10 Epic Things to Do in Franz Josef

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What to Do in Franz Josef: Home to New Zealand’s Most Accessible Glacier

It’s a must-do on the South Island, see the Franz Josef Glacier. Franz Josef is one of the most bustling tourism hotspots on the West Coast of the South Island. The small picturesque town is backed with luxuriant rainforest and a magnificent glacier valley leading up to the Franz Josef Glacier. There are many ways to experience this glacier for yourself, as well as discover the magnificent landscape carved by it over thousands of years. Find out what you could be getting up to with this list of things to do in Franz Josef.

While you’re here, don’t miss our 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Franz Josef!

1. Hike to the Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face

Walk through a breathtaking Franz Josef Glacier Valley to a viewpoint before the Franz Josef terminal face. The 1h30minsreturn walk features the beautiful Trident Falls. Enrich your experience further by taking a 3-hour guided hike through the valley with Glacier Valley Eco Tour or Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

Location: Glacier Access Road, 5km from Franz Josef just south of the Waiho River Bridge.

MaxPixel© MaxPixel

2. Do a Glacier Heli-hike

Explore the ice giant itself on a glacier heli-hiking experience. Fly onto the Franz Josef Glacier and tie up your provided crampons for your guide to take you on a journey in and around the glacier. No two tours are the same on this ever-changing environment complete with ice caves and outstanding mountainous views on all sides. Book your heli-hike with The Helicopter Line West Coast or Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

Location: Departs from your chosen operator’s base in Franz Josef town.

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3. Visit Okarito Lagoon

One of the most important eco-systems in New Zealand, the Okarito Lagoon is a nature lover’s dream. See rare wildlife like the white heron and royal spoonbill on the shores of the Okarito Lagoon and along the Okarito walking trails. Choose either the Okarito Trig Walk (1h30mins return) for spectacular views of the lagoon and glaciers or enjoy the coastal views and wildlife along the Okarito Coastal Walk (3h30mins return). Find out more about these walks and others in the area with our 10 Best Walks in Franz Josef.

Location: The Strand, Okarito. 27km southwest of Franz Josef.

Jesse Palmer on Wikipedia© Jesse Palmer on Wikipedia

4. Do a Helicopter Flight Over the Southern Alps

Gaze upon a pristine landscape carved by glaciers on a scenic helicopter flight from Franz Josef. Fly over the Franz Josef Glacier and land on a secluded ice field with Glacier Helicopters. See both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers before landing above them with The Helicopter Line West Coast. Or get the “grand tour” on a 40-minute flight around Aoraki Mt Cook, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier with HeliServices NZ Fox & Franz.

Location: Departs from your chosen operator’s base in Franz Josef town.

Glacier Helicopters© Glacier Helicopters

5. See a Kiwi Bird at the West Coast Wildlife Centre

The perfect rainy-day activity in Franz Josef, the West Coast Wildlife Centre is the South Island’s largest kiwi hatching facility. This is your chance to see New Zealand’s national icon up-close! The centre also has an interactive glacier exhibition.

Location: Cowan Street.

West Coast Wildlife Centre© West Coast Wildlife Centre

6. Kayak on Lake Mapourika

Paddle on the reflective waters of Lake Mapourika on a kayaking tour with Glacier Country Kayaks. No experience is necessary, as you glide across the waters with ease on this placid lake surrounded by lush rainforest and ever-present views of the mountains in the distance. Look out for wildlife like eels and follow your guide down hidden creeks while listening to local Maori legends.

Location: Glacier Country Kayaks base, 64 Cron Street

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

7. Quad Bike Through a Glacier Valley

Explore valleys, riverbeds and rainforest left in the wake of the Franz Josef Glacier on an exciting tour with Across Country Quad Bikes. This 2-hour tour has you off-roading on all sorts of terrain, from rivers to grasslands. You’ll get driving tips and a time to practice with your guide before setting out on a thrilling journey. Compare this ATV tour to others with our 10 Places to Quad Bike in New Zealand for Adventure Junkies.

Location: 30 Main Road

Across Country Quad Bikes© Across Country Quad Bikes

8. Fish for Brown Trout and Salmon at Lake Mapourika

Lake Mapourika is a hotbed for salmon and brown trout fishing, so enjoy it with your own gear (remember your fishing license) or join a local skipper who will sort all the logistics and gear out for you. Glacier Country Kayaks offers fishing charters kitted up for all weathers. No previous experience is needed, just enjoy a few hours on the lake and try your luck. Brown Trout can be caught year-round, while the salmon season is October to March.

Location: Glacier Country Kayaks base, 64 Cron Street

Glacier Country Kayaks© Glacier Country Kayaks

9. Indulge in the Glacier Hot Pools

Warm up after your glacier heli-hike or escape the rain at the Glacier Hot Pools. These thermal hot pools have a selection of hot pools with varying temperatures nestled in the rainforest. Choose to unwind in the public pools or a private pool.

Location: 63 Cron Street

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10. Skydive Over the Franz Josef Glacier

Finally, see the Franz Josef Glacier from epic heights on a 20,000ft skydive! Freefall at 200km/h for up to 85 seconds in this ultimate adrenaline activity. The skydive is mixed with some of the most varied and epic scenery available in New Zealand with views of the highest peaks of the country, the Franz Josef Glacier and river valleys meandering their way out to the Tasman Sea. Skydive Franz Josef also offers jumps from 16,500ft and 13,000ft. Compare this skydive to others with our 12 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.

Location: 20 Main Road

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