Welcome to Franz Josef – A cool little glacier town on the West Coast of New Zealand. There is so much to offer here from great walks, glacier hikes, scenic flights, glacier lake tours, skydiving and so much more. We would like to share with you our recommendations of things to do which we picked up on our visits to this stunning location.
♦ Franz Josef Glacier Face Walk. This is an awesome way to see the glacier up close for free! It’s a 5.4km return walk to the Franz Josef Glacier face and will take roughly 1hr30 to complete. On the walk you will pass many waterfalls, pools formations with tiny gold flakes running through it and you can drink the pure tasting glacier water straight from the rivers. And when you get to the end of the track the remarkable glacier stands in front of you and it looks incredible.
♦ Glacier Helihike. This is a once in a life-lifetime experience that should definitely not be missed! It is very expensive as far as tours go but we thought it was worth every penny. The experience consists of a scenic Helicopter ride over and onto the glacier itself. Depending on the hike you go for you should expect to spend roughly 3hrs on the ice in a small group to experience the incredible views, a detailed and interesting tour, walk through crevices and ice caves before your helicopter ride back down.
The tours are very weather dependant so be prepared for this – we had two cancelled with Franz Josef Glacier Hikes and as you can imagine, we were gutted after a long drive with high hopes!
We were told by some unfriendly staff at Franz Josef Glacier Hikes that there was no way to get up there as the clouds were too low. If the same happens to you, be sure to call around yourself. We came across the incredible Fox Glacier Guides who were still operating as the weather slightly missed them. Hopefully the same will happen to you, because this company was amazing and made the trip a memory we are not likely to forget. If you want to check out our Glacier Hike click here.
♦ Peters Pool. The Peter’s pool walk is just off the Franz Josef Glacier access road and is an easy 1.2km walk. Here you will see the incredible reflection pool as seen in the header photo and to the right. On a clear day you will see the mountains in detail reflected across the lake.
♦ Glacier Hot Pools. A great way to wind down after a chilly hike up to the glacier face or on the glacier itself. Sitting in its warm glacial waters in the middle of the rainforest is a awesome way to wind down. The only downfall however is the price, at $27pp its not the cheapest way to relax.
♦ Nightlife. Franz Josef has a awesome nightlife in its small community. In the evening we would recommend spending heading to Monsoon Bar. Here you can enjoy a nice meal off their backpackers menu which is half the price of the main menu but just as good. In the evening the fairy lights come on, fires are lit and live music or a DJ arrives. Its a great atmosphere and a great place to meet people.
♦ Accomodation. We stayed in the a awesome little hostel called Sir Cedrics Chateau Franz. This place is great for doing it on the cheap – For $27NZD for a bunk and $55NZD per person for a double the accomodation comes with the following; unlimited wifi, breakfast, hot soup in the evenings, a hot pool spa, tea & coffee, popcorn for movies, free parking, hair dryers and a safe place for your luggage. What more could you ask for?
♦ Transport. The town is so small that you can walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Parking is free almost everywhere so you can drive around if you’d like. The glacier face is the only part that is a bit out of the way. Its approximately 4km to the end of the one-way road, where the glacier walk starts. Most backpackers hitchhike as its an easy place to pick up a ride, everyone driving along this road is going to the same place.