Tourists climbing Fox Glacier 1966
On March 29 1960, Westland National Park was formed, incorporating the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. With its estate stretching from the high mountains of the Southern Alps to the Tasman Sea, it offered a wide range of outdoor experience. The park’s first handbook, published in 1960, stated that: “There is much to interest the family man, as no special equipment is necessary to view the lakes with their reflections or snow-capped peaks and wooded shores or the sub-tropical rain forests which run right down to the sea.”
Long before Westland National Park was constituted tourists from all over the world visited the glaciers, with numbers increasing in the 1900s as roads were formed and hotel accommodation become available. Because of the remoteness of the area it was slower to get established than other tourist hubs like Rotorua and Tongariro but was popular with more adventurous tourists in the early decades of the twentieth century
This image shows a group of tourists on the Fox Glacier in 1966. The glaciers are the nucleus of the national park and with their close proximity to rainforest were (are?) considered unique. The region has become one of New Zealand’s premier tourist destinations although recent drastic glacier retreat has made access onto the ice difficult. While groups like these could walk easily onto the glacier from the riverbed, today’s tourists have to be helicoptered up onto the ice.
Archives reference: AAQT 6539 W3537 65 / A79940
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Material from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga