How did I stumble upon Heli-Hiking Fox Glacier? On one fine Sunday in Fiji, I was laying on the beach watching the sunset. I had spent the last hour talking to other travelers my age. They had just come from New Zealand and were absolutely raving about the country.
Since New Zealand was my next stop, I decided to do some investigating into what activities were unmissable! Expecting to hear a wide variety of things to do, there was one activity that every single person told me I could not skip.
Ironically, I had heard about Fox Glacier before but decided not to do it because of the price. However, since I was now hearing from everyone how incredible it was, how could I not do it? I have the willpower equivalent of a teaspoon…I am aware.
Once I got to New Zealand, the day finally came when I got to heli-hike Fox Glacier. And although it came with a sizable price tag, it was very safe to say that those travelers in Fiji did not steer me wrong!
Bucket List Review of Heli-Hiking Fox glacier
|My Overall Rating||10/10|
|Who Needs to Add This to Their Bucket List?||Outdoor and adventure enthusiasts who want to hike|
in a whole new way and go on a helicopter!
|Best Time to Go||November to February, but may be more crowded.|
If you need more information, you check out all you need to know about my Bucket List Reviews.
Starting Your Adventure to Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is in Glacier Country. This is in the middle (and a little to the left) of the south island.
Although I know that it is possible to get close by bus from any major city in the southern islands, I think that it is significantly easier to drive.
I took a guided tour through New Zealand and this was automatically offered to me as an optional excursion. Unless you are visiting friends/family and have your own car, it might be easier to go with the ‘guided tour’ option since it isn’t exactly outside any of the major cities.
We drove our tour bus to the station where we sat through multiple safety briefings. Side note, I am starting to notice a lot of activities that I do have these safety briefings…I wonder what that says about me…opps.
These were mostly about how to enter/exit the helicopter and protocols for hiking with the gear. Once done, we got sized for our snazzy pants and jacket as well as shoes that fit the crampons (more on that later).
How do you Get to Fox Glacier?
Now you might have read up in the previous section and thought, “Wait…did she just say helicopter??”
Yes. Yes, I did. Helicopter.
One of the things that makes Fox Glacier so fun is that you don’t just walk to it and start hiking. You have to be FLOWN there. Riding in a helicopter was very high on my bucket list—but riding a helicopter so that you can go hike a glacier in New Zealand? That’s next level!
The ride wasn’t too long—not more than 15 minutes. That doesn’t mean that my heart was not pounding the entire time and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences! I don’t know what I was expecting, but something about riding in a helicopter was even more amazing than I could have imagined! What a rush!
And I do have to say…since it is a helicopter, know the risks, stay safe, and HAVE FUN!
The Gear you Will be Provided With when Heli-Hiking
Once you land on the glacier, they will provide you with certain gear to keep you safe. As I mentioned previously, you will have already been given some snow gear for warmth.
But that’s not all! When I went, we were also provided a bag for our things, crampons, and poles.
For those of you who don’t know what crampons are, they are shoe extensions that are tight to the bottom of your shoes. They make the bottom of your feet spiky and help with traction with the ice. I also had to wear these on the Tongariro Pass.
Don’t let these intimidate you! They really do make you feel more stable walking on ice and snow (not to mention you feel like a badass).
Another piece of gear that is provided is poles. Again, this is pretty self-explanatory and helps for stability when walking around.
The guide also had a pickaxe that he used to carve paths and allowed me to get some pretty crazy pictures.
What is it like to hike Fox Glacier?
I am a hiking enthusiast and while this was similar, there were some differences that I noticed between this and hiking normally.
You have to be more careful where and how you step
You have to step with the intention for every single step. There were some places where the snow and ice were quite slippery. This is lessened by the gear but you still have the risk of falling.
There was no marked path
In traditional hiking, you would normally not need a guide because most of the time there are clear and informative trails.
With this, a guide was needed at all times and there was not a clear path. It seemed like we just went wherever the ice would allow us to go, with the guide sometimes making a path for us!
You don’t go as far
Instead of walking miles to reach a destination, this felt more like a wandering stroll. Since there is no man-made path, we just explored rather than had a specific place to go.
There were a few ice tunnels
One part of the hike that I absolutely loved was sometimes we would come across little tunnels made out of ice.
Disclaimer: if you are massively claustrophobic, this is NOT for you. Let the guide know and he will find you another route.
At one point, I was on my stomach (and that was tight!) pulling the snow to move myself to get to the other side.
You have to follow the guide’s every instruction
Unlike some guided hikes where you can leisurely listen to the guide, I would probably pay more attention to this one.
He would tell us dangerous spots, where not to put our feet, where we could walk etc.
The pictures are a bit more unique than a standard hike
Don’t forget to bring your camera or phone! There were several opportunities to take pictures with the scenery, the waterfall, or the helicopter.
This one is quite obvious and I don’t know about some of you…but I’ve never been dropped off via helicopter for a hike.
This is seriously cool and a once-in-a-lifetime experience in itself!
Budgeting to Heli-Hike Fox Glacier
Since there are several factors involved such as specialized guides, gear, and the helicopter ride over, that does jack up the price quite a bit.
As I mentioned before, I originally gonna pass on this experience because of the hefty price tag. That being said, I do think that this is a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Coming from someone who has checked this off of her bucket list, I would say that the price is worth it if you are interested in it! Let me explain:
For me, I am an adrenaline and outdoor junkie. Therefore, the idea that I got to jump into a helicopter (which was on my bucket list by itself) and go hike a glacier with waterfalls and ice tunnels all while looking over the scenery in New Zealand? Yeah…can’t really pass that up.
But if hiking and adventure aren’t really your thing, then it might not be worth it…or at least there are other activities that might be better suited for that amount of money.
So I would say to reflect and see if this is something that is unmissable for you! If it is, I would wait until you save the extra money to fly to New Zealand. That is, of course, if you don’t want to go to New Zealand twice. That seems more expensive to me but to each his own!
There are different options for tours such as just the helicopter or another nearby glacier (Fran’s Josef). However, no matter what you do, it is likely to set you back around $400 and lasts about 3-4 hours.
Do you have a trip planned to New Zealand and are adding Fox Glacier to your bucket list? Don’t forget to follow me on social media and tag me in your photos so that I can see how it went!