There may be no more rugged an area in all of New Zealand than Westland Tai Poutini National Park. With the amount of unmanned wilderness on tap throughout the whole of the country, that's saying a lot. On the west coast opposite the South Island's largest city, Christchurch, this national park is home to epic glaciers, permanent snowfields, abandoned gold mines, and, to prove its diversity of habitat, animal-rich wetlands.
Don't be fooled by how close the region looks on the map to cities like Queenstown or Christchurch, much of the park is accessible only by helicopter. Two towns that are quite popular for their proximity to huge glaciers are Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, both of which sit on route 6, the only road that braves the area. Franz Josef is the busier of the two and provides access to the glacier of the same name, while Fox Glacier is the smaller and more intimate, although they are only separated by a few miles. Those that are thinking of attempting to climb the ice will usually need a guide and ice climbing equipment, while there are a ton of hikes to some fantastic vantage points that range from a short walk to endurance testing treks. We suggest checking out the picturesque mountain views over nearby Lake Matheson for a less intensive journey, the short hikes and kayaking routes across the lagoons in Okarito, and the much more demanding Copley Track, whose travel-worn trekkers benefit from the natural hot springs near Welcome Flat.
Don't think that the only thing drawing you here is the chance to freeze your behind off on a land-locked iceberg. Both of these towns provide plenty of other adventure opportunities, including mountain biking tracks, skydiving over Franz Josef, and much more. This is just the tip of the... err, iceberg... Check out the official website to book accommodations, hire guides, and find out much more about what this huge and varied park has to offer you.