Franz Josef is the most popular destination in Glacier Country, located on the west coast of New Zealand. It offers a vast array of outdoor activities for the adventurous tourist. Hiking is on top of the list, glacier hiking trips in particular, to explore the area’s ethereal glacial landscape. There are also scenic lakes to discover here which are not only perfect for sightseeing but also for kayaking and cruising. Lush forests and wetlands are accessible as well for those who want to get closer to nature.
If you are into hiking, take the challenge of the Alex Knob Track that will take you from Lake Wombat through a rainforest and sub-alpine grounds, and past various lookouts before you finally reach the summit where you will experience the glorious panorama of the Franz Josef Glacier, the Main Divide and the Tasman Sea and the view will surely take your breath away. The track takes about 8-hours return on steady climb. The Roberts Point Track is another challenging terrain for experienced and skilled hikers. But, if you are only up for short and easy walks, then the scenic Canavans Knob Trail is the perfect choice for you.
Of course, for the more adventurous visitor, walking on ice is the best way to get up close and personal with the vast and pristine glacial terrain. You can go for a simple glacier valley walk but if you want to take it up a notch, then go ice climbing for that unforgettable adrenalin rush. Heli-hikes are also popular for those who can afford the flights.
Other exciting activities in the area include cross-country quad biking that will take you across glacial-fed rivers and verdant forests with gorgeous views keeping you company along the way. If you love horses, you can easily trade quad-biking with horse-trekking. However, if you prefer to enjoy the magnificent vistas from above, then skydiving is definitely a must-do. All these adventures can be easily booked from the various tour companies in the area.
If you are more drawn to nature jaunts, then you are in for a treat because there are some fantastic nature retreats in Franz Josef. Okarito Lagoon is a must-visit if you are an avid bird watcher. This large wetland is home to over 70 species of birds that include white herons, royal spoonbills and the Okarito Brown Kiwi, which is the rarest in the world. The best way to explore the area is to paddle on a kayak along the wetland’s open water. The Waitangi Roto Nature reserve is another prime bird watching location in the area.
Finally, a perfect ending to your Glacier Country holiday is to take a dip in the soothing waters of the Glacier Hot Pools and relish its rejuvenating effect on your tired muscles. Don’t worry – unlike the hot pools in the nearby town of Fox, you will not have to hike for hours for a blissful plunge because the pools are conveniently located on Cron Street, in the heart of Franz Josef township.