Franz Josef is positioned within the Westland Tai Poutini National Park and is world-famous for being the gateway to the iconic Franz Josef Glacier. The Waiho River courses past Franz Josef, where you’ll find breweries, restaurants, hot spas and unique outdoor adventures.
Things to do in Franz Josef Glacier
You can’t visit Franz Josef without experiencing the 12-kilometre-long temperate maritime glacier called Franz Josef Glacier. You can embark on guided and self-guided walks up and onto the glacier or ride in a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view. If you’re lucky, you might even get to walk through ice tunnel passageways.
For a slightly different view of New Zealand’s scenery, drive about 10 minutes to Lake Mapourika, which formed during the last Ice Age. It features an unusually dark water colour produced by fresh rainwater, which runs into the lake through the surrounding forests. You can also embark on a Tatare Tunnels Walk from the town centre, which takes you through dense forest and early-20th-century bedrock mining tunnels.
Get up close with unique New Zealand wildlife at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, home to kiwi birds and tuatara lizards. You can take a self-guided walk through the natural bush enclosures or organise a backstage pass to see the hatching and incubation programs.
Don’t forget to spend some time hanging out around Franz Joseph’s lively town centre. It’s filled with alluring restaurants, such as the rustic Alice May and The Landing, renowned for its cocktails. If you need a cold one, head to SnakeBite Brewery to try locally-crafted beer. Purchase unique souvenirs from Te Koha Gallery and grab a coffee and snack at Blue Ice Cafe.
Getting around Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef is accessible by car, or you can take a bus from Christchurch, Wanaka and Greymouth. You can walk around the centre of town, but will need a car or a tour to explore further afield.