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Fox Glacier Area Guide

Situated about halfway between Haast and Hokitika, Fox Glacier is a small village taking its name from the icy giant located just a couple of miles to its southeast.

The town's continuing existence owes pretty much everything to the tourists visiting the glacier, and this is reflected in the dominance of related services. As such, it's an opportune place to top up supplies or use as a short-term stop on a trip along the west coast route.

You'll find various tour companies based in the area, offering scenic flights, glacier walks and ice climbing or mountaineering trips. Accommodation is plentiful, with something for everyone...from backpackers to those with larger budgets. Cafes and souvenir shops complete the tourism picture.

The glacier - like its sister at Franz Josef - is unusual in that it reaches from the heights of the mountains down to near sea level and the coast. Moving at up to 1m a day, it's currently growing out away from the alpine peaks. This is in refreshing contrast to most of its cousins elsewhere in the world who are busy shrinking. You can reach the glacier via various marked paths or in the company of one of the tour guides.

There are other natural wonders in the Fox region, too. For example, the town has its own glowworm dell (though the poor insects tend to lose out somewhat in terms of natural splendour when compared with a 13km wall of ice).

If you have the time, head off west from Fox for about 6kms on the Cook Flat Road. This takes you to Lake Matheson, one of the country's most iconic photo opportunities. And beyond Matheson is Gillespie's beach, home to a colony of fur seals. Hundreds of these sea mammals can be seen in winter.

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