With some 140 glaciers making their way down from the Southern Alps, this area is fittingly known as glacier country. Few sights equal the spectacle of this giant frozen river (Franz Josef Glacier) imperceptibly grinding its way down through the temperate rainforest to just 250 meters (820 feet) above sea level. We’ll spend most of the day near Franz Josef Glacier hiking up through the forest to incredible views of the ice. Wet weather can inhibit these hikes, so we may opt to hike the Tatare tunnels instead.
After settling into our accommodation back in Franz Josef township, we can head out after dark with flashlights for a short night walk to search for the native glowworm while listening to some of New Zealand’s nocturnal birdlife, such as the morepork owl.
Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Hiking: Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face Hiking: 4.8 kilometers (3 miles), 2-3 hours, elevation +/- 20 meters (65 feet)
Hiking: OR Alex Knob Hike: 8 kilometers (5 miles), 5-6 hours, elevation +/- 1,100 meters (3,609 feet)
Notes: Optional Heli-hike (additional cost applies): An outrageously scenic alternative to this afternoon’s hike is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you’ll board a modern turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 1300 metres (4265 feet) above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels – no previous experience is required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains and back to civilization.
The heli-hike is extremely popular and must be reserved at time of booking only. Please note also there is a weight limit of 115kg (250 pounds).