On the west coast there are two glaciers, Fox and Franz Josef, that are unusual in that they are relatively low altitude, and very close to forest and the sea.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Franz Josef and walked up the gentle forest-lined pathway, past waterfalls, towards the glacier.
Eventually the steep face of the glacier came into view about 750 metres away. It was a surprisingly easy walk and the proximity to forest was amazing.
The next day we took a guided tour to the Fox Glacier. This was an altogether more brutal and tough environment, with streams to walk through and rocks to climb over. The guide was a young guy from Shanghai and his love of nature was infectious. He showed us tiny “coral lichen” growing on rocks that could only survive in the cleanest of atmospheres. The glacier itself, and the surrounding vertical rock walls seemed a lot more unstable and dangerous than Franz Josef
The towns of Franz Josef and Fox are small and exist only to cater for visitors to the glaciers. They are pleasant enough but, if glaciers don’t interest you, then their remoteness means they are well out of the way for many visitors to New Zealand.