The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are a pair of magnificent glaciers located in close proximity to one another. They are among the most visited glaciers in the world, thanks to their easy accessibility in a relatively warm climate (in face, the Fox Glacier ends next to a rainforest). They are both located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which is part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site.
European explorers probably first spotted the glacial areas of the South Island of New Zealand sometime in the 17th century. The first was named after William Fox, a prime minister of New Zealand, in 1872, and the latter after the Austrian Emeperor in 1865. The Westland Tai Poutini National park was established in 1960.
The Fox Glacier is about nine miles long, but has been in retreat for some time. It flows into the Fox River a little under a thousand feet above sea level. It is far enough down to reach the tropical treeline (one of the only places on Earth where this happens). The Franz Joseph Glacier is somewhat smaller, but more dramatic in its path down the mountains. The two glaciers are about 12 miles apart.
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are a very popular tourist destination and can be done as a day or weekend trip from almost any point on the South Island. Both glaciers are easily visited, both by tour and unguided. However, after an accident several years ago, special precautions are now required for glacier crossings. Web: www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places/westland-tai-poutini-national-park (official website).