Excellent experience for climate change effects - Tasman Glacier - New Zealand


When you drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, there are many spectacular places through the journey which you can't be missed. Among them, our kids got too excited to see glorious Tasman Glacier when we landed in Christchurch. New Zealand South island is full of natural beauties with lakes, mountains, forests, beaches and fiords. Among of them Tasman Glacier is one of the famous and iconic attractions in the world. Incredible long deep Tasman Glacier is in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

From Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park, we drove through the New Zealand  State Highway8 by a ranted car. 

Lake Tekapo

This scenic route is amazing full of  picturesque scenery. Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo located on the South Island of New Zealand.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki can be seen from State Highway 8 when driving between Tekapo and Twizel. When driving, you’ll notice people parking by the side of the road and taking photos.

Lake Pukaki

Mount Cook Scenic Drive

Soon after Twizel we turned onto Mount Cook Road. There's a sign displays at the  T -junction saying "Mt Cook/Aorak" when the Mount Cook road starts. You just drive along the flat valley floor to the base of the mountain. That drive is magnificent! Words can't describe the beauty. It’s a great place to take photos, especially when there’s lots of snow on the top of the mountains. Doing this drive without stopping would also be rather missing the breathtaking views, so we spent more time on the road side to enjoy beautiful cloud touching mountain range.

Scenic Mount Cook Drive

Close to the end of the Mount Cook road you can see two detours, one of the Hooker Valley and the other one through the Tasman valley.The end of the road to Tasman Valley, we reached  the Tasman Glacier view point car park.

Car Park and the Toilet at the Entrance

Gravel Stairs to the view point

Bring a bottle of water and remember to go to the toilet before the trip. Then there will be no toilet after the following 1.5 hours. There is a small toilet just before the walking trail start and a sign by the entrance read "15 min walk. There is no entry fee to visit Tasman Glacier. It is a  few minute walk from the car park to the glacier lake. But with kids we spent about 30 min. The walk affords spectacular views all the way along.

Spectacular views all the way long

The hike starts off easy and then gets harder as it goes to the top of a range overlooking the glacier lake. Mostly on gravel stairs with no handrails. Blue Lake,Green Lakes and the panoramic views of the valley behind also visible from above as you climb the steps to the viewing area.

Blue Lake & Green Lake

When the Blue Lakes were first formed, they were fed by the Tasman glaciers. The blue water is melt water that is older than the milky colored water in the lake. Milky colored water has large amounts of ground up rock and when the rock flour finally settles the water becomes blue. So they were turquoise blue in color, hence the name "Blue Lakes"

Over the course of several years, the Tasman Glaciers have shrunk and retreated, so the melt water from the glaciers don't flow into the Blue Lakes anymore. The lake is now filled by the rainwater, supporting the growth of algae, causing the lake to appear green.

We walked a little further up to the higher viewing point at the  hill  gorgeous views of the Tasman Lake and Tasman Glaciers opened up. There were few signs with some recent history of the glacier. Wow!!! it was gorgeous!!! I felt so privileged to be witnessing yet another marvel of nature. Views really take your breath away.

We went there in April. It was quite cold. The wind was chilling when at the top of the viewing point. It can be very windy at the viewpoint so secure your belongings, specially hats and scarfs.

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

The Tasman Glacier is the largest glacier in New Zealand by far. Currently the glacier is 23.5 km(14.6 miles) long, 4 km (2.5 miles) wide and lies entirely within the borders of Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. It covers 101 square km(39sq miles) and is around 600m (2000 feet) thick at it’s maximum depth. The terminus is 200m deep.

Tasman Glacier is absolutely enormous and it is known as Haupapa as well. The upper areas of the glacier are covered with snow and the lower glacier is entirely rock covered.

Global Warming Effects to the Glacier

Some 22,000 to 16,000 years ago, it was even more imposing. Joined by ice from the Murchison, Hooker and Mueller glaciers, the Tasman glacier stretched for 115 km. In the 1970’s there was no lake at all but since the 1990’s the glacier has been melting rapidly. The ice has thinned so much that in the mid 1980s, ponds at the Tasman’s terminus joined to form a lake. The lakes are increasing in size as icebergs break off into the lake. It is also melting from the surface, shrinking around 150m in depth since it was first surveyed in 1891.

Icebergs breaking due to global warming

We could see how much of the original glacier size is supposed to be from an old photo shown at the view point and compare to the present size of the very much reduced glacier to know how much climate change has caused this damage. The lake is getting bigger since Tasman Glacier is melting more than it used to do. In 1890 the glacier was 29 km long and by 2027 it’s expected to be only 20 km.

This is one of our New Zealand highlights. If you have not seen a glacier this place is an eye opener.The views of the glacier and the lake are absolutely wonderful. There is about 300 steps to get up to the lookout but well worth the effort. There were no broken icebergs float in the lake the day we went there. But we saw some icebergs near the glacier. If you want to see them, summer is the best time.

If you're in the South island you really must visit this Tasman Glacier. Highly recommend. But remember, comfortable walking shoes should be worn and wear warm clothes, gloves and sunglasses to the Glacier. I’ve been fortunate to see this remarkable glacier. It's a place I'll definitely be visiting again!

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