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How to Spend 3 Days in Franz Josef

How to Spend 3 Days in Franz Josef

Towering peaks, crevasse-filled glaciers, and sparkling waterways define the World Heritage area around the town of Franz Josef. Whether you hover over ice formations in a helicopter or strap on crampons for a hike, a trip to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers is truly unforgettable. Here’s how to make the most of three days in the region.

Day 1: Take to the Skies

A helicopter is the ideal choice for getting up close to the glaciers. Marvel at the mantle of pure white snow, then make a snow landing at the head of either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier and walk along the Main Divide. Lastly, head down toward the lush rainforests that sit at the edge of the Tasman Sea. 

If you’re looking for more adventure, you can take a tandem skydiving trip: Board an aircraft, then drop through the sky high above Mt. Cook. The panoramic views of both glaciers from the sky are unparalleled, and the drop includes up to 75 seconds of free fall. Alternatively, for a less heart-thumping experience, head to the West Coast Wildlife Centre, where you can see flightless kiwi birds up close at the South Island’s largest hatching facility. 

Day 2: Go on a Hike

Franz Josef offers a range of hiking opportunities. If you’re feeling adventurous, climb back into a helicopter, this time for a heli-hike on a glacier. Upon landing, grab your ice axe, and follow guides on a trip that will have you squeezing through tight blue crevasses or shuffling down near-vertical walls of ice. Alternatively, take a walking tour through the valley and right up to the dramatic terminal face of the advancing glacier. 

Another option for exploring the local terrain is an ATV tour, a thrilling ride that bumps over muddy off-road paths through scenic rainforest and river beds. Or, for a quieter excursion, take a guided nature walk around nearby Lake Matheson, where the reflective waters make great photo ops of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, or learn about the region’s fascinating ecosystem on an eco-tour.  

Day 3: Get onto the Water

Franz Josef isn’t just all about the ice and snow. For a different experience, head to Lake Mapourika, which is located only minutes from the village but feels like it is worlds away.  Book  a kayaking guide to take you paddling over tranquil waters and lead you on a secluded rainforest walk, or visit the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary for a glimpse of New Zealand’s national bird. Anglers can set off on a fishing expedition on a chartered boat with a skipper on board who will help you catch salmon or brown trout; many boats provide equipment and hot beverages. On your last evening in the region, head out on a scenic evening cruise and capture majestic panoramic photos of the Southern Alps reflected in the lake and lit by sunset’s alpenglow.

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7 Tours and Activities | All Franz Josef & Fox Glacier Tours

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Heli Hike Fox Glacier

Heli Hike Fox Glacier

star-5
The Fox Glacier is widely considered among New Zealand’s most impressive natural attractions—but it’s impossible to appreciate its beauty from ground level. On this tour, take to the skies by helicopter for panoramic views over the glacier, and trek deep into the icy wilderness with your guide—where the forces of nature work their magic. With safety kit and crampons included, see the best of the Fox Glacier up-close.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$368.44
From
US$368.44

4-hour Lake Mapourika Kayak and Hike adventure, with Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary

4-hour Lake Mapourika Kayak and Hike adventure, with Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary

star-5
Discover the natural wonders of Lake Mapourika on this 4-hour kayaking adventure. Paddle around the lake against a backdrop of the Franz Josef Glacier, head ashore for a hike around the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, and learn more about New Zealand’s famous Kiwi birds.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$100.76
From
US$100.76
Taking safety measures

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

star-4.5
Take a guided hike to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, scrambling along an exclusive pathway over the riverbed of the mighty Waiho. During the interpretive valley walk to the glacier, your guide covers the geographical features of this magnificent alpine landscape. Upon reaching the viewpoint, you’re treated to an up-close look at the advancing glacier. Numbers are limited to 13 people per group for a more personal experience.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$57.59
From
US$57.59

Skip the Line: Franz Josef Wildlife Center Ticket with Optional Backstage Pass

Skip the Line: Franz Josef Wildlife Center Ticket with Optional Backstage Pass

star-4
Learn about the New Zealand native bird, the kiwi, with admission to the Franz Josef Wildlife Center. Tour the largest kiwi hatching facility on the South Island and opt to include a Backstage Pass Tour, where you'll get 30 minutes of access behind the scenes. Your ticket also includes access to the West Coast storytelling areas and an interactive glacier exhibition. Buy your passes in advance to guarantee your admission to this popular attraction, great for all weather and all times of year.
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  • 1 to 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$23.04
From
US$23.04
Taking safety measures

Fishing Charter - Lake Mapourika

Fishing Charter - Lake Mapourika

star-5
Fish for brown trout and salmon at Lake Mapourika and benefit from the expertise of a local skipper. You’ll get comfortable on this fishing charter that features an indoor cabin and plenty of outside seating for all weather conditions. Fishing equipment is provided, and staff can help you purchase a fishing license.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$100.76
From
US$100.76
Taking safety measures

Lake Matheson Eco Tour

Lake Matheson Eco Tour

star-4.5
Explore the area around Lake Matheson on a guided nature walk. With a guide in the lead, you can focus on the scenery and listening to the guided commentary about the area's flora, fauna, and unique ecosystem. Get the chance to snap photos of Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook reflected in the glassy surface of the lake. Early morning or late evening departures give the best possible reflections and ensure there is plenty of time in the day for other activities.
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  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$55.60
From
US$55.60

Tandem Skydive 16,500ft from Franz Josef

Tandem Skydive 16,500ft from Franz Josef

star-5
Experience the thrill of tandem skydiving from 16,500 feet (5,029 meters) and marvel at expansive views that include Aoraki/Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak. An instructor provides training and skydive gear plus round-trip transport from Franz Josef village. You’ll plunge from an aircraft amid the vivid scenery of glaciers, lakes, rivers, and ocean. Choose from multiple departure times.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$298.12
From
US$298.12


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