West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps Holidays

The South Island’s spectacular snow-capped mountain and glacial region.

Striking glaciers and towering mountains make the West Coast an unmissable destination on South Island. It’s home to coastal walking tracks, deserted beaches and lush rainforests, but is particularly well known for the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers that can be seen from the air by helicopter or on a hike.

The Southern Alps is the mountainous region of snow-capped peaks including New Zealand’s highest – Aoraki Mount Cook. A lot of this scenery was used as a filming location for The Lord of the Rings. Glacial lakes nestle between the mountains and behind each landscape there is a storybook of Māori legends.

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West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps

Lake Tekapo Lodge

A unique boutique lodge with a home-away-from-home feel and spectacular mountain and lake views

Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Perfect for exploring Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

The Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Mount Cook

Surrounded by the Southern Alps with spectacular views

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Milford Sound from Queenstown

Depart from Queenstown and travel along through the picturesque Southland farming country to Te Anau. Continue to the Fiordland National Park and the renowned Milford Road. This corridor to the fjord unveils a different side of New Zealand, with its majestic mountains and winding rivers. Throughout the journey, there will be multiple stops for photo opportunities, short walks, and the chance to learn about the fascinating local facts and stories. Embark on a nature cruise that takes you beneath the towering peaks of the fjord. Admire spectacular alpine scenery and look out for unique wildlife including dolphins and seals, before heading back to Queensland.

• Departs daily
• Operates year-round
• Group experience

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TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch or Greymouth

Journey aboard the renowned TranzAlpine train from Christchurch and Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass. Enjoy the magnificent alpine scenery as the train crosses the Canterbury Plains and heads through the Southern Alps where it wind its way through the Waimakariri Gorge. The train arrives in Greymouth at 12:45pm which allows you plenty of time to pick up a hire car and continue your journey to the glacier region. The excursion also operates in reverse or as a return. You can upgrade to the Scenic Plus Dining experience which includes local delicacies which are created on board using the finest farm-to-rail produce.

• Departs daily from October to April
• Departs Friday to Monday between May and September
• Operates year-round
• Group experience

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Get to know the West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +12 (with New Zealand Daylight Time and New Zealand Standard Time applied, this largely equates to 11 hours ahead of the UK from early April to late September and 13 hours ahead from late September to late March)


New Zealand dollar


25½ hours (not including stopover time)


New Zealand has no state religion but the majority of people are Christian


Māori and English

Where are West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps?
The West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps are located in New Zealand’s South Island. The Southern Alps form the backbone of South Island, stretching 400 miles along the west coast and incorporating Fox and Franz Josef’s glaciers.

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Twin glaciers
There are few glaciers in the world that are as accessible as Franz Josef and Fox. The best way to experience their glacial crevasses, icefalls and blue ice grottos is to take a heli-hike. Equipped with crampons, waterproofs and glacial boots, you will be flown by helicopter onto the glacier for a two-hour hike with an expert guide. Alternatively, you may wish to hike up from either Franz Josef or Fox villages to the face of the glacier.

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Aoraki & the Southern Alps
Located in the Southern Alps, Aoraki Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,724 metres. Surrounding it is Mount Cook National Park, home to permanent snow fields, stunning glaciers and 19 peaks over 3,000 metres high. It was here that Sir Edmund Hillary did much of his training before he set off to conquer Mount Everest. New Zealand’s Southern Alps were named by Captain Cook in 1770 and the region is instantly recognisable as the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings. Take a scenic flight for an aerial perspective of the sheer grandeur of this incredibly beautiful part of New Zealand.

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Māori culture
The lakes and mountains of New Zealand play a significant part in Māori culture. When Aoraki and his brothers’ waka (canoe) overturned, the cold turned them to stone. Aoraki, the eldest son of Rakinui, was the name given to Mount Cook and his brothers became other named peaks of the Southern Alps. The Māori stories behind Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are quite tragic. Tuawe fell to his death whilst climbing, leaving his beloved, Hine Hukatere heartbroken. Fox Glacier is called Te Moeka o Tuawe, meaning the bed of Tuawe and Franz Josef’s Māori name is Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere which translates as the tears of Hine Hukatere.

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Iconic lakes
The scenic landscapes of New Zealand are reflected in its beautiful lakes. Lake Matheson was formed by the retreating of Fox Glacier over 14,000 years ago. On a calm day the dark colour of the water makes it ideal for capturing the reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Lake Tekapo is famous for its unusual milky-turquoise colour caused by fine rock-flour which is ground by glaciers and left in the water. On its shore you’ll find the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most popular photo spots in New Zealand and a superb frame for the Southern Alps backdrop beyond.

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West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps Weather

Dec - Mar


West Coast Glaciers & Southern Alps Weather by Month