Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Franz Josef Glacier – a great place to visit!

Kerry Myers send us this great piece about  Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. Having visiting the town and the glacier, I can agree with everything she says!

A day spent in Franz Josef Glacier township result in a lifetime of memories, and the opportunity to visit one of the most spectacular natural features in the world, before it disappears.

Often seen as a mere pit stop on the way to other more well known destinations, Franz Josef Glacier is a small township located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and is well worth a night or two to explore what this region has to offer.

Within sight of the stunning natural feature that affords the town it’s name, the township itself is lovely, boasting every amenity for a traveller. Five star accommodation, backpackers and motels line the back street of the town, leaving the main road free for cafes, restaurants, even the odd bar, perfect to relax and people watch the wide range of travellers who descend on this town.

The town caters for them all, everyone from the true backpacker, to a pampered luxury seeking traveller visit for one reason; to see the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. From its origins high in the Southern Alps, the Franz Josef Glacier descends deep into the lush rainforest of Westland National Park, offering novice visitors the opportunity to explore the most spectacular glacier environment available to the general public anywhere in the world.

Visitors are reminded to travel with a guide up the glacier, indeed people have lost their lives by trying to explore the glacier on their own. Franz Josef Glacier Guides offers a range of trips to suit every ability, from a Glacier Valley Walk, to Full and Half Days, even Ice Climbing and Heli hiking are on offer, there really is something for everyone.

The heli hike is the premium trip offer, and with a short flight over the retreating glacier ice falls, you are taken to the most spectacular part of the glacier where the ice is a kaleidoscope of colours and looks out to the Tasman Sea. Your guide then takes you on a two hour hike through this majestic area while explaining how to use the crampons (ice grips for shoes, which the company provide) as well as the history of the glacier.

Although the glacier is retreating at the moment, it’s hard to tell on the hike. This is the fastest moving part of the glacier, and offers ever changing pinnacles, caves and crevasse to explore.

The flight back to town offers more stunning views, and the last chances to grab a picture of the glacier before you are again back in the township.

From here, an evening spent relaxing in the Glacier Hot Pools is the perfect way to rejuvenate after a days hiking and exploring. Located in the centre of town, but totally surrounded by lush, native bush, the pools are a perfect place to rest before heading out to dinner at one of the great local restaurants.

By the end of the day it is easy to see why people could simply drive through Franz Josef Glacier township not knowing what lies within it. But once you spend a little time here you realise it’s a perfect little pit stop on a tour through New Zealand’s South Island.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides www.franzjosefglacier.com

Glacier Hot Pools www.glacierhotpools.co.nz

Accommodation in Franz Josef

More tours on Franz Josef Glacier

For Motorhome hire in New Zealand, click here

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