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Franz Josef Hikes

Updated: Feb 29

The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most famous glaciers in the world.

Situated in Westland Tai Poutini National park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's unique location - nestled amongst jurassic temperate rainforest - is unlike most other glaciers in the world. It once reached all the way through the rainforest to the rough West Coast Tasman sea, with it's black sand beaches and famous gold mining history.

There are many fantastic hikes in the Franz Josef area which are suitable for all ages and abilities.

Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere - Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint walk

Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint

Our main track on our Franz Josef Nature Tour, this hike is suitable for all ages and abilities. It is mostly a flat wide track, with a steep but short hill up to the viewpoint at the end. One of the features of this walk is the mighty Waiho River, which flows directly out of the glacier itself. And another is the stunning waterfalls which are ever present, but more spectacular in the rain of course!

For those able to be more adventurous, we also include our own off-track area that the general public cannot access on our Franz Josef Nature Tour.

Peters Pool

A short walk to this beautiful pond called Peters Pool at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier named by C E Douglas and A P Harper after Peter Westland who spent a camping holiday here with his mother and two sisters in 1894, when he was nine years of age. (ref National Library of NZ)

This pond can look very different depending on the time of the year, time of day, and weather!

We normally include this on our half day Franz Josef Nature Tour along, together with Sentinel Rock walk, and of course the Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere/Franz Josef Glacier Viewpoint hike (mentioned above).

Sentinel Rock

This is a short hike uphill to a viewing platform which gives a different vantage point of the Franz Josef Glacier. We also can include this on our Franz Josef Nature Tour

depending on the group - every day the tour can be different!

Douglas Bridge Walk

The Douglas Bridge walk is a short walk to a historic bridge, and also the start of the Roberts Point Track walk (one of our Private Franz Josef Full Day Tours).

It is impressive to experience when it's raining & when the river is high, so we often include this when its raining on our half day Franz Josef Nature Tour.

Roberts Point Track

Roberts Point bridge. Photo credit Geoff Marks 2021

This is an amazing hike over swing bridges, through beautiful rainforest to the closest and best view of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere - the Franz Josef Glacier - without the need for a helicopter. It doesn't get you onto or be close enough to touch the glacier, but it's a great adventure with an amazing reward for your efforts at the top.

This is a full day tour - 12.3 km return via same track. We normally allow 7 hrs depending on the group and ability (if you are doing it on your own then the DOC website says 5 hrs 20 min), as we pace ourselves with the clients and stop a lot to point out native plants (inc orchids & fungi, depending on the season) and plenty of rest breaks as well.

We include a fantastic packed lunch as well from our local cafe , and our guide also carries morning & afternoon tea.

The Franz Josef Glacier. Photo credit Geoff Marks 2021

The Roberts Point track is a 'backcountry' track (as opposed to the other 'front country' tracks in this blog). That means it is not a track that DOC maintains regularly or to the same standard as the other tracks mentioned. It is not for beginner hikers or small children, and many people underestimate this track and can be underprepared.

Always carry spare warm clothing, a raincoat (no matter what time of year!) drinking water (you can fill it up from the creeks), food & a first aid kit. Wear good hiking shoes (preferably hiking boots with ankle support) as approximately one third of this track is not your typical DOC track, but rock face, which can be very slippery in the rain. Wear leggings/hiking trousers or shorts - anything but jeans! (FYI jean fabric is terrible if it gets wet - it becomes heavy, there's a hyperthermia risk if it's cold, and there will be chaffage!)

We recommend not walking this track at all in the rain (or if it has been raining in the last 24 hrs). We also recommend discussing this track with the local Franz Josef Department of Conservation team, whether you are an experienced hiker or not, as New Zealand can be quite different to other parks/hikes around the world.

Roberts Point Track. Photo credit Geoff Marks 2021

So, whether you come out on one of our fantastic guided walks or not, South Westland/Glacier Country has some of the most beautiful clear rivers, snow capped mountains and reflective lakes in the world. Take care out there, always carry water and sunscreen, spare clothing & snacks, and don't forget a raincoat (it's not a temperate rainforest for nothing!).

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