Franz Josef Glacier – Attractions on the West Coast, NZ


Remote and rugged, the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world. Only 31,000 people call the West Coast home, with the tiny settlements and towns scattered across a narrow coastline squeezed between the mighty Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.

The big-sky scenery here of vast native forests, jagged peaks, and lonely driftwood-strewn beaches is New Zealand at its most beautiful and a major draw card for anyone looking for a heady dose of lush green nature.

Trekking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and boating are all major activities, although even the less adventurous can experience the West Coast’s biggest tourist attractions. Both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier and the famed Pancake Rocks can be viewed by taking short, easy strolls, while a journey on the renowned TranzAlpine Railway lets you simply sit back while the scenery rolls past.

For ideas on how to spend your sightseeing time here, as well as details of things to do, be sure to review our list of the top attractions on the West Coast.

A key tourist attraction in this region, the Franz Josef Glacier is one of only three places in the world where a glacier descends into temperate rainforest. Fox Glacier (described below) is another, with the only other example being in Argentina. The glaciers here are located within Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

Due to the glacier being 250 meters above sea level, it is easily accessible. Travelers descend upon the tiny village of Franz Josef (population 330) to walk the easy 45-minute Glacier Valley Trail up to the viewing platform in front of Franz Josef Glacier’s face.

For a more exciting and unique experience that will allow you to get right out on the glacier, consider a Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike. This tour takes a little over three hours and offers an opportunity of a lifetime. Fly over the glacier, then get out and hike on the ice.

Location: State Highway 6, 134 kilometers south of Hokitika

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