Fox Glacier, New Zealand
For most of our trip we’ve tried to make sure that following the longer driving days we have two nights at the next destination. This wasn’t the case this time, because we wanted to get to the glacier region early on, so today was another three+ hour drive, from Greymouth to Fox Glacier. It’s about 200 km, but the roads are windy and there are plenty of scenic spots along the way where it is Absolutely Necessary to stop and take photos.
We had breakfast in a coffee shop in Greymouth. Slabs asked for a large coffee. They offered him The Bucket, which he gladly accepted, with a triple shot of coffee. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a larger coffee than this.
Today’s destination: Fox Glacier. Slabs had a couple of workmates recommend this as the place to stay, rather than Franz Joseph, so we decided to go with that advice. The plan was to arrive at Franz Joesph at about lunch time, do some of the walks there in the afternoon and then go on to Fox to stay the night. We’ll then have all of tomorrow to explore Fox Glacier and the surrounding area and not have to pack up and move onto the next place.
The trip out of Greymouth was another surreal drive, with snow topped mountains on one side of us and the ocean on the other. It seems impossible, but we can see it, so it has to be real!
We arrived at Franz Joseph at about lunch time, and had a quick lunch at one of the cafes. For a tiny town, it’s very busy and extremely noisy, with helicopters in the air all the time taking people up to the glacier. The only access to the glaciers is by helicopter; you aren’t allowed to walk up there, so they are constantly on the go. I think the noise would drive me mad if I had to stay there, so I’m grateful for the advice to stay at Fox instead.
After lunch we drove up to the start of the walk to Franz Joseph and set off on the walk to as close to the glacier as you’re allowed to go on foot. It’s basically a moonscape surrounded by mountains. Lots of white rocks and not much else for the 45 minute walk to the base of the glacier.
Oh, and signs telling you to beware of rock falls and ice falls. So add those to avalanches as things that can kill you in New Zealand.
We’d been expecting it to be cold and had dressed accordingly, but it wasn’t cold at all and my backpack was rapidly filled with discarded layers. Poor Kramstable had thermal leggings on under his jeans and ended up very hot and uncomfortable.
Even though you can’t get close up to the glacier, it’s a pretty amazing sight, but also sad and scary to see how much of it has gone in the past 7 or 8 years.
We passed Kramstable’s fans from Pancake Rocks going up to the glacier on our way back, which was pretty funny. We decided not to do another walk but to head straight to Fox and check in. This was a good decision, because it started to rain very soon after we left.
From Franz Joseph to Fox was a relatively short drive, and we checked into our motel right away. As soon as we arrived we knew we’d made the right choice of places to stay. Fox is so much smaller and quieter than Franz Joseph, and our motel has the best views of the mountains. We have a small apartment, with two bedrooms and a long, high window in the lounge room that we can see the mountain peaks from. It’s amazing!
We sussed out the village and identified potential eating venues, and by the time we’d done that it was time for dinner anyway. We had a nice meal at one of the bars, though our meals took a long time and we suspected a mix-up in orders somewhere. Other than that it was a pleasant evening, a short walk back to our motel and it feels good not to have to be packing up tomorrow and heading off again.