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 temperate rainforest to just 250 metres (820 feet) above sea level. We’ll spend most of the day near Franz Josef Glacier hiking up through the forest to either Alex Knob or Roberts Point, both of which give incredible views of the ice. This hike can be inaccessible in wet weather, so we may opt for an alternative hike in sheltered terrain.
Optional Heli-hike (extra fee applies)
An outrageously scenic alternative to today’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 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 to 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 civilisation.
The heli-hike is extremely popular, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, we can reserve a space for you, or you can leave your decision until the start of your trip and your guides will get you a spot if it’s available.
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 (All meals)
Alex Knob Hiking Distance: 8 kilometres (5 miles), 5-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,100 metres (3,609 feet)
Elevation Loss: 1,100 metres (3,609 feet)
Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face Hiking Distance: 4.8 kilometres (3 miles), 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 20 metres (65 feet)
Elevation Loss: 20 metres (65 feet)
Heli-Hike on Franz Josef Glacier: 3-hour excursion