We spent a week at Glacier Country, NZ, in July 2016.
We came from Southern Lakes region to Franz Josef Glacier. It’s an amazing drive, really beautiful. It’s got roads on the mountains, rivers, trees, waterfalls, wineries, farms and charming little towns.
Really close to Fox Glacier, we were driving through this mountain road, which was amazing and full of snow. It was our only encounter with snow on this trip, but a super enjoyable one. We parked the car and did a little snow fight that left our bare hands freezing. Worth it, though!
Our guide to Fox and Franz Josef Glacier (NZ) with kids
Our cottage was this one, in Franz Josef Glacier. It’s got amazing views of the glaciers, friendly ponies (and horses, but they didn’t really care for us), cute dogs, great heater and even a small playground. The shower had great water pressure and it had mostly everything we needed. Our host came in every 2 days to hand our fresh towels and collect the rubbish. There was 1 thing that was annoying: someone spilled milk on the couch and, when we got there, it was smelling like cheese, so we couldn’t really stay too close to it. If you consider that it’s a small cottage, with not much space left, it was quite bad. We were handed a cover for the sofa, which covered the smell a little, but not nearly enough.
The town is pretty small, there are a few restaurants, a small supermarket, a few souvenir shops and guides, helicopter tours and hot pool, cinema, plus a wildlife center. And amazing walks, for all abilities.
Fox Glacier is an even smaller town than Franz Josef.
We did the Terrace Walk, which is a short walk in the bush. It reaches a small and super charming waterfall and creek. We spent a long time playing by the creek. A great walk for children of all ages. After dark, you might be able to see some glow worms. We tried, but it was too dark and scary for us, so we left.
We did the Peters Pool walk, a short walk (20 minutes return) that takes us to this amazing kettle lake. It’s just gorgeous, and when it’s not too windy, the lake is a great mirror, so you can see the mountains covered in snow and the trees. Just gorgeous, it can probably be done with a stroller.
You can carry on walking after Peters Pool, though Douglas Walk. It’s not a hard walk, just full of hills and it gets tiring. Somewhere along the way, we got to Douglas Bridge. It was NOT the most pleasant experience for me, but the kids loved it, so I think it was worth it. Anyway, we crossed it and had to cross back because the next part of that walk was for experienced and well-equipped hikers only – and I’m sure they didn’t mean people with 4 kids complaining they were tired.
We did, of course, the Franz Josef Glacier Walk. It’s a good 1 and half hour track, through a sunny valley, with waterfalls and mossy rocks and a river. Lovely walk, though rocky surface. Not the easiest, but still nice. We spent quite a while close by the safety barrier of the look out. I must say, the glacier itself wasn’t the most amazing thing. It had very little ice – and it was far away (750 meters, the sign said). It’s super full of rocks. Every size of rocks. The beginning of the track is the most amazing part. The end of it is rocky and gray and not much other than that. Plus, the helicopters…. So many helicopters….
The Fox Glacier walk is a whole other thing. Right at the beginning, there’s an area where you shouldn’t stop due to rockfall. Then, by the end of it, a 400 meter climb where you shouldn’t stop either. That was a killer. We got up there and collapsed. I had to lay down on a rock for around 10 minutes before my legs started responding again. The walk was really cool, through slippery rocks all the way, but crossing creeks was an awesome experience. It was a lot closer than the Franz Josef glacier, so that was cool as well, but there were so many people there it was hard to get a photo without people bumping into us, or photobombing. It was a really cool experience, even though super tiring. Only for kids who can walk well or those with strong parents to carry them.
We also went to the Peak View Lookout, a nice – and car reachable – place with amazing views of Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, and Fox Glacier. There were even chairs and a picnic table. Must be glorious during sunset. I can’t express the gratitude I felt towards it being car reachable because we went there right after our Fox Glacier experience.
We ate, in Fox Glacier, at Café Nevé. The food was OK, but the service was great. The kids loved the drawings on the boards, super cool.
Then, in Franz Josef, we had coffee at the Snake Bite. It’s a warm place, with a good menu and good hot chocolate and coffee. The service was OK. I had this lunch menu rice bread with duck and veggies that were delicious.
And lastly, The Landing. Oh, so good food! It was the best food we’ve had in a while. And the dessert? LOVED it! Beautiful and delicious. I’m sorry we didn’t take any photos, it was because we just couldn’t wait. We were there once for a full meal and once for dessert only because it was Jose’s birthday and he wanted it. It’s the most expensive place we’ve been here, but quite worth it. The service was also great.
It’s a beautiful place, with not many free activities (other than walking). The heli-rides and guided walks also have an age limit, and Coral was way too young for any of them. Check carefully with the providers before coming with a small child.
Next stop, Blenheim! If you’ve ever been there, let us know!