Drove on out of Wanaka today. Got a bit of a late start but since we only plan on about 4 hours of actual driving to Fox Glacier, we thought we would be a bit leisurely about it. The scenery on the way to Fox was beautiful - clear mountain lakes, bright blue rivers and stunning mountains. After you reach the tops of Haast Pass, the altitude drop quickly and you arrive at the river mouth at the Tasman Sea. The drop is about 3000 ft in 15 minutes. On the way down, the scenery changes from very alpine to sub-tropical rainforest complete with palms, ferns and orchids. Really cool! The roads between Wanaka and Fox are a bit more winding than expected, so it took a bit longer than anticipated.
Fox is a tiny settlement, built mostly to service the many people who come to climb and heli-view the glacier. The reason Fox [as well as Franz-Josef] are so special is that they are at such a low elevation that they are readily accessible just 20Km from the ocean. Most of their size and expansion is purely from high rainfall that gets trapped where the Southern Alps meet the sea. They are also some of the only glaciers in the world to spill out into subtropical rainforest. In order to make sure we could get on a hike, we popped into the guide's office as soon as we got there to book a ½ day hike.
It was very sunny as we drove to Fox, but as the night wore on, it started to be come grey and a bit foggy at low level. Everyone in town seems to think that it was normal and that it usually rains at night and then clears up early in the morning. Grabbed some dinner at the local pub, went back to the room to rearrange our luggage and sleep since we need to get up early for the hike.