Upper South Island and the West Coast Places

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Westland National Park

Glacier Tours

The walks to the glacier heads are the easiest way of seeing the glaciers from a distance. But joining a guided walk and getting up close to their ice formations is unforgettable, and flying over the glaciers is quite thrilling, but expensive. The ultimate combination is to fly by fixed-wing plane or helicopter to the top or middle of the glacier and get out and walk on it. Heli-hikes give you the most time on the ice, two to three hours of snaking up and down the middle of the glacier.

Fox Glacier Guiding. Fox Glacier Guiding has glacier walks and climbs to suit all fitness levels, budgets, and time frames, and even some suitable for kids. Options range from the terminal face walk (you won't walk on the glacier but you will learn all about it's power—from 5 years and up), to walks up onto the glacier of varying durations (four hours to 8 or 9). Kids aged from 7 are allowed on the four-hour trip. For longer trips 13 is the minimum age.There's also heli-ice climbing and an overnight heli-trek adventure where you stay high above the glacier in an historic alpine hut. Reservations are recommended. Fox Glacier Guiding Bldg., 44 Main Rd., Fox Glacier, 7859. 03/751–0825 or 0800/111–600. www.foxguides.co.nz.. From NZ$123.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides. Franz Josef Glacier Guides provides a comprehensive guide service where you'll get flown up onto the ice field, led on a guided glacier exploration, then picked up again and returned to base. There are two heli-hike options, four hours (three on the ice) and three hours (two on the ice with additional scenic flight). They also offer a guided glacier valley walk up the canyon-like floor where the glacier once ground its icy way before retreating. You won't get onto the ice but you'll learn about it's aewsome power. Bookings are essential. Main Rd., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/752–0763 or 0800/484–337. www.franzjosefglacier.com.. 4-hour heli-hike NZ$325, 3-hour heli-hikeand scenic flight NZ$429, glacier valley guided walk NZ$75.

Helicopter Line. The Helicopter Line operates several scenic flights, including quick flight over the glaciers and/or longer trips around Aoraki/Mt Cook, from heliports at either Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier. Three-hour heli-hikes on Franz Josef Glacier are yet another option (NZ$395), where you'll get two hours up on the ice. Reservations are recommended in summer and essential for the heli-hikes. Main Rd., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/752–0767; 0800/807–767 (NZ only). www.helicopter.co.nz..

Mountain Helicopters. Yet another company meeting the demand to see the glaciers is Mountain Helicopters. They fly out of both Franz Josef and Fox with flights starting at 10 minutes (out of Fox) or (out of Franz Josef). The smaller choppers mean that everyone gets a window seat, and the experience is more intimate than with the bigger operators. They also have an office on the main street at Fox Glacier. Fern Grove Souvenir Bldg., Main St., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/751–0045 or 0800/369–423. www.mountainhelicopters.co.nz. From NZ$95.

Fox and Franz Heliservices. Fox and Franz has been operating since 1986 and is the only 100% locally owned venture licensed to land on the glaciers. If your time is limited, a 20-minute spin with a landing on either Fox or Franz Josef glacier will set you on your way. A whole range of glacier landings, and scenic flights farther afield are offered. Explorations are around Mt. Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Tasman and, weather permitting, across the Main Divide. Departures are from both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier townships. The company also runs the Cook Saddle Cafe & Saloon, in Fox Glacier township. Alpine Adventure Centre, Main Rd., Fox Glacier, 7856. 03/753–0793 or 0800/800–793. www.scenic-flights.co.nz.

Skydive Franz. If you're going to skydive anywhere in New Zealand, then above the glaciers and highest mountains would have to be a spectacular option. Billed as offering New Zealand's highest tandem skydive, Skydive Franz will take you to 18,000 feet. You'll have a 75-second freefall and plenty of time to take in the amazing views. They also do 12,000- and 15,000-feet dives, so take your pick. Allow two hours for the experience. They operate every day, dawn to dusk, weather permitting. DVDs, photos, handcams and free Internet upload are all inclusive. Main Rd., Fox Glacier, 7856. 03/752–0714. www.skydivefranz.co.nz.

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