5 Ways To Explore Tasman Glacier

Adventure Hot List Inspiration

Our guide to the best ways to experience New Zealand's Tasman Glacier

Carving a deep cleft between New Zealand's two highest mountains as it spreads for more than 25 kilometers through the midst of the Southern Alps, the Tasman Glacier is unquestionably one of the great wonders of the Kiwi landscape.

With colossal Mount Aoraki (at a breathless 3,724 meters above sea level) looming on one side and the eponymous Mount Tasman (a formidable 3,497 meters up) arching its rock-ribbed granite backbone on the other, this shifting, forever re-shaping sheet of ice crashes down to the lower valleys of the Mount Cook National Park. Along the way, it offers a glimpse of the primordial forces of nature that have chiselled the heights of South Island over the millennia.

Oh, and there are some seriously awesome ways to get up-close-and-personal with the Tasman. Which one will you choose?

By 4WD

One way to delve into all the nooks and crannies of the Tasman Valley is to hitch a ride up the shale ridges and craggy moraines on a hardy ATV. You can choose between a classic 4WD and rumble over the babbling streams, or go for the lunar-looking Argo vehicle, which boasts eight wheels to scramble over the wild terrain surrounding Mount Cook. Trips will take you deep into the Mount Cook National Park, past blooming beds of alpine flowers in the spring and through ice-caked crevices in the shadow of mighty Aoraki by winter. The goal is an eye-watering panoramic lookout point over the Tasman Glacier itself, casting sweeping views down across the ice and the iceberg-spotted terminal lake below.

By Helicopter

Seeing the Tasman Glacier from a scenic flight above promises a true bucket-list encounter with New Zealand's tallest peaks and largest ice field. You'll take off from Glentanner Park just down the valley and whizz up towards the looming summits of Cook and Tasman. Soon, you'll be coursing through the air above the 25-kilometer stretch of glistening white ice that is the glacier, and enjoying sweeping panoramas over the spear-like tops of the Southern Alps as they roll out across the heart of South Island. The experience promises a unique chance to see the effect of glacial attrition from above, and you could even opt for a heli-hike package; strapping on the crampons and alighting on the glacier's face to explore its crevasses and caves.

Heli-Hike with Helicopter Line

By Boat

Those heading for the Mount Cook National Park between September and May can also opt to hop aboard the specialised MAC boat that bobs on the surface of Tasman Lake. You'll whizz across the surface of the bone-chilling water dodging the colossal outlines of drifting bergs a you go. Then, the mighty wall of ice that marks the start of the Tasman Glacier comes into view, and the boat pulls up to watch the thawing floes crashing into the water. You'll also have the chance to taste 500-year-old ice crystals, and hike through the alpine lowlands that spread out underneath mighty Mount Cook itself.

Glacier Explorer Boat Tour

On Foot

There are plenty of reasons why Mount Cook National Park is hailed as one of the top hiking destinations in all of New Zealand. They come in the form of winding trekking paths of all difficulties. Many of these weave and wind directly under the heights of Mount Tasman. Take the Ball Shelter Hut Route, which sees ramblers bed down in a rustic shack on the rugged moraines below the glacier, offering sweeping views of the ice field to boot (check ahead to see if you'll need crampons and axes et al).

Or, you could opt for the appropriately-named Tasman Glacier Track, which finally unfolds to offer some of the best broadside views across Tasman Lake and the floes that feed it. For those looking for an adventurous trek, the team at Alpine Recreation offer a four day hike to explore the upper reaches of the Tasman Glacier. 

On Skis
 
Get the adrenaline pumping by strapping on the skis and donning the salopettes and making for the soaring top of the Tasman ice field (even the flight there will take the breath away!). In the company of experienced alpine ski guides, you'll be dropped off at the pinnacle of the glacier in the morning. Then, you'll be guided down the great ice flow on a duo of separate roots. One goes for 8 kilometers and the other for 10 kilometers, making them the longest in the country overall. Along the way, you'll glower up at cloud-topped Mount Cook, and carve left to right as you descend towards the shimmering waters of Tasman Lake. Departures are even available from Queenstown – just in case you were getting bored of the pistes of Coronet Peak. The Helicopter Line offer trips from Queenstown, Mount Cook and Twizel.
 
Come and explore this mighty natural wonder atop the peaks of the Southern Alps. You can opt for intrepid ski runs or eye-popping flyovers, or simply strap on the walking boots and hit the trails. The choice is yours.

Skiing The Tasman Glacier With Alpine Recreation

Photo Credits:
Skiing Alpine Glacier - Alpine Recreation
Heli-Hike - The Helicopter Line
4WD - Mackenzienz.co.nz