Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius Von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometers from the town of the same name, and a 20 minute walk will take you to its terminal face. From the glacier car park, you can hike to a choice of lookout points for a bigger view of this awesome river of ice. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a guided ice walk or a heli-hike. Aerial sightseeing is another option. In the town you'll find plenty of places to stay and eat. At nearby Lake Mapourika there are kayaks for hire.
This has easily got to be one of the most pristine places on the planet.
Places to Visit
- The Walks along The Waiho River Valley and in the foothills of the Southern Alps.
- Fly the helicopter line. There are superb aerial views available through several operators.
- Take a guided walk onto the Franz Josef or Fox Glacier. The glaciers extend from New Zealand's highest peaks to valley floors surrounded by temperate rainforests.
- Boat in the Lake Mapourika. It has boating facilities and some pleasant picnic spots. It is a glacier formation from the last ice age. The water is black in colour and provides superb reflections.
- Located on the coast, this wild isolated region offers some beautiful walks, and is famous for its lagoon and birdlife. The Okarito Lagoon is New Zealand's largest unmodified wetland. The tidal flats here are the feeding ground for native white heron (kotuku), as well as many other bird species.