West Coast, South Island
Once again we didn't take this tour but at both these villages and also on 'the other side' of Mt. Cook there are helicopter lines that run flights that range from 20 minutes to about an hour (about 200 NZD to well the sky is the limit really). The companys are up and down the main streets of both the villages.
I have attached the website of one of the companies.
Due to the rainy weather 'our' glacier - Fox - was closed for access so we drove the half hour north in the hope Franz Josef was open. Thankfully it was. We parked at the end of Glacier Access Road and walked about 10 mins to the end of the paved walkway. The views are stunning and the Glacier seems to be close even though the people who walked along the river bed (through the icy water) to get closer looked like ants. Guess that says something about the size of the thing!
We didn't do a guided glacier walk at either Fox or Franz Josef Glacier but probably would if we went back. They are expensive but I would imagine extremely worthwhile and the safest way to walk on the glaciers. The companies appear to be well run and I have never heard of bad reports. This was at Franz Josef Glacier
Our first afternoon in Fox Glacier and we headed out past Lake Matheson to what was supposedly the best view point of the Fox Glacier. Room for parking and a bit of a leg stretch as well as a picnic table or two. Great view of this impressive Glacier. Unfortunately this weather didn't last.
Here in the URL for a tour operator that operates in both Queenstown and Te Anau to both Doubtful sound and Milford sound.
They could tell you the kind of weather to expect. They offer the whole package and can get you there and back.
I personally prefer Doutful sound with the Generatoring station tour myself.
Lots to see and do in Queenstown too. I enjoyed the steam boat cruise across the lack to Walters Peak, Ranch for a dinner and a Sheep demonistration.
Hokitika is a small town on the West Coast of the South Island. Its 40 kilometres south of Greymouth. It will be great town to stop over during your South Island trip.
Hokitika has a artististic community. The artist creates craft, sculptors, jade jewellery and paintings. They have natural resources and raw materials (greenstone (pounamu), gold, and other minerals. The population has declined greatly and now only about 4000 people live in the town.
Hokitika is also gaining its popularity for the annual wild food festival which is held in March each year and have been running since 1990.
To pass thru Haast Pass, you must bypass Haast.
Haast is a very tiny little township that is located on the West Coast of the South Island. It has about 300 population in population.
You can take a few short walks and see a few lookouts points along the State Highway 6.
Along the way, you would by pass some beautiful sights. Knights Point, Ship Creek, Bruce Bay, Lake Paringa are worthwile to stop by for some photo taking.
Franz Josef is 5 hrs from Queenstown, 5 hrs from Christchurch and 1 hr 30 mins from Hokitika.
Walks from Franz Josef
Sentinel Rock Walk - 20 mins return. An easy climb for spectacular views of the glacier.
Pakihi Walk - 30 mins, easy superb 360 deg views of mountains and rainforest.
Terrace Walk - 30 mins return. Forest walk to historic sluice face. Glowworms after dark
Canavans Knob Walk - 40 mins return climb to glacier and coastal views.
Douglas Walk - 1 hr return. 5 mins bushwalk to Peters Pool for reflective views of glacier and continues through forest to exit 500 metres down road from start point.
Glacier Valley Walk - 1 hr 20 mins return. Follows the Waiho River bed to glacier terminal. Please heed all signs and barriers.
Tatare Tunnels Walk - 1 hr 20 mins return. Take a flashlight to explore the old tunnel; be prepared to wade through cold water.
Lake Wombat walk - 1 hr 30 mins return. Easy forest walk to small lake.
Okarito Trig Walk - 1 hr 30 mins, steep climb to panorama of alps and glaciers.
Callery-Waiho Walk - 2 hrs 30 mins one way giving access to Roberts Point track and glacier access road via the Douglas track.
Three Mile Walk - 3 hrs, easy historic pack track, mountains, glaciers, beach walk. Check tides.
Roberts Point Track - 5 hrs return. Climbs via a rocky track and swingbridges to a high viewpoint above glacier.
Alex Knob Track - 8 hours return. Climb up to sub-alpine terrain with views of the glacier, mountains and coastline.
Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are just 30 mins drive apart.
If you only have time for one glacier, I suggest that you come to Fox Glacier. You could really get very close to the glacier as it is about 3 arms length away from the barriers.
Took the helicopter ride for $225 per person for a 20 mins flight and 10 mins snow landing. This is a life time experience and my 1st time on a helicoper. Was deciding between helicopter or plane and we made the right choice ;p We could not fly from Franz josef due to the weather. Drove to Fox Glacier to try our luck and it really paid off.
I love the mirror image of the photo of Lake Matheson which we have taken. It was taken when we first reached the Lake where there were not much people around.
After we took the 1 hour walk and came back, there lake was not calm and has ripples because some kids throw some pebbles into the lake to scare the ducks.
Nothing you may have seen of alpine glaciers can really prepare you for the extraordinary sight of the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers' great ice flows coming down through the temperate rainforest jungle of New Zealand's west coast. Dramatic as landing and walking on the glacier may be if you take a helicopter flight to their higher reaches, you still should see them at their face, almost at sea level, the most easily accessible glaciers in the world and quite unique in their lush surrounds.
Feeder glaciers in the high Alps converge to form these two seperate glaciers. Helihikes will take you high onto these alpine reaches of the glaciers - another world again, this one of glittering icy wastes, very different from the lush forests at the lower reaches.
If you decide to stay at sea level, guided walks onto the glaciers are available and all levels of fitness can be catered for. For those who just wish to see the glaciers without the commitment of a strenuous hike - and the time this requires - you can simply walk towards the face from the carparks. It's a fair walk over the morain and be warned -if it has been raining heavily - and it rains here on the west coast some 300 days a year - the morain can be criss-crossed with small streams that can fill quite rapidly making it necessary to weave your way around. It's not difficult though and it is absolutely awe-inspiring.
There are, of course, several companies operating scenic flights over the glaciers for those who want to see them but prefer their contact with ice to be as something that clinks in a long glass.
Lake Brunner is ideal for getting away from it all.The area is well equiped for hiking, biking all watersports as well as camping.
very well serviced and also a great spot for Families and from here you have an easy drive along the great West Coast road
from there you could drive on to Nelson and straight ahead, through Motueka into Golden Bay