Glaciers, Mt. Cook and the New Zealand West Coast

I actually took this – not stock image. (Kind of proud)

I woke early on my fifth day in New Zealand; it was still dark in the mountain outpost of Franz Josef. Franz Josef exists for the mountains and the glacier, and tourists flock here in droves.

Little did I realize when I started the day, that I would see sights unlike anything I had ever seen before.

The first experience of the day was a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier, including a snow landing. It was only the second time I’d been in a helicopter, and the scenery was a lot different from the Hawaiian views of my first flight.

The trip up to the top of the glacier was like living in one of those IMAX/National Geographic features. We flew over the striated folds of the massive ice mountain, zooming in close for spectacular views. The landing was unexpectedly awesome; walking around the snow trying to capture the moment in film. Without exaggeration, the glacier flight was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

After the amazing experience, which I captured in video and will share soon, I sauntered over to the Wildlife Center, still high off of the morning’s activity.

The Center is a new addition to Franz Josef and is home to two Kiwi birds, the all too rare bird that is the emblem of the country. The Center does a great job of teaching visitors not just about the Kiwi, but why it’s important that everyone work together to help save them. Watching the silly, flightless birds forage for food was an added bonus.

I left Franz Josef for the supposedly four-hour, really six-hour, drive to Wanaka. I stopped repeatedly along the way, shell shocked by the beauty of the country. Every time I think New Zealand has shown me her best, the next scene ups the ante. Of particular note was a stop at Lake Matheson, home of the famous reflecting lake from which dramatic views of Mt. Cook can be found.

Ship's Cove primordial swamp

The drive, while long and hard, was the best I have ever done. I have hundreds of photos from the adventure, but the real joy is the experience itself. Driving through narrow mountain passes, wide flats, skirting the edges of glaciers and ending at Lake Wanaka, it was a truly phenomenal experience.

Every visitor to New Zealand, regardless of their plans, absolutely must include a visit to the South Island’s West Coast. It is a supremely beautiful part of the world that is really and truly God’s Country.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

13 Responses

  1. Erik

    Amazing, Matt. Do you think that first one is the best photo you’ve ever taken?

    • Matt Long

      Ha, thank you but I don’t know about that. It’s not necessarily good technically, but it is definitely gorgeous. I have a lot of great shots from the glacier itself I’m saving for a future post.

  2. Mike C

    That picture of Mt Cook at Mirror Lakes was the one I wanted to take, it was raining and misty the day I was there. Gutted, but it did leave me with some stunning sunset pictures later on in the evening.

    New Zealand is amazing, is this part of your blog4NZ win?

    • Matt Long

      Yup, been here the entire week and posting daily updates. I leave tomorrow sadly, but can’t wait to come back at some point!

  3. The NVR Guys

    Sorry, Matt, I’m distracted by that picture – it’s incredible!

    • Matt Long

      🙂 Thank you, that was my intent actually, the verbiage is just mumbo jumbo (not really)

  4. Katrina

    Really loving the second photo in this post! Those chunks look like ginormous ice cubes!

    • Matt Long

      Yeah that was taken as the helicopter did a fly-by of part of the ice fields. I have many more to share, plus video of the experience.

  5. Ken Kaminesky

    Way to go Matt! I just loved my short visit to beautiful New Zealand, and hope to return one day soon. Those photos are fantastic, good job 🙂

  6. Lori Winter

    Gorgeous shots! So glad you had a clear day. We hiked Franz Josef in the rain, but it was still equally as impressive.

  7. The Roaming Boomers

    Stunning photographs Matt!

  8. Amanda

    I can’t believe how lucky you got with the weather on the West Coast! WOW! After hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier, I can only imagine how awesome it would be to soar over it in a helicopter.

    You’re making me all excited about New Zealand all over again.

  9. Christina

    Those pictures from your heli trip look amazing. It’s so great you got to do that. I loved my Franz Josef hike but I reckon next time, if I’m as lucky with the weather as you, I might do a heli trip.


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