Te Moeka o Tuawe, or the Fox Glacier as it is more commonly known is a vast sheet of compacted ice and snow that sits in New Zealand’s Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
Amid the wild and untamed landscape of the country’s South Island, the glacier attracts visitors from across the globe seeking to explore its ever changing icy landscape. Fed by four alpine glaciers the Fox Glacier wends its way 13km through the Southern Alps and down the Fox River.
Like all of New Zealand’s glaciers the Fox has seen periods of vast growth and retreat, and is responsible for shaping the surrounding environment and creating some areas of inspiring natural beauty.
With such an array of environments to explore what’s the best way to experience all that the Fox Glacier region has to offer?
This was the question I found myself struggling to answer as I contemplated the merits of investing in a half day heli hike, tandem skydive and ice climbing excursion.
For the budget traveller, exploring New Zealand requires a delicate balance of finance management and once in a lifetime adventures. With so many regions worthy of a place on your itinerary it can be difficult to choose where to spend and when to save.
Exploring Fox Glacier on a budget
Fortunately on our arrival at the Fox Glacier Holiday Park the friendly receptionist told us about their new range of Outfoxing Guides.
A short series of DIY guidebooks, these foxy itineraries showcase the best of the region’s natural beauty, without the need for helicopter rides and expensive guided tours.
For the sum of just $4 the team at Fox Glacier can transform you into a local guide with expert knowledge of Lake Matherson’s rainforest giants, the glow worms of the Minnehaha Trail or the history of the Fox Glacier Valley.
Want to know more? Here’s my guide to getting Foxy with an OutFoxing Guide.
The Fox Glacier valley walk
START // Drive south for two kilometres from Fox Glacier township, and turn left immediately before the Fox River bridge.
TIME // 1 Hour Return
It’s a common misconception that the only way to see the glacier is from above or via a heli hike excursion.
Following this 2.6km return route through a deep valley gorge this Outfoxing Guide talks you through the remarkable journey of the surrounding cliffs from their origins in Australia, and the evolution of the glacier.
Unlock the secrets of the frozen river of ice as you admire the terminal face, and learn of the Maori legends that bring the glacier to life.
The lake Matheson trail
START // Turn onto Cook Flat Road in the middle of Fox Glacier township (this is well signposted). Travel 5 km along this road then turn right onto the side road to Lake Matheson.
TIME // 90 Minutes Return
This series of 3 Outfoxing Guides delves deep into the geology of New Zealand’s west coast.
Uncovering the indomitable influence of the Alpine Fault, the varied divaricating plants of the surrounding wetlands and the fruition of the Lake Matherson after the last ice age, this 90 minute walk offers insight into the building blocks of the surrounding landscape.
From hunting down umbrella fans and climbing clubmoss to standing in the shadow of the giant kahikatea that line the path, these guides take you on an ecological and geographical journey around the lake’s edge.
The Minnehana glow worm walk
START // Walk south through Fox Glacier township approximately 50 metres past the Bella Vista Motel.
TIME // 20 Minutes Return
When the sun sets grab your torch and your guide to the weird and wacky life of a glow worm, and head down the Minnehaha track in search of the thousands of tiny night lights that illuminate the path.
Find out how these little chaps deal with turf wars, their place in the Maori story of creation and how to tell when they’re hungry.
START // Drive 2 km south from Fox Glacier township, and turn left immediately after crossing the Fox River Bridge. The Glacier View Road is narrow and unsealed so take care as you navigate to the car park at the end of this road.
TIME // 30 Minutes One Way
Grab this series of 2 Outfoxing Guides and reveal how Mother Nature reclaimed the pile of debris left behind by the retreating Fox Glacier.
Spot the examples of aerial roots, 400 year old rata forest and follow the line of the glacier as it retreated throughout recent history. Quote fun facts from your guide and learn about the choker rata that grows atop dying nurse trees to leave a seemingly impossible timber structure.
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Having utilised these handy guides during our walk around Lake Matherson and while on the lookout for glow worms along the Minnehaha trail, I can vouch for the fact that they offer the most cost effective tour through this unending alpine landscape.
For the cost of the spare change in your back pocket an Outfoxing Guidebook offers budget travellers the chance to explore the beauty of the Fox Glacier region, and by basing yourself at the Fox Glacier Holiday Park you can have the ultimate in affordable glacial escapes.
Have you spent time in New Zealand’s Glacier Country? Share your comments with me below.