The Fox Glacier Waterfalls were the series of waterfalls that Julie and I encountered when we finally had a chance to visit this glacial counterpart to the more famous Franz Josef Glacier in December 2009. Unlike with Franz, it didn’t seem like we could identify any waterfalls with official names (we couldn’t even identify Flute Falls, which seemed to be the only officially-named waterfall in this valley) so all we had were a bunch of photos of waterfalls that we had trouble associating with names. So if this page is a difficult read because we couldn’t single them out, well, we did our best to describe them under the circumstances.
In any case, these waterfalls were really our waterfalling excuse to talk about the Fox Glacier itself, which was the primary draw. Like Franz, this glacier was also said to be one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, and it also could make that rare claim that it terminated into coastal rainforest. That said, it seemed to us to be noticeably quieter and less developed than the Franz Josef Glacier (including its neighbouring township) though it too saw its share of tour groups. Indeed, the waterfalls were like backdrops to the overall scenery without any of them drawing the kind of attention to stand out on its own.
Julie and I only did the glacier valley walk from the car park (see directions below) to the glacier terminus. We didn’t get a chance to do a helihike on this glacier. Yet we already started to see waterfalls coming down around the car park area as well as the access road to get there. According to our map, Flute Falls was supposed to be tumbling near one of the access roads to get here so perhaps it was one of the waterfalls we saw during the drive. Anyways, we’re not sure if these waterfalls were permanent or they benefitted from the rains that would frequently come to this end of the Southern Alps. Perhaps this uncertainty was the main reason why hardly any of these waterfalls seemed to have official names.
Nonetheless, we then proceeded to walk along the north side of the Fox River as the mostly rocky track had a somewhat long (and potentially wet) stream crossing beneath a cascade before ultimately reaching the terminus of the glacier, where we saw another cascade tumbling across the valley. There were signs warning us about tidal waves in the Fox River, and Julie and I happened to witness the reason why as we managed to hear the crack and see the thundering calving of the glacier terminus right before our eyes! Overall, we spent just under two hours doing the walk, but when Julie and I made a return visit later in the afternoon (when the weather was calmer), we only needed one hour as we stopped fewer times to take photos.
The turnoff for Fox Glacier is about 2km south of the Cook Flat Road/SH6 intersection (in the Fox Glacier township). Turning left onto the access road from the town centre, proceed for just under 4km to the car park at the end of the road.
If you’re coming from the south and heading north, the turnoff is on the right just past the bridge over the Fox River.
Note there’s also an access road to the south of the Fox River just before (as you’re heading north) the bridge. This took us to an overlook, but I didn’t recall it taking us to the glacier itself.
For geographical context, the Fox Glacier township was 23km (30 minutes drive) west of the Franz Josef Glacier township, 157km (2 hours drive) south of Hokitika, 196km (2.5 hours drive) south of Greymouth, and 327km (4 hours drive) north of Queenstown.
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