Franz Josef Glacier
A Lake Wombat view of Franz Josef Glacier, South Island.
The Franz Josef Glacier is one of New Zealand’s prime attractions, a massive flow of ice not far off a South Island main road. It’s not the only glacier in the country but is the most accessible and popular though it should be approached with some caution. In December 2009 two young tourists were killed when the ice cliff they were photographing – from too close, there are rope barriers – collapsed on them.
Getting closer. . .
There are a handful of excellent tracks and walks in the vicinity, ranging from short and easy (such as the 40 minutes along the river bed to the glacier face, as above) to a 4 hour climb up to Alex Knob.
Franz Josef is in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, a World Heritage Area halfway down the South Island’s west coast; it’s 5 kms from Franz Josef town, which is also the nearest place to stay.
Closer still. . .
Glacier areas tend to be dynamic due to the contrasting temperatures of the ice and local temperate climate, so conditions can change suddenly, such as unexpected rain and fast-rising water levels on the river bed. Be prepared with good hiking boots and wet/cold weather gear.
A guided tour of Franz Josef with visitors wearing crampons and accompanied by a professional guide, making the walk both safer and the more interesting.
The next most popular glacier in New Zealand and situated in the same Westland Tai Poutini National Park but further south, is Fox Glacier, 171 kms south of Hokitika. Or. . .
. . . do some real hiking on a Southern Alps trek.