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Franz Josef: 188km (117 miles) S of Greymouth; 24km (15 miles) N of Fox Glacier

It seems improbable that you could find a glacier on a South Pacific island and ice in a temperate rainforest, but that's New Zealand for you - full of surprises. Nowhere else in the world outside arctic regions will you find glaciers just 300m (1,000 ft.) above sea level and just 12km (7 1/2 miles) from the sea.

The two glaciers are just a small part of the 115,000-hectare (284,000-acre) Westland National Park, an impressive area of high mountains, glacial lakes, and rushing rivers. The park is popular for tramping, mountain climbing, fishing, canoeing, hunting, and horse trekking. In 1990, the combined Mount Cook/Westland National Parks, Fiordland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, and all the significant adjacent natural areas were incorporated into a single vast Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area (Te Wahipounamu), which contains about 10% of New Zealand's total land area, or 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres). The World Heritage Highway traverses the northern third of this region and is largely confined to the West Coast side of the Main Divide.

So what are the differences between Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and their townships? Fox Glacier is longer, with better helicopter and walking options; Franz Josef village has a better visitor center and is busier overall, with superior food and lodging options. Just a short distance apart, the drive should nonetheless be undertaken with care.