things to do
Glacier Country on New Zealand's West Coast offers many activities and things to do. Staying in a Franz Josef motel puts you right at the doorstep of some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery.
Staying at Punga Grove means you are only minutes away from some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand. No matter whether you love to tackle the outdoors on foot or enjoy the comfort of a helicopter ride over the glacier, this part of the world is uniquely beautiful and an experience everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.
Franz Josef township is an ideal base for visiting both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier – or either of the two. Ideally you need to allow an extra day or two in case of bad weather, but the wait is definitely worthwhile, and you can enjoy the local scenery and a soak in the hot pools while you wait.
Franz Josef Glacier is one of very few in the world that stretches from mountain peaks down to just above sea level, dropping quite rapidly from 2700 metres to 240 metres above sea level in just under 11 kilometres, which makes it one of the most dramatic glaciers in the world.
The Glacier is formed high in the Southern Alps, where falling snow is compressed into ice, that gradually makes its way down the mountainside, carving a U-shaped valley as it goes.
It may take hundreds (or even thousands) of years for the ice to make its journey from the peak to the valley floor. One of the most stunning vantage points to view the glacier is Graham's Saddle, the pass through to the eastern side of the Southern Alps, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.
Below Graham’s Saddle is a gigantic basin consisting of huge snowfields, from which the glacier descends by a stunningly beautiful icefall. A wonderful view of this icefall with its enormous pinnacles of ice and vast crevasses can be seen from the Defiance Hut, for those experienced climbers who wish to take the route up the mountain.
Away below is the narrow strip of plain with the Pacific Ocean beyond, on the right the Franz Josef Glacier, and on the left Fox Glacier, while behind the mountain peaks stretch as far north or south as the eye can see. Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman seem only a short distance away, although they are about 32 kilometres away. From this view point the full beauty of the Franz Josef can be seen, and a wonderful view of the snowfields from which the glacier falls.
According to the very poetic Maori legend, Franz Josef Glacier is the frozen tears of a woman called Hinehukatere, whose lover fell to his death while climbing near the top of the glacier. The Maori name for Franz Josef is the far more poetic Ka Roimata o Hinekukatere (the frozen tears of Hinehukatere).
Plan Your Time in Franz Josef
Whatever your interest, with our in-depth local knowledge, we can help you plan your day to get the most from your visit. Make sure you allow enough time in your New Zealand West Coast holiday itinerary to experience these outstanding attractions. Here are some suggestions:
Scenic Glacier Flights
including Glacier Snow Landings and Heli-Hikes
Guided Glacier Walks
- South Westland Horse Treks