With colossal mountains, forests and glaciers, Westland Tai Poutini National Park clobbers visitors with its mind-bending proportions. Reaching from the West Coast to the razor peaks of the Southern Alps, the park's supreme attractions are twin glaciers Franz Josef and Fox, served by townships 23km apart. Out of more than 60 glaciers in the park, only these two are easily accessible.
The glaciers are the most majestic handiwork of the West Coast's ample precipitation. Snowfall in the glaciers’ broad accumulation zones fuses into clear ice at 20m depth, and then creeps down the steep valleys. Nowhere else at this latitude do glaciers descend so close to the ocean.
But the glaciers are as fragile as they are amazing to behold. Rising temperatures have beaten the glaciers into retreat, reducing opportunities to view them on foot and clanging a death knell for their long-term future if climate change continues unchecked.