It has an actual supermarket rather than a grocery store, it has a medical centre (which we ended up needing to make use of due to Charlotte’s health) and it seems to have a greater choice of companies with whom you can book activities such as glacier walks (more on that later). Fox Glacier is literally a one street town with accommodation strewn out and seems less busy than its larger neighbour. In terms of the actual glaciers, both are receding however, the terminal face of Fox Glacier is far more accessible with a shorter walk and better views than Franz Josef Glacier. Glacier walks can occur from the public viewing point and as a result, when heli hikes are not possible at Franz Josef (bad weather), a lot of business comes down to Fox Glacier for glacier walks instead. These are some pictures of what you might expect :

Franz Josef Glacier with waterfalls along the way

Franz Josef Glacier with waterfalls along the way

Descending to Fox Glacier ice face

Descending to Fox Glacier ice face

Heli Hike vs Glacier walks: Marianne went on a hike on the middle section of Fox Glacier which was accessed via helicopter flight. The time spent on the ice was over 1 hour and the activities included cramming through ice caves. Its cost is 399 NZD. I went for a glacier walk on the lower glacier which was accessed via a path leading on from the public view point. The half day option gives you approximately 1 hour on the ice during which you may have an opportunity to wander into safe crevasses and small ice caves though most of it is spend atop the ice. You do get to walk some ice staircases which are chiseled daily by the hard working teams. Its cost is 115 NZD.  In both cases, you can’t really stop to take your time taking images as the group needs to keep moving, so I don’t think a tripod is at all practical though perhaps you could make use of some GND’s .  Over all, I think Marianne feels that the heli hike experience gave a better ‘ice’ experience but of course, this comes at a price.

Cramming into Ice Caves on the middle glacier

Cramming into Ice Caves on the middle glacier

Stairways of ice on Fox Glacier

Stairways of ice on Fox Glacier

Lake Matheson viewing points: When visiting the Fox Glacier region, Lake Matheson is one of ‘the’ spots to visit for your postcard rendition of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook with reflections. On all of our forays there, the water was still and reflections were as ‘advertised’. There is a choice of three platforms to view the mountains and each have advantages and disadvantages. ‘Reflection Island’ is the location from which nearly all most cards are taken from. It is a fantastic location but its disadvantage is a bank of trees on the left which limits composition to a focal length of approximately 40mm or longer unless you find creative ways to include the bushes which encroach the lake from the left. The ‘Jetty’ view point has no immediate foreground obstructions which means that you can take wide angled shots of reflections however (and it is a big however) only Mount Tasman is visible without obstruction. Mount Cook on the right is obstructed by a tall tree. I would have liked to have given an example of both locations, but Marianne’s CF card from reflection point were somehow corrupted so we will have to wait until we return home before seeing how these turned out.

Wide Angle shots from the 'Jetty' view point

Wide Angle shots from the ‘Jetty’ view point

Trees on the left can limit composition at 'Reflection Island'

Trees on the left can limit composition at ‘Reflection Island’

There are  many other locations which we didn’t get time to visit but on a last note, Gillespies Beach is well worth the visit 20km out from Fox Glacier township.

Pebbled stones and roaring seas at Gillespies Beach

Pebbled stones and roaring seas at Gillespies Beach

If you ever visit Glacier Country, I hope this quick guide has been helpful to you! Three nights was great photographically and great for a family trip too !

On a last note, we will not have internet access for the next 2-5 days so the next update might be a while off!



Posted on April 19, 2013, in How we..., New Zealand, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Great post Dylan! Thanks for the info about the Heli Hike. That was the one I was wanting to do but cost was an issue! And thanks for the pic of Gillespies Beach. We had that on our list but the choice to photograph Lake Matheson won which I was glad about because it was beautiful! Great pics!

  2. I have been enjoying the armchair trip of New Zealand Dylan. Seems like you, Marianne and Charlotte are having a great time. Images are magical and so typical of this beautiful landscape – the Toh touch just adds that little extra. Have joined the bloggers in order to keep up!

  3. Andrew Burgess

    Love the ice cave.

  4. Posted to my FB group, lovely read guys! Have dreamed of NZ trip for decades, and to ice climb as a prime reason, thanks for the wonderful pics and good read…

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