Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865. The glacier is five kilometers from town, and a 20 minute walk will take you to its terminal face. The town is a popular jumping off point for all the glaciers in the area (there is more than just Franz Josef). This one of the major highlights of the South Island and a great opportunity to walk across a glacier and explore a variety of ice tunnels.
- Hostel Prices: Hostel dorms will cost between $17-22 USD per night while private double room will be around $50.
- Budget Hotel Prices: Budget hotels start at $50 USD per night.
- Average Cost of Food: A typical restaurant meal with cost you about $13 USD or more. If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend about $40-67 USD per week. You can find sandwiches around for $5 USD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King costs between $6-8 USD.
- Transportation Costs:Franz Josef is a tiny, tiny town. You can just walk it. You have to find transportation to the glaciers – whether by tour or car. Buses run up and down the coast connecting Franz Josef to all major cities.
Top Things to Do
- Hukawai Glacier Center - The Hukawai Glacier Center features a glacier experience, an audio-visual display about New Zealand’s glaciers, and information on the wildlife, geology and Maori mythology. There is even an indoor ice climbing wall.
- Go heli-hiking - Heli-hiking offers the best of both worlds. You get a scenic flight over the glacier and you also get to hike on the ice. Generally, walking on the glacier is better on the heli-hikes as you get to more remote parts away from the tour groups.
- Glacier Trekking – As if you already didn’t know this is what there is to do here, here is your friendly reminder. If you came all the way here, make sure you hike the glacier. Do the full day hike so you get the most of it and get to explore some of the ice tunnels that are around.
- Whataroa and Perth Rivers- Located north of Franz Josef, these rivers make for a good day trip during the summer. They are popular one-day whitewater rafting spots. They have Class IV & V rapids and are in the middle of lush forest and wilderness. If you don’t want to hike a glacier, this is a good alternative.
- Helicopter Tour – What better way to see the beautiful, national parks than from above? Seeing the glacier from such great heights really gives you a whole new perspective of the area plus, the photos you get are always stunning.
- Glacier Hot Pools – This series of outdoor thermal baths is a dose of rejuvenation, waiting to happen. After all of the intensive, glacial hiking you are bound to do, it is great to head here for a soak and maybe even a massage. It’s important to keep your body loose.
- Do a horseback trek – Take a load off your feet and add some extra mileage to your sightseeing, via horseback. Trip run about 6 hours long and tours go along remote beaches and various farm lands.
- Rainforest trekking – Most people don’t realize that this area is home to a beautiful rainforest with tons of trails and paths to explore. All you need is a pack, with some water and snacks, and some decent hiking shoes. Be wary of mud and slippery tracks.
- Take only a half day tour – If you are on a budget, the half-day glacier trip will satisfy your adventure appetite and your wallet.
- Hike by yourself – If you can’t afford one of the guided glacier treks or helicopter rides, you can walk unguided to the terminal face yourself for free and still get some great scenic photos.