Striking glaciers and towering mountains make the West Coast an unmissable destination on South Island.
South Island’s West Coast is home to coastal walking tracks, deserted beaches and lush rainforests, but is particularly well known for the mighty Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Once you’ve taken in the glaciers, you’ll be met by glorious snowy peaks and stunning lakes in the Southern Alps.
West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps holiday highlights
Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are two of New Zealand’s most imposing natural wonders, and some of the most impressive and accessible glaciers in the world. These ice rivers descend down from the Southern Alps into temperate rainforest less than 300 metres above sea level, and are home to incredible formations including deep crevasses, icefalls and blue ice grottos. Fox Glacier is smaller but equally dramatic; spend a half day or full day here and emerge from the rainforest to a stunning glacier viewpoint. A great way to discover these superb formations up close is on a heli hike, where you can admire the panoramic views from the skies before walking through crevasses and ice caves.
Be sure to visit Mount Cook (Aoraki, in Maori), the highest mountain in New Zealand. Sir Edmund Hillary developed his skills here in preparation for Mount Everest, and Mount Cook National Park is home to permanent snow fields, stunning glaciers and 23 peaks over 3000 metres high. If you catch nearby Lake Matheson on a clear day, you’ll have the chance to capture the famous mirror image of the lake reflecting the mountain.
New Zealand’s Southern Alps were named by Captain Cook in 1770 and the region is instantly recognisable The Lord of the Rings territory, with its shimmering glacial lakes and rugged snow-capped mountains. Book an air safari or hot air balloon tour to make the most of the incredible panoramic vistas, and if you’re feeling brave, try a skydive in one of the most spectacular settings imaginable.
Head to nearby Lake Tekapo, famous for its unusual milky-turquoise colour caused by fine rock-flour which is ground by glaciers and left in the water. On the shores you’ll find the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most popular photo spots in New Zealand and a superb frame for the Southern Alps backdrop beyond.