Fox Glacier Waterfalls

Westland / Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

About Fox Glacier Waterfalls

Hiking Distance: 2.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2009-12-27
Date last visited: 2009-12-27

Waterfall Latitude: -43.49967
Waterfall Longitude: 170.04559

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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.

Fox_Glacier_002_11232004 - Partial view of the Fox Glacier in November 2004 from a lookout on the road to the south side of the Fox River (opposite the glacier access road)
Fox_Glacier_001_12262009 - The start of the track to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_017_12262009 - This was a fairly long (and potentially wet) stream crossing on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_007_jx_12262009 - Looking across the span of the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_026_12262009 - Julie still taking photos as we continued approaching the Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_030_12262009 - This was one of the more prominent waterfalls that we saw on the way to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_033_12262009 - Now we were getting fairly close to the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_053_12262009 - A closer examination of the striations in the dirty part of the terminus of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_064_12262009 - Tidal wave signs warning us not to get close to the Fox River due to glacial calving, which we actually witnessed during our visit
Fox_Glacier_087_12262009 - Contextual look back at the Fox Glacier as the sun started showing up
Fox_Glacier_094_12262009 - Heading back to the car park with some interestingly-shaped knobs and hills flanking the glacier valley
Fox_Glacier_101_12262009 - Angled view towards this double-barreled waterfall seen near the car park
Fox_Glacier_107_12262009 - More direct look towards that double-barreled waterfall tumbling near the car park
Fox_Glacier_114_12262009 - As we went a short distance down the access road, we noticed this attractive falls spilling right into a colourful pool
Fox_Glacier_118_12262009 - We came back later in the afternoon to see the Fox Glacier again, and in doing so, we noticed this cascade in the distance seen from the car park
Fox_Glacier_133_12262009 - Context of the Fox Glacier with the Fox River and some cascades tumbling towards it
Fox_Glacier_141_12262009 - Looking across the terminus of Fox Glacier towards a cascade
Fox_Glacier_143_12262009 - A closer look at that waterfall tumbling near the termins of Fox Glacier
Fox_Glacier_152_12272009 - Our last look at the impressive Fox Glacier before we left for good


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.

Sweep from left to right starting at a prominent cascade then panning over to the glacier terminus before following the river downstream

This isn't a waterfall movie, but... Folks, this is why you heed the warning signs!!!

An impressive waterfall fronted by a colorful pool just north of the car park for the glacier terminus walk

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Tagged with: westland, tai poutini, world heritage, national park, fox glacier, west coast, south island, new zealand, waterfall, southern alps

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