Bucket List New Zealand Experiences: Ice Caving

Imagine walking upon the surface of a giant, ancient, ever-changing glacial river; exploring caverns and tunnels of ice. Truly unforgettable...

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to experience the otherworldly landscapes and formations created by glaciers. And at the largest of the New Zealand glaciers, we've cherry picked the very best guides and experiences, for you, our VIP client.



The epic ice caves of the Mount Cook glaciers. Images via New Zealand photographer Lee Cook

Mount Cook - Fox Glacier

Your experience will begin with a breathtaking helicopter flight into the snowy wilderness, past the sheer west faces of New Zealand's largest mountain, Mount Cook. Travelling by chopper allows you to access the most remote, spectacular parts of the 13-kilometre long Fox Glacier (in Maori, Te Moeka o Tuawe). 

Choose to join a group expedition, or - for the most memorable experience - hike the glacier face with just a guide. The private guide we use is local legend Charlie Hobbs. Charlie holds the highest possible international certification for mountain and ski guiding, and there's simply no better person to have with you on the ice. What sets Charlie apart is that he will go where the ever-changing caves and formations have sprung up (rather than hiking a set path that may happen to take in ice caves) so each experience can be very unique from the next. 


Majestic Mount Cook. Image via Charlie Hobbs


A pic shared by one of our guests recently, during his exploration of Fox Glacier

With crampons on foot and professional equipment at hand, you'll begin exploring the mighty Fox Glacier. There are so many amazing formations - from massive caverns and tunnels, to arches, and even the stunning Victoria Falls, a waterfall born from a melting river from the hidden Victoria Glacier.

For family groups, we use the excellent Aoraki Adventures, who hike New Zealand's largest and longest glacier, the mighty Tasman (Huapapa in Maori).


Image via Aoraki Adventures

Franz Josef Glacier

The magnificent Franz Josef (in Maori, Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere) glacier is widely regarded as one of the most impressive sights to be found anywhere in the world. It drops quite steeply from the Southern Alps to near sea-level, moving faster than the average glacier at more than 50 centimetres per day (speeds of up to four metres per day have been recorded in the main ice fall sections)!

The fast-moving ice creates some truly incredible features and formations - ice caves, tunnels, crevasses and giant columns (seracs); all of which are constantly changing and evolving so no two days are ever the same. 


Your journey begins in Franz Josef Village, where you'll meet your guides, get kitted up, and be briefed on the adventure ahead. A short walk through native forest takes you to the heli pad, where you'll be whisked away over the jaw-dropping landscape. Take in the full panoramic majesty of the glacier from overhead, as you prepare to land on the ice for a 3-hour hike. 


Spot the tiny people! Image via Franz Josef Glacier Guides


Exploring an ice cave in Franz Josef glacier  

The guides we work with are highly-skilled in the art of step cutting, meaning they'll actually create the route you'll walk (cutting steps into the icy terrain) as you hike. The pristine features of the glacier are constantly changing - you might find yourself sliding through a narrow crevasse or between towering walls of ice, crawling through blue ice tunnels, hanging out in ice caves, or witnessing the glacier calving. The glacier is so fast moving that no two trips are ever quite the same. Along the way, your guide will share with you the fascinating history of the glacier and the Franz Josef area, as well as the beautiful Maori legend of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere - The Tears of the Snow Maiden.

At the end of a fabulous day on the ice, we include a complimentary entry to the Glacier Hot Pools (upgrade to a massage to ease tired ice-climbing muscles, or enjoy a or a private spa room, if you prefer). 


Ready to book the holiday of a lifetime in New Zealand? Click here to contact our team of passionate Kiwi travel planners.

Tags: New Zealand Adventure, New Zealand Experiences, New Zealand Mountains, South Island