There are more than 3000 glaciers in the South Island of New Zealand and seeing one up close is usually on the must-see list for visitors. Rob Roy Glacier in the Mt Aspiring National Park is one that tourists can easily see – for free and in safety.
From the township of Wanaka it’s an hour’s drive to Mt Aspiring National Park, through spectacular scenery and lush farmland. The last part of the journey is a gravel track with 11 fords, several cattle grids and some very tight turns, but it’s worth the effort to reach the start of the Rob Roy Glacier walking track.
The five kilometre track starts from the Raspberry Creek car park and meanders across the river flats to the suspension bridge across the Matukituki River.
From there it begins to climb uphill – a gentle incline in some places and steeper elsewhere, following the Rob Roy Stream through shaded beech forests carpeted with ferns and mosses.
It’s exciting to reach the first lookout and see the glacier at last.
After leaving the lookout there are still of couple of kilometres of uphill walking. At the head of Rob Roy Valley the forest gives way to alpine plants which grow above the tree line, and at 1000 metres above sea level the viewing point at the end of the track has uninterrupted vistas of Mt Rob Roy and the glacier.
The track can be very busy in Summer but even with large numbers of visitors the area around the viewing point has an air of quiet reflection. Everyone seems to appreciate the grandeur of the scene before them, and their good fortune in being able to witness this amazing natural spectacle in their own space and time.