Upper South Island and the West Coast Sights

Westland/Tai Poutini National Park

  • Fox Glacier Hwy. Map It
  • Westland National Park
  • Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

Published 08/30/2016

Fodor's Review

Some wonderful walks follow the glacial valleys, bringing you to viewpoints within 500 feet or so of the glaciers. Topping the list, a five-minute drive west of Fox Glacier township, is the walk around Lake Matheson that leads to one of the country's most famous views. A trail winds along the lakeshore to where the snowcapped peaks of Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman are reflected in the water. It's an easy 2.6-km (1-mile) walk right around the lake. The best times are sunrise and sunset, when the mirrorlike reflections are less likely to be fractured by the wind. Be wary at the car parks of the mischievous kea (kee-ah)—mountain parrots—that may delight in destroying the rubber of your windscreen wipers. Don't encourage them, or potentially harm them, by feeding them. Guided walks can be booked to explore further. This is a dynamic environment, and access is sometimes closed for a day or so because of rock falls and river surges. Alternatively, from Fox township, drive

about 4 km (2½ miles) toward the coast on Cook Flat Road for a roadside view of Fox Glacier (weather permitting). Be sure to heed DOC closure signs, some who have ignored them have died as a consequence.

You can also fly over the glaciers in helicopters or planes and land on the stable névé, or hike on them with guides. Remember that these great ice structures are always in motion; guides know the hazardous areas to avoid.

Flights are generally best early in the morning, when visibility tends to be clearest. Summer may be warmer, but there is more rain and fog that can scuttle flightseeing and hiking plans. In winter, skies are clearer, which means fewer canceled flights and glacier hikes, and more spectacular views. In fact, in winter this area is a lot warmer than the snow resort towns east of the Southern Alps

Traveling south of the national park, look for the forest-framed views of Lakes Paringa and Moeraki, then 2 km (1 mile) south of Moeraki the ocean view over the rock stacks at Knights Point. Farther south, between Moeraki and Haast, stop and explore the walkways, wetlands, and beach at Ship Creek. There are few places where ancient rain forest grows so close to the coast as it does here. And check the waves—Hector's dolphins are sometimes seen surfing close to shore. Sand flies here can be voracious, so bring insect repellent and hope for a windy day (there are fewer sand flies in winter).

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Sight Information


Fox Glacier Hwy., Westland National Park, West Coast, 7886, New Zealand

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Published 08/30/2016


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