A heavenly tour
Discover the heavenly landscapes of the Southern Alps in this unique tour of New Zealand's two famous glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox, and the surrounding mountains of Aoraki (Mount Cook).
On this unforgettable 40-minute aerial tour, you'll get intimate views of Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, and the Tasman Glacier.
Perhaps most memorable of all, you'll land on untouched snow 3000 metres above sea level to explore an isolated world with views of unimaginable beauty.
Words simply cannot do justice to the thrill of this incredible helicopter tour and the lifelong memories, bountiful anecdotes, and incredible photos you'll take away with you.
Visiting Franz Josef and Fox glaciers is one of the few occasions when a helicopter tour is essential. So don't consider this a frivolous expense—it is a necessity. And if, like most people, you have never been in a helicopter before, then this is probably your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—so take it.
What's so special about a glacier?
Glaciers are formed when snow compacts over long periods of time and becomes so dense its mass causes it to move. There are two contributing factors to this movement: gravity and internal deformation (plastic flow).
While glaciers are not uncommon, New Zealand's Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers are unique because they descend into rainforest at almost sea level.
This anomaly makes them easy to visit and explore. However, at 9km and 13km long, exploring them on foot is a very extensive and difficult day in full mountain gear. And you'll need an expert guide to help you navigate the many dangerous ice caves and crevasses that occur inside glaciers.
Hence, the helicopter tour is the way to go!
Franz Josef Glacier
Starting from the snowfield at its head, Franz Josef glacier descends from 3000 metres to 500 metres above sea level over a distance of 9km. This makes it the steepest in New Zealand, with a rapid 5 metres of movement per day.
Franz Josef glacier has started retreating up the valley rapidly due to the impact of the changing climate. Viewed from above, the snaking remains of this glacier, which once flowed a further 40km into the Tasman Sea, demonstrates the magnificent forces glaciers impart on the mountain environment, carving out huge valleys.
Descending from around 3000 metres to 300 metres above sea level, Fox Glacier has one of the lowest terminal faces in the world that flows into temperate rainforest. At more than 13km long, Fox Glacier's descent is a lot more gradual and its movement considerably less than neighbouring Franz Josef.
The snowfield at the head of Fox Glacier is a serenely beautiful flat expanse of maiden snow—and a perfect landing pad for helicopter tours.
Even climbing aboard, with the blades roaring overhead, is a thrill. Once inside the cabin, things get even more exciting.
Then, when you are in the air, the experience will become truly inspiring, with 360° viewing through a mixture of floor to ceiling windows and the ability to circle in the air.
Your pilot will be providing a running commentary through your headphones and will point out spectacular phenomena as you aerially explore these two unique glacial environments. When you find something truly special, the pilot will hover overhead and rotate the helicopter while you take photos and admire.
The two glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox, were named long before European geologists renamed them after an Austrian Emperor and an early New Zealand prime minister respectively.
In local Ngāi Tahu legend, Hine Hukatere (the Avalanche Maiden) was walking with her lover, Tauwe, in the mountains. Struggling to keep pace with his majestic lover, Tauwe slipped and fell to his death.
Heartbroken and tormented, Hine Hukatere cried many tears that flowed down the mountain. Taking pity, the Sky Father, Rangi, froze Hine Hukatere tears to leave a permanent memorial.
Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (the tears of the Avalanche Maiden) is also known as Franz Josef Glacier, while Te Moeka o Tuawe (the bed of Tauwe) is also known as Fox Glacier.
Helicopter Tours Franz Josef
29 Main Road, Franz Josef / Waiau 7856, New Zealand
West Coast Train
Travelling to the West Coast by train couldn't be easier or more beautiful than aboard the TranzAlpine.
Weaving through the peaks of the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine Christchurch to Greymouth train ranks among the best scenic train journeys in the world.
From Greymouth, you can simply rent a car or campervan and explore Franz Josef and the West Coast at your leisure. Alternatively, you can book one of our short breaks or tours and let us take care of everything for you.
Getting to Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
You can include a Franz Josef & Fox glacier helicopter tour in any of these amazing train tours and packages:
Discover the West Coast
From idyllic lakes to geological wonders, discover why New Zealand's West Coast is such a spectacular place to visit: