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Westland Tai Poutini National Park (Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers)

Westland Tai Poutini National Park forms part of Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area and rightly so, as this park has it all.  Best explored from either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier villages you can encounter a myriad of landscapes here, from fast moving glaciers to the wild West Coast beaches.  From its highest points in the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps you are rewarded with a visual feast encompassing ancient forests, crackling blue glaciers, pristine rivers, lagoons thriving with birds and an immense stretch of untouched coastline.  A unique feature of the park is the proximity of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers to the sea.  Both terminal faces are just 300 metres above sea level and pass through the surrounding rainforest, making for an unusual combination of environments.  As well as the glaciers, other highlights of Westland National Park are tranquil Lake Matheson and Okarito Lagoon with its teeming bird population.  There are numerous ways to explore the park, each offering a different perspective on this remote wilderness.  The best way to really appreciate the contrasting landscape is to take to the air, the Twin Glacier scenic flight takes you over both glaciers for spectacular views before landing at the head of one glacier for a truly memorable snow landing.  The more adventurous can add in a glacier walk with the Franz Josef Helihike.  For an informative exploration of the glaciers, a guided walk to the Fox Glacier terminal face is fascinating.  With all this wilderness, you can expect the wildlife to be amazing and a tour of the White Heron Sanctuary during breeding season is a real delight for nature lovers.

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