Franz Josef is a tiny town, tucked away at the base of a glacier, surrounded by lush rainforest and protected by snow-capped mountains. This epic west coast town is in glacier country and is home to the world’s only alpine parrot, called a Kea. These cheeky birds are incredibly intelligent and add to the mystique and whimsy that is Franz Josef. Take the time to include this town in your New Zealand itinerary and you will not be disappointed. Despite its small size, the things to do in Franz Josef are endless.
Top things to do in Franz Josef
This breathtaking town is packed with activities and loads of adventure. This small, unique village in the south of New Zealand is charming and will leave you speechless.
Callery Gorge Walk
One of the most gorgeous free walks in Franz Josef is the hike to Callery Gorge. This walk takes you through a wonderland of lush green jungle to a swinging bridge. This bridge dead ends but you can walk over the rushing waters of the glacial river before heading back the same way you came. The hike takes about an hour and a half and is considered fairly easy.
Roberts Point Trek
The Roberts Point Trek is one hiking trek in Franz Josef that you can’t miss. You’ll want a full day to do this hike as you cross several swinging bridges and climb over some rocks, so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of daylight. The track is about 11k round trip and is a moderately easy hike for the most part. You will wind in and out of the forest there and back and enjoy stunning views of the glacier, river, mountains, and valley.
Keep your eyes out for the infamous Kea and be sure not to feed them. This trek is one of the best things to do around Franz Josef and it’s totally free. You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Franz Josef Glacier at the end for a stunning memory. Since this track is so long, you will want to make sure you are fully prepared with correct hiking gear, proper clothes, and footing for any sort of weather and enough water and snacks.
For a truly unique hike that is less frequently visited, the Tartare Tunnel is a great choice. The tunnel walk is a super easy 1.5-hour walk that takes you through the old mining tunnels. You’ll walk along the river and under a canopy of vibrant green ferns.
Make sure you bring a torch and shoes that are either waterproof or that you don’t mind getting wet. But the true surprise will be when you turn your flashlight off and watch the glow worms appear inside the icy tunnels!
Get high with Skydive Franz
The best skydiving in all of New Zealand can be found in the hidden gem of a town that is Franz Josef. Sky Dive Franz can take you to heights that other skydive schools cannot. You can choose from three different heights and the highest you can choose to drop from is 20,000 feet. At this height, you need an oxygen mask as you wait your turn to drop. From the air, you can see indescribable views of the vibrant rainforest against the ice-blue glaciers to one side and the Southern Alps on the other.
Heli-Hiking Franz Josef Glacier
There are only a few places in the world where you can go hiking on a glacier, making this one of the best things to do in Franz Josef. To get to the glacier you’ll have a short helicopter flight over gorgeous views of the river, gorge, and a waterfall before landing at the top. Here your tour guide will take you on a hiking adventure unlike another experience in New Zealand.
You’ll get the chance to explore ice caves and pinnacles with a small group of people and take in the wonders that this area has to offer, which are numerous. Your trip includes all ice gear, like crampons and an icepick as well as snow clothes and a safety briefing. Afterwards, you can jump over to the hot pools and spa as a pass is included too. Talk about the perfect day!
Kayak & Walking Tour to Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary
Franz Josef is filled with outdoor activities and tours and this tour is one of the best on the south island, with some rare experiences. You’ll start out by kayaking across Lake Mapourika, the largest lake in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Once across the lake, you and your professional, knowledgeable guide will take you through ancient and pristine rainforest in search for New Zealand’s rarest bird, the Kiwi.
Explore the nightlife
Despite its small size, Franz Josef has a surprisingly fun nightlife. With a variety of bars on the main street, each one specializes in something. Whether you’re looking for dancing, karaoke, drinks by a fire, or a good game of pool, there is something to do each night of the week. Franz Josef always has a fun, energetic vibe as people are always coming and going and most of the people that live and work in Franz Josef will be the people guiding you on your epic tours. Franz is a true gem and is a place everyone should travel to while they’re on the south island of New Zealand.
Visit 2 Glaciers with one Helicopter Ride
Right next to Franz Josef Glacier is Fox Glacier and you can visit both on this exclusive heli-trip. Travel over the Southern Alps, Mount Cook, and Mount Tasman, as well as the twin glaciers with the best views as your guide tells you about the history of the area. You will even get a chance to land on the snow and play around for a short time before heading back.
Explore the wild west coast of New Zealand on this 2-hour quad trip where a guide will take you through rainforest, riverbeds, grasslands, and mud. A quad adventure is one of the best Franz Josef attractions, especially for anyone who likes to get down and dirty with nature. Your trip includes wet weather gear, helmets, goggles, and of course your ATV and guide.
Alex Knob Track
If you’re considering an advanced hike, Alex Knob Track offers unforgettable views of the whole valley and surrounding area. This 17k trek follows the same trail up and back and requires at least 8 hours. You’ll hike through various terrain with great and unforgettable sights along the way. You don’t need a guide for this hike but it is a good idea to go with a group of people. Make sure you bring enough water and food, proper hiking equipment and gear, waterproof clothes, and a torch.
Glacier Hot Pools
For a little relaxation after all that hiking and adventure or for things to do in Franz Josef on a rainy day, opt to head to the glacier hot pools that sit at the base of Franz Josef glacier. You can chill out in pools that range from 36-40 degrees or even splurge to get your own private pool amidst the forest!
On location, there is also a massage and let’s just say that the massages won’t disappoint with some of the best masseuses in the whole country here.
There are endless things to do at Franz Josef Glacier, especially for people who love the wild outdoors and thrilling experiences. Still, wondering what to do in Franz Josef? Check out the wildlife centre and the hot pools spa.
Continue planning your trip to New Zealand!
- Best Things to do in Queenstown
- Best Things to do in Christchurch
- Best Things to do in Wanaka
- Best Things to do in Nelson
- New Zealand Travel Guide
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