New Zealand – Franz Josef

Franz Josef and the Fox Glaciers are must visit places on any trip to the South Island and the primary destination for glacier tours in New Zealand.

But like much of our time here in New Zealand, its not just about the destination but the journey to get there, especially if you get to drive!

We drove the two hours south from Hokitika but the lakes we passed were stunning as were the glacial rivers and the sights of the approaching snow capped mountains.

Mountain tops view from Franz Josef town

A short drive from the town is a car park that provides access points for short treks to see the leading edge of the glacier although its around 750mtrs from the viewpoint.

As the glacier retreats this is a good location to see the landscape left behind by the ice, and understand the natural forces at work.

At its maximum extent, Franz Josef Glacier is about 12km long. It advances and retreats over the years following fluctuations in the local climate, but since 2008 has been rapidly retreating.

The best way to see the many glaciers is to take a Helicopter flight into the mountains. There are a number of options to chose from with pricing linked to the duration of the flight.

This was a one off for us and we had beautiful weather conditions so we took a flight to see the Franz Josef, Fox and Tasman glaciers along with a short landing on the glacier itself!

The views are simply stunning.

We landed gracefully onto the Glacier and got to walk about in shorts and t-shirts for 10mins on the snow!

The view below is the route the glacier would have taken some 20km into the Tasman Sea beyond.

If you plan on taking a helicopter trip do try and leave a couple of days spare in case of bad weather, the following day it rained so we were very lucky.

Below is Okarito beach, just a 30mins drive from Franz Josef. It’s a lovely beach and the colour of the Tasman sea is a beautiful turquoise blue.

We ended our day in a hot-tub in the forest, at around 40 degrees centigrade i nearly fainted!

Next stop is a 5hr drive to Queentown and our growing excitement about what we will see enroute.

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