I want to share some useful tips which were pretty handy when I and my friend visited The Glacier Country (Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier). You can find more complete tips from Franz Josef and/or Fox Glacier website. I just want to share you some general ones.
- Most people think that the best season to visit Glacier in summer. However, Westland is one of the wettest areas in New Zealand. The annual rainfall is 4,700mm and has 178 rain days. In winter, this area usually becomes wetter with lot of rains (don’t expect snowfall in this area, our guide told us that there is no snow in the township, snow only falls on the mountain). Also in other seasons, spring and summer, this area is also wet. Thus, even in summer season, rain would still come to this area. So which season is the best? Our guide said autumn is the best.
Plan your trip in “Autumn”
- Although we know that it is best to visit in autumn, sometimes it also rains in autumn. So whatever seasons you come please bear in your mind that the weather is still unpredictable, rain can come anytime. Safety is our number 1 priority. The glacier is more dangerous in heavy rain; the ice can break and fall anytime. Sometimes the heavy rain also cause terrible flood. It is also more dangerous if you take heli-hike in bad weather with heavy rain. It is much safer to explore the glacier in a nice weather. Therefore, you must stay longer in the Glacier Country, minimum 5 days.
Stay longer, minimum 5 days
- It is very often that the weather changes in the afternoon. The weather is usually quite nice in the morning, maybe cloudy. The cloud is the “sign” that it is going to be rain later in the day. The earlier the better so you can avoid the rain and bad weather.
Go to the glacier in the morning
- To get best experience even under the rain, you need to dress comfortably. Avoid jeans, as this type of cloth is easily to get wet and take ages to dry. Wear waterproof clothes or clothes which are more easily to dry. I saw some people bring umbrella when they were walking. I would recommend you not to bring umbrella. In a light rain, umbrella might help but in a heavy rain (which is sometimes quite windy), umbrella is easily broken. You might need both your hands when you tramp or hike. I really can’t imagine how you will do it if you are busy with your umbrella in your hand. It is so dangerous. You might trip yourself or fall. It is better if you use strong waterproof jacket than bring umbrella. Wear shoes, hiking or tramping shoes are more preferably. Avoid wearing jandals, thongs or slippers. Sometimes, the route is not really easy (stony, muddy, slippery, wet).
Wear waterproof clothes, don’t wear jeans
- You can always go by yourself to the glacier. However, it is safer and more comfortable if you take the guided tour. It is much more expensive, but trust me it is much safer and you can also enjoy the glacier more thoroughly, something you can’t do if you go by yourself. If you go by yourself, the maximum you will reach is the terminal face of the glacier. If you do the tour, you can walk through the glacier, explore the glacier, climb the glacier or take the heli-hike to the glacier. Even you are not an experienced tramper or hiker, you still can experience the journey comfortably. You almost do not need to prepare everything as the tour company will provide you will the things you need to explore the hike (clothes, boots and safety equipment). The guide will give you information about the glacier, the coolest thing is they know all the best routes (and find the new routes if the usual ones don’t work) through the glacier so you can get best experience to see and feel the glacier, snow and waterfall. As a bonus, after exploring the glacier you can soak yourself in a hot glacier spa in the Glacier Country area.
Take the guided glacier tour
- The last question that everybody usually asks: “Which one is better Franz Josef or Fox Glacier?” You can check everything about these two famous glaciers at Wikipedia and Travel Books. If you ask me, I would say both are fantastic and beautiful (I visited both of them, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier).
Try both glaciers: Franz Josef and Fox (if possible^^)
Here are the some links for the guided tour to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier: