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Check-in on our New Zealand travel blog for latest news, events and updates - along with a splash of personality from the whole team at Bella Vista!  


Five Best Things to do in Blenheim

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Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a leisurely visit, there are so many things to do in Blenheim, you’ll be planning a return visit. Situated in the heart of the wine-growing Marlborough region and with a reputation as New Zealand’s sunniest town, many activities in Blenheim can be enjoyed all year round. Here’s a locally curated list of the five best things to do in Blenheim, both near the Bella Vista Blenheim motel or a short drive away. 


1. Eat and drink your heart out Blenheim-style  

You can’t visit Blenheim without tasting Cloudy Bay clams, the region’s world-famous Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough mussels or the delicious local cheeses. Experience one of New Zealand’s top restaurants, Gramados ranked by Trip Advisor as the country’s top “everyday eats” destination, with delicious mains such as Brazilian fish moqueca and slow-cooked pork belly, for a pinch under $40. 

There are more than 30 wineries close to Blenheim, and most of them offer cellar door tastings making this one of the top Blenheim attractions for visitors. The Cloudy Bay estate, one of the region's first winemakers has an outstanding reputation for hospitality and food. Enjoy a glass of their Pelorus Methode Traditionelle paired with creamy oysters from the clear waters of Te Matuku Bay. In winter, savour a classic glass of Sauvignon curled up next to the Estate’s cosy indoor fireplace. 


2. Stroll around the Marlborough Farmers market 

Keen to mix with the locals? Then include the Marlborough Farmers market on your Blenheim to do list. Touted as New Zealand’s original Farmers’ Market, it runs every Sunday between 9am-12pm at the A&P Showgrounds and showcases the regions freshest seasonal fruit, vegetables and produce. 


3. Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre 

A short drive or bike ride from the motel will take you to the Omaka Aviation Heritage centre, just one of many Blenheim attractions unique to the area. Discover the lifelike WWI and WWII exhibits featuring the talents of Weta Workshop and some of Sir Peter Jackson’s rare collection of historical aircraft.  For aviation enthusiasts, book a joy ride in a classic Boeing Stearman and marvel at the stunning Marlborough scenery far below, across the Wairau Valley to the broody Richmond Ranges.  


4. Cycle amongst the vines  

One of the more popular things to do in Blenheim is to hire a bike and enjoy a self-guided cycling tour around the Marlborough wine region. Cruise sedately between Blenheim-based cellar doors like Lawson Dry Hills or Wither Hills and sample local wines or pause for a leisurely lunch at a vineyard restaurant. Spend the afternoon cycling down groomed trails or quiet back roads or ditch the bike for a cruisy snooze under leafy vines.  


5. Cruise the Marlborough Sounds 

Add the stunning Marlborough Sounds to your must-do Blenheim attractions. Made up of ancient sunken river valleys including the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds, the area is a comfortable half hour drive from Blenheim. Best experienced on the water, book the top-rated Greenshell Mussel Cruise from Havelock or jump on the Picton Mail Boat Cruise, both great ways to explore hidden inlets and see first-hand how the local’s live in one of New Zealand’s most picturesque spots.  Don’t be surprised if a pod of dolphins pops up and surf alongside so keep your camera handy. 

Whatever your interests, the things to do in Blenheim are plentiful and fun. Contact our guest-services team at the Bella Vista Motel for information on tours or other Blenheim attractions. We’re only too happy to help. 

Best Walks in Ashburton: Lakes, Views and a Famous Hollywood Set

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Often missed by Tekapo-bound road trippers, the Ashburton region is home to some stunning day hikes and MTB featuring endangered birds, towering mountains, braided rivers, waterfalls and lakes. Nature lovers can hike our backcountry trails in splendid solitude all day without encountering anyone else.  Here we’ve rounded up a few of the best walks and MTB TRACKS in Ashburton and the surrounding area, based on visitor recommendations and local knowledge.   

Just an hour’s drive east from the motel is the Hakatere Conservation Park located around the Ashburton Lakes between the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers. Covering nearly 60,000 hectares of rugged mountain country, forest and sparkling rivers, the park is home to many interesting day walks and Mountain biking tracks. 

Mt Sunday, immortalised in Lord of the Rings as the fortress city of Edoras, is a gentle 90min return walk in the Hakatere area. One of the most popular things to do in Ashburton is to climb Mt Sunday.  The track is flat, except for the final 10-15 minutes before you reach the summit.  At the top (‘my precious’), you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the mountains, grazing cattle, the Rangitata river valley and the Southern divide. The kids will enjoy scuttling over cute bridges to view the opaque cascading waters below. Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan (or not), exploring Mt Sunday is one of the great free things to do in Ashburton.  

The Lake Heron tracks provide various options depending on your energy levels, from 1.5km up to 10km duration. Discover kettle holes, native birds and panoramic views over the lake and surrounding mountains. For a one-hour return hike, head up the Lake Hill track from the car park through tussock to the summit trig and keep an eye out for black-fronted terns, oystercatchers, Australasian grebes, ducks, swans, and skylarks. Or jump on your Mountain bike and do a loop from Castle Ridge station to lake Emily , Manuka Hut , Double Hut and finish at Lake Heron or head down The Stour River for one off the most amazing journeys and finish on The Ashburton Gorge Road 

The Lake Clearwater tracks are another easy option in providing a 10-km lakeside loop track  Lake Emma is a 13 km loop track and lake camp is a 4 km loop either walking or Mountain-biking. For the more adventurous head around the lakes northern shores up to Mystry lake or onto the TeAaroa walkway or a special walk would be to the Top off MT GUY . Check the weather forecast before heading out as with all Alpine tracks, conditions can change quickly.  

Afterwards head to the popular Staveley Store and Café, for a restorative ice cream or coffee, reputedly the best brew in the region and one of the best places to eat Ashburton - style fare. 

The Ashburton – Hakatere River Trails has tracks for walkers and mountain bikers.These much-loved tracks follows the Ashburton River and meanders from town through riverside willows . The MTB track is about 11.5 loop and the river walkway has been built to avoid collisions .Those wanting more off a rail trial type ride , we have a track down to lake hood on the South side of the Ashburton river  7km  This is a great thing to do in Ashburton   Some of this track has been washed away 

There are plenty of other wonderful walks and mountainbiking tracks within the Ashburton area . So pack your hiking shoes and MTB and come stay at the cosy Bella Vista Motel Ashburton to check out the many beautiful walks and MTB tracks in Ashburton and the-mid Canterbury region.

Eat Your Way Through Ashburton’s Best Restaurants

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For a charming little town, at the heart of the “food basket” of New Zealand … Hakatere. there are so many great places to eat in Ashburton. 

Whether you’re staying for one night or a few, there’s plenty of variety to keep you well-fed and watered. Here’s our foody guide to a few of Ashburton’s best restaurants, cafes, and cheap eats.  


Best hearty Fare in Ashburton 

Although a short drive away, Ashburton proudly claims the Panther’s Rock as its own because this Mayfield-based restaurant, open for weekend brunch and weeknight dinners, consistently receives five-star reviews.  Named after an alleged sighting of a big cat which made national headlines, the Panther’s Rock serves up big mouth-watering flavours. Cuts of prime Canterbury Porterhouse steaks and Ribeye with homemade mushroom sauce, locally caught Salmon, green-lipped mussels and pulled-pork burgers feature on the menu. With lovely rural views, cosy fireplaces and friendly owners, head here for one of the best things to do in Ashburton.I would rather focus on restaurants in town . 

Cleavers Corner Gastro Pub: Delivers impressive service and is a popular choice in town. The food is full of flavor, tasty and presented well. This is a delight . 

Speights ale House: Casual, comfortable dining with awesome staff that take pride in what they do. A great space to enjoy a meal out with friends or family with quality food . A 10% discount on showing your bella Vista Key. 

Lake House: Ashburton is so fortunate to have the lake House on their doorstep. Excellent service and a lovely outlook over the water makes it a relaxing setting. The food is excellent and the deserts are extra yummy! 

The Fine Lion: The location and ambience is rather special. The first floor location and extensive balcony dining is unique in Ashburton. Service is attentive, The food is superb with great attention to detail. 


For the best Asian food in Ashburton  

Close to the motel is The Formosa, a tasty twist on Taiwanese cuisine in the heart of Ashburton.  From the minute you walk in you are made to feel welcome in this beautiful designed restaurant. Food is supeb, the desserts are beautifully presented and very favoursome, Excellent service. 

Miyabi Top in Town: Indian /Japenese authentic cuisine and beautiful people that take good care off you . The Best Indian in town and offerng a 10% discount  showing BV  key. 

Koji Japanese: This is a little gem, not far from BV. The food is just delicious, fresh and tasty. The staff is always friendly and accommdation. It has a nice feel to it because they have decorated the entire walls with bamboo to give it atmosphere 

Ton Thai: The atmosphere is delightful with friendly supperb service. The food is tasty, plentiful and delivered quickly. A great place to take your family or group of friends. 

While not a new restaurant in Ashburton, its Sweet and sour chicken, orange pork, and Kumara fries tossed in plum powder are local favourites.  Small plates include Teriyaki sushi, Spicy chicken bao or pulled pork buns. 


For the best cafés in Ashburton - We love our coffee here, and our local cafes make it easy for us to indulge 

Visit the Somerset Grocer’s Café for delicious cabinet food, a varied menu, even a Kapiti ice cream bar making this one of the more kid-friendly places to eat in Ashburton. While you eagerly await your Big Breakfast or Nourish bowl – a tasty blend of chicken, avocado and zesty orange dressing, browse the gourmet goods and gifts on offer.  

Robert Harris: Easy and Handy location,  just along the road, heaps of parking, great coffee, Breakfast is the best allowing chargback arrangements to the Motel for corporate customers 

Millhouse Kitchen: Love the outdoor space here especially in the summer, Great coffee, charge backs to the motel an option, Good parking and only 00m from BV 

Triangle Espresso: Offering a lovely  space to enjoy a coffee and either chill or work at the window seat has a uplifting feel, right down to inspirational quotes and lovely prints of nature and plants on the walls, I just love ! Happy friendly staff that love what they do . 


For the best bakery in Ashburton  

While there are other bakeries vying for the best places to eat in Ashburton, Harvey’s Bakehouse takes the cake. The mark of a great baker are their pies and Harvey’s has a reputation for light, flaky pastry and yummy fillings like pepper steak, smoky beef and BBQ bacon. This friendly home style bake house also serves up traditional sweet treats like Rocky Road, custard-piped brioche and black-forest cheesecake. Truly a great Ashburton cheap eats option just a 10-minute jaunt from the motel.  


For the best takeaway in Ashburton 

Local chip connoisseurs think the Creek Road Fish and Chip Shop serve up the best in Ashburton hands down, as good as the double-fried chips found in Belgium. Place your order over the phone as this spot gets busy on the weekend and best of all it’s only a 2-minute drive from the motel!  A great choice for all your fast-food favourites. 

While we’ve hopefully whetted your appetite on the best places to eat in Ashburton, restaurant menus might be limited to take-out service at Covid Alert level 2. Please ask the Bella Vista Motel team for up-to-date information and local dining recommendations. 

Fun Ashburton Attractions for a Great Short Break

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Ashburton is not just a gateway to Christchurch or Tekapo. It’s a stunning mid-Canterbury destination in its own right, boasting great restaurants, fly fishing, the beautiful Ashburton lakes and the spectacular Rakaia Gorge for thrill seekers. Check out this short break guide for the best things to do in Ashburton and the mid-Canterbury area.  

There are many mountan biking options, for every level of expertise and confidence in Mid Canterbury, You can stay and play for days on our Trails . Mt Hutt Bike Park from downhill to cross country trails. Cycle through some of the most spectacular high country of Hakatere Conservation Park or a short sweet ride along  the banks of the Ashburton River 

Take a drive on the Inland Scenic Route out to the Staveley Store and Café nestled in the shadow of Mount Somers and close to some superb walks. Rumoured to serve the best coffee in the region, the sausage rolls, home-baked goods, and bacon buttys make this one of the more popular places to eat Ashburton-style fare.  Established in 1876 as a general store servicing the surrounding timber mills and farms, the shop showcases goods from nearby Mt Somers Station - seasonal farm produce, lamb, venison, veal, honey and olive oil.  

But it’s the coffee that’s the real McCoy. Sit on the veranda, admire Mt Somers, and watch local life pass by over the rim of a coffee cup.  

If you love to walk, pop up to Sharplin falls car park and enjoy the fresh air walking through mountain beech forest alongside Bowyers stream. If you like a bit of huffing and puffing a climb up to Hookey’s Knob will treat you with spectacular views. My favourite is the rhyolite Ridge Track on the mt somers walkway. The route takes in dynamic scenery within a landscape of waterfalls , beach forest, deep icy pools and rocky tors. 

Head for the nearby Lake Clearwater Circuit Track. The 10km hike will take around 3-hours and is considered one of the best walks in Ashburton and beyond. .


Discover classic planes at the Ashburton Aviation Museum 

Located just a 5-minute drive from the Motel, this is one of the great hidden things to do in Ashburton and a magnet for young and old aviation enthusiasts, as it’s free for kids. Did you know that Ashburton was a major air force training base in World War Two accommodating 50 Tiger Moths and military personnel?  Not many people do! The museum is now home to beautifully restored planes in its shiny new hanger and has recently acquired a retired RNZAF Skyhawk.  On calm weekends, spot the Skydiving Kiwis as they gracefully land on the grass outside the museum  , Im sure they don’t operate from here anymore . You can easily spend an interesting afternoon here especially on a rainy day. 


Have a blast on the Rakaia Gorge 

There is no better way to explore the Rakaia Gorge, with Discovery Jet, one of the more adventurous things to do in Ashburton and the surrounding area.  Drive 40 minutes inland towards Mount Hutt then take a thrilling jet boat ride through the Gorge and enjoy the 10 km walking track that follows the rim of the Gorge through spectaclar geological areas. At the Car park overlooking the Gorge and its crystal clear blue water is a Sculpture that highlights the story about the Taniwha. It’s such a cool story about the Nor’west wind and the Taniwha. 

While learning about its history and unique features, from your knowledgeable local guide.   


Chill out in the Ashburton Domain   

Well known for its large adventure playground, this is one of the free things to do in Ashburton enjoyed by local families. Take a run on the fitness track, feed the ducks on the lake, enjoy the gardens or picnic in the park. An aviary is home to colourful birds, Not there anymore ,and a junior bike track provides training-wheels fun for beginner riders.  

After a day in the outdoors, you’ve probably drummed up a hearty appetite.  For the best Asian food in Ashburton, book dinner at The Formosa, a tasty twist on Taiwanese cuisine and close to the motel.  One of my favourite restaurant in Ashburton, its sweet and sour chicken, orange pork, and Kumara fries tossed in plum powder are enduring local favourites.  Small plates include Teriyaki sushi, Spicy chicken bao or pulled pork buns. 

With so many things to do in Ashburton, ask our team at the Bella Vista Motel for local recommendations especially the best places to eat in Ashburton. We are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to dining  


Best Places to Eat in Kaikoura for Food lovers

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Sandwiched between a craggy mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura is a foodie paradise enjoying a bountiful harvest from both land and sea.  With so many great places to eat in Kaikoura just a short walk from the motel, you’ll discover why this town is not only the crayfish capital of New Zealand, but a mecca of great eating – all served up with a dollop of South Island charm.

Cods and Crayfish
Grab the catch of the day at this family-run seafood spot.  Rated by visitors as one of the best take out places to eat in Kaikoura, your fish will probably be cooked by the people who caught it. Want a whole crayfish and a scoop of crisp and fluffy hot chips? Or maybe a fillet of battered juicy blue cod with a side of crunchy squid rings?  No problem. While you wait, the kids will be entertained by the fish tank housing live crayfish and crabs making this one of the best food-centric attractions in Kaikoura. Grab some delicious flaky smoked fish to go, as this place boasts its own smokehouse.

Black Rabbit Pizza
If you’ve overindulged in the local kaimoana (seafood), put this pizzeria on your list of ‘Kaikoura things to do’.  Locals rave about the Black Rabbit’s ‘Shrek and Dolly’ pizza –imagine roast lamb, caramelized onion, pumpkin, mozzarella cheese, & mint sauce drizzle served on a delicious crispy base, served piping hot from the pizza oven.  These guys are gourmet geniuses, with 13 pizza creations on offer, whizzing up tasty vegetarian combos too - like homemade tomato pizza sauce, pesto and jalapeños. But wait there’s more! Their caramel cookie dough cheesecake dessert pizza might just pop those top buttons. So maybe take a breather or get it boxed to go!


Billed as a stylish, modern ‘downtown’ eatery, Zephyr is regarded by visitors as one of the best restaurants in Kaikoura with a bistro-styled menu unapologetically focussed on local game – think venison, duck and ribeye beef – and a great little wine list to boot.  No doubt booked by locals for a special night out, this hidden gem will appeal to couples or a bunch of friends who might opt to share the slow roasted Lamb Shoulder - for two – served with rosemary jus, duck fat roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Go on, make a booking, you deserve it.


Sime’s Kitchen
The new-ish kid on the block is fast becoming one of the best daytime places to eat in Kaikoura.  Sime’s Kitchen offers hearty fare with its origins harking back to a famous 40-year plus Dunedin bakery, run by owner Sam’s family.  Yes, classic Eggs Bene is on the menu but how about tucking into French toast with fresh figs and pistachio cream while sipping on a piping hot brew of People’s Coffee (try saying that fast!).  Need lunch on the run? The cabinet is stocked with sweet and savoury treats based on Sam’s grandfather’s recipes, often made with the famous Hislop’s organic wholemeal flour and honey and other locally sourced ingredients. Truly, one of the more delicious things to do in Kaikoura which may hurt the waistline (but not your wallet).

Ask our guest services team at the Bella Vista Motel for recommendations, because as locals, we not only know the best restaurants in Kaikoura but also the top attractions in the surrounding area. 


Four Epic Walks in Kaikoura and Beyond

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We often get asked about free things to do in Kaikoura, so love to recommend the local walking tracks for views of the coastline, native forest and wildlife unique to the area.  Here’s our pick of the top tracks and trails, either a short distance from the motel or further afield – easily done as a day trip.

Tick off the Kaikoura Lookout (1 hour each way)
Build up an appetite for the local seafood by undertaking one of the steeper walks in Kaikoura up to the town’s lookout. This is an easily accessible viewpoint which reveals panoramic views of the peninsula, especially at sunset. Ask us for directions or from the Esplanade, head up Tom's Track to the Lookout and return down Dempsey’s Track for a well-deserved refreshment on the water’s edge.

Wander up the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway (2-3 hours)
Regarded as one of the best walks in Kaikoura because it combines stunning views, a great workout and sometimes a distant encounter with seals at low tide. Starting from the Point Kean seal colony main car park, the track climbs past informative panels dotted along the route so you’ll learn about the history and ecology of the area.


Attack the Mt Fyffe Summit Track (8 hours)
If you fancy one of the more challenging day walks in Kaikoura (just a short drive from town), then this day hike might appeal. It’s a steep trek to the summit of Mt Fyffe but the stunning panoramic views of the Kaikoura Ranges and its snow-capped mountains are breath taking. On a clear day, you might just spot the Banks Peninsula and the North Island. The hike begins at the Mount Fyffe carpark and with a good level of fitness, should take between six to eight hours to complete. For a shorter hike, head up to the Mt Fyffe Hut (5 hours return) or the lookout point, just an hour above the carpark.


Hit the Hinau Track (45-minute loop)
Named after the Hinau tree which grow alongside the trail, this gentle walk is one of the family-friendly things to do in Kaikoura. The 45-minute loop track also starts at the base of Mt Fyffe carpark, an easy 10-minute drive from the motel.  Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the sounds of regenerating birdlife as you wander through native forest on this well-formed track. There is an unbridged stream which in normal conditions, is easy to step across without getting your shoes wet.

Guests often ask us at the Bella Vista Motel about the best walks in Kaikoura. So we’ll happily suggest options to suit your level of fitness or timeframe and point you in the right direction.

Kaikoura Attractions To Fill Your Bucket

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While our stunning coastline and whale watching excursions are major Kaikoura attractions, there are so many things to do in Kaikoura, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Incredible scenic walks, some of the best seafood in New Zealand and dolphin encounters are also hallmarks of our charming seaside village, largely rebuilt following the 2016 Earthquake. Here’s our round up of the best things to do in Kaikoura.

Indulge your love of marine life.
Who doesn’t love friendly dolphins?  One of the most popular Kaikoura attractions are the dolphin encounters, with the tour check in located just ten minutes from the motel. Where else in New Zealand can you get up, close and personal with some of the world’s most beautiful sea life? Visitors who book a tour marvel at the pods of dolphin which glide alongside, and you have the option on calmer summer days of swimming with the dusky dolphins right off the boat in a small group. A lifetime memory which most agree, is one of the best things to do in Kaikoura.  Booking in advance is highly recommended especially in the busy summer season.   

Discover Whale Watching Wow!
Add a whale watching boat tour to the top of your Kaikoura things-to-do list. Around 80% of the world’s whale and dolphin species migrate past the town’s coastline providing a huge 95% chance of spotting a giant sperm whale on your tour. Whale Watch Kaikoura provide modern catamaran boats with large outside viewing decks and quiet engines to minimise underwater noise. Whale watching is a popular thing to do in Kaikoura, so once again book ahead!


Savour fresh seafood
Kaikoura means ‘meal of crayfish’ so where better to experience what many believe is the food of royalty than the popular Kaikoura Seafood BBQ stall right by the beach?  One of many alfresco places to eat in Kaikoura, choose your crayfish then watch the team grill it to order on the BBQ. With a side serving of rice, garden salad, garlic bread and an outdoor view of the ocean, it’ll be hard to beat. Or if crayfish isn’t your thing, sample another local delicacy, the mouth-watering whitebait fritters for just $8 a pop or freshly battered blue cod fish and chips.  

Visit The Point Kean Seal Colony
One of the best free things to do in Kaikoura is to meet the locals!  Which includes the local seals too. You might just encounter a large fur seal lolling on the boardwalk at the entrance to the Point Kean Seal Colony. The ideal time for viewing is at low tide when the seals emerge from the sea, sunbathe and roll around near the car park but please keep your distance and respect the wildlife in this Department of Conservation managed area.

Enjoy the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
Feel like a hike?  Starting from the Point Kean seal colony main car park, this is one of the best walks in Kaikoura. Take binoculars as you’ll be on the lookout for whales and dolphins from the superb coastal vantage points.  With informative panels dotted along the route, you’ll learn about the history and ecology of the area. The walkway only takes two to three hours to complete so it’s a comfortable half-day hike.


Spot an Albatross
High on the list of Kaikoura attractions is the areas’ varied birdlife.  Nature lovers will relish the diverse seabirds including 12 species of the majestic Albatross, shearwaters, petrel, and several penguins, gulls and protected terns. This is best experienced on an albatross encounter boat cruise with a knowledgeable local guide.

With so many things to do in Kaikoura, ask our guest services team at the Bella Vista Motel for help in deciding, especially when the weather and sea conditions can affect your options.  We’re only too happy to help and can guarantee you’ll have a ‘whale of a time’ in beautiful Kaikoura.

The Thrill Seekers Guide to Fox Glacier

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While the ice flows slow on the West Coast, grinding its way from the heart of the Southern Alps down to the Tasman Sea, there’s adrenalin aplenty in Glacier Country. Here we’ve rounded up some of the more adventurous things to do in Fox Glacier from heart-racing sky dives and helicopter snow landings to icy hikes over deep crevasses. Bring your sense of adventure, pack your woollies, and come prepared for fun and thrills on the ice.

Hop on a Fox Glacier helicopter flight
Whether it’s a short scenic flight over Fox Glacier or heli-conquering New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki-Mount Cook, don’t forgo an opportunity for a James Bond like snow-landing! One of the best Fox Glacier flights is with Glacier Helicopters, the pioneers of snow landings, and spotting glacier icefalls or crevasses from above.  You’re guaranteed a fist-pumping experience as the helicopter takes off from sea-level at Fox Glacier village. With spectacular views from the ocean to the Southern Alps, to throwing snowballs on a glacier, getting sky high is one of the best things to do in Fox Glacier.


Do New Zealand’s highest skydive 
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, book a Skydive Franz experience. These high-flying experts offer the highest skydive in New Zealand, the Kea Jump from 20,000ft (an 85-second freefall), making this one of the most unique things to do in Franz Josef and the entire country.


Adventure hike across Fox Glacier
Challenge yourself to an exhilarating day-long hike on the West Coast’s largest glacier.

Leave civilisation behind and hop in a helicopter to experience the Fox Glacier most visitors miss. The Fox Glacier Guiding Heli Hike (or Extreme Fox Hike) starts with a breath-taking helicopter flight over lush rainforest with views towards Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, before landing on the upper ice fall of Fox Glacier. Using crampons and safety ropes, your highly experienced Fox Glacier guide will help you ford crevasses, climb short ice pitches, or abseil down ice walls.  There’s nothing like seeing blue Ice for the first time, it’s purity and beauty is really something else! After seven hours on the ice and an awesome heli-transfer back to Fox Glacier village, head to local favourite Betsey Janes for a well-deserved dinner and drink (or two).

It can get very cold on Fox Glacier with changeable weather conditions, so bring wool or polypro layers and a warm jacket. Pack lightly for heli-hiking as the pilot is strict on passenger loads so just take the essentials – a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, water and a light snack will do just the trick!

While the guided glacier experiences are awesome, a tour booking is dependent on local conditions so plan a 2-3 night stay in case the weather doesn’t play ball. Ask the Bella Vista Motel team for advice on thrill-seeker activities or the best walks in Fox Glacier, we’re only too happy to help.


Explore Fox Glacier: Best things to do

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Heading to the world-famous Glacier Country on the West Coast? With international visitors in short supply, there’s never been a better time to explore this remote paradise than right now. It’s not only home to the majestic Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, but also natural hot springs, alpine walks, stunning views of New Zealand’s highest peaks, hearty food, even a resident seal colony!  While the guided glacier experiences are awesome, a tour booking is dependent on conditions so plan a 2-3 night stay to outsmart the West Coast weather. With so many great things to do in Fox Glacier, here’s our two-day guide to the region’s best attractions.

Day One:

Explore the Fox Glacier Valley Walk on foot  
Start your visit by hiking one of the best short walks in Fox Glacier.  This popular scenic track meanders along the south bank of the Fox River through ancient rainforest before ascending gently up the valley to the Fox Glacier Viewpoint. On a sunny day you’ll enjoy wide views up the valley towards the icy glacier. Add this two-hour hike to your ‘what to do Fox Glacier’ list because best of all, it’s free!


Take to the skies with Fox Glacier Guides
Go next-level adventure by taking a helicopter hike up to the West Coast's largest and least crowded glacier. After a jaw-dropping chopper ride to a pristine landing spot on Fox Glacier, top-rated local guides will reveal spectacular ice caves, arches, tunnels, and the melt-river from the hidden Victoria glacier. You might even be greeted on arrival by a flock of native keas. Each 3-hour excursion is a wondrous exploration of this slowly retreating natural wonder, impacted by our warming planet. A Fox Glacier Guiding Heli Hike over ice-in-motion will be a once in lifetime experience.

Wine and dine at Betsey Jane
While a relative newcomer, Betsey Jane has already garnered a five-star reputation as the best restaurant in Fox Glacier. In fact, delighted visitors reckon this spot could hold its own in the big smokes of Christchurch or Wellington with its fantastic food, friendly staff, and modern stylish setting. If the likes of seared blue cod, creamy salmon risotto or a lamb and beetroot salad appeal, then head here for dinner and an impressive wine list too. 


Day Two:

Wander around Lake Matheson (1h 30 min return)
After breakfast, take a 5-minute drive from the motel to this instagram-famous spot.  Probably the most photographed lake in New Zealand, Lake Matheson, named after a pioneering cattle farmer, is renowned for its perfect chocolate-box reflections of New Zealand's highest mountains – Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. Visitors the world-over are entranced by the Lake’s serene mirror views of the Southern Alps, a natural result of organic particles leached from the surrounding forest floor. If your heli-hike’s postponed, a visit to Lake Matheson is what to do in Fox Glacier when the weather doesn’t play ball.


Head out to Gillespies Beach and the Seal Colony
A short drive west of Lake Matheson is Gillespies Beach, an original gold mining settlement. Today it offers five walks Fox Glacier locals love to do, ranging from five minutes to a three hour return track to view the seal colony at Galway Beach.  While seals are the star-attraction here during winter, this rugged and remote beach also provides stunning views of the wild Tasman Sea, beautiful summer sunsets and misshapen driftwood for avid fossickers. The only thing to avoid here are the pesky sandflies so pack the insect repellent and come prepared to swot and slap.

Refuel at Mathesons Café
Rated one of the top restaurants in Fox Glacier and the ‘best lunch spot for miles’, Matheson’s is a stylish all-day café serving up great food, coffee and unsurpassed views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.  Sit outside in the sunshine and tuck into their mushroom pesto eggs Benedict, ‘big brekkie’ or the local venison bacon burger, with chutney and fries. The cabinet food is all freshly baked on site and includes deli-style sandwiches, cakes, savouries, and salads. This is a great way to break up a long road trip and recharge before walking around beautiful Lake Matheson. A warning however, after strolling around the lake, you’ll probably be tempted to return for more mouth-watering morsels!

Fox Glacier’s Best Short Walks

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While the West Coast is renowned for its awe-inspiring Fox Glacier, the area is also home to some of New Zealand’s best short walks. Alpine views, stunning lake vistas, seal-spotting, birdlife, rugged beaches and native forest trails are just some of the many wonderful things to do in Fox Glacier.  Here’s our guide to four of the best short hikes Fox Glacier has, to showcase its natural wonders. 

The Fox Glacier Valley Walk (2 hours return)
Where else in the world but New Zealand, can you discover a breath-taking glacier less than an hour’s walk from your car? And what’s more, this awesome Fox Glacier attraction is free!

A popular scenic track, The Fox Glacier Valley Walk starts just a short 2-kilometre drive south of the Bella Vista motel. The path meanders along the south bank of the Fox River through ancient podocarp rainforest before ascending gently up the valley. After 40-minutes, you’ll reach the Fox Glacier Viewpoint and if the clouds part, be rewarded with wide views up the valley towards the glacier and a picture-perfect spot.

Also check out the Moraine Walk which loops off the Fox Glacier Valley Walk track, so you can tick off two walks in one day! This easy 40-minute walk reveals how plants regenerate after a glacier has retreated and it’s not hard to imagine how dinosaurs would’ve once roamed this now-forested valley.


The Minnehaha Track (20 min loop)
Who doesn’t love glow worms especially when their natural habitat is 200 meters from the motel’s doorstep? A short stroll on The Minnehaha Track (20m minute loop) is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Fox Glacier. This peaceful loop path follows a burbling stream through rainforest.  The kids will love heading out after dark but remember to tread quietly and switch off torches to behold the full glow worm glory show. No torch? Ask to borrow one from reception or take a couple of well-charged phones to light up the path. 


Lake Matheson (1h 30 min return)
Probably the most photographed lake in New Zealand, nearby Lake Matheson is renowned for its perfect chocolate-box reflections of New Zealand's highest mountains – Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. Visitors the world-over are entranced by the Lake’s serene mirror views of the Southern Alps which are caused by organic matter leached from the surrounding forest floor. And what’s more, Fox Glacier’s most instagrammable spot is only 5-minutes’ drive from the motel!

If you’re feeling peckish, drop into the stylish Matheson’s Café at the track entrance. Visitors rate their big brekkie, and the coffee is considered amongst the best brews on the West Coast. Especially when sipped on the café’s sunny patio with the Southern Alps as your outlook.

Ask the Bella Vista Motel team about the best walks in Fox Glacier. We’ll happily suggest options to suit your level of fitness or timeframe and point you in the right direction.