Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier is a striking natural landmark located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Named after the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I by the German explorer Julius von Haast, it’s a must-visit site for any traveler with interested in natural beauty, geology, or outdoor adventure.

Fast-Moving Glacier: Among the fastest-moving glaciers in the world, Franz Josef Glacier can move up to 5 meters a day, nearly ten times the speed of typical glaciers worldwide. This is due to the unique conditions at the glacier, where a large accumulation area feeds a narrow glacier tongue, leading to rapid ice flow.

Descends into Temperate Rainforest: Another remarkable feature is that it descends from the Southern Alps to less than 300 meters above sea level amidst the greenery of a temperate rainforest, one of the only places in the world where this happens.

Access and Tours: The glacier is a major tourist attraction, but it’s been retreating over recent years, and access by foot has become dangerous due to the risk of falling ice and rock. However, guided helicopter tours can give visitors a spectacular view of the glacier, and guided hikes are available that land on the more stable parts of the glacier using a helicopter.

Recreational Activities: The surrounding area offers a variety of recreational activities, such as walks to viewing areas, hot pools, kayaking, skydiving, local wildlife tours and read

Nearby Town: The nearby town of Franz Josef serves as the service hub for visitors to the glacier. The town has accommodation options, restaurants, shops, and tourist services.

Flora and Fauna: The area around the glacier is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. You might spot New Zealand’s native birds like the Kiwi or the Kea (a type of parrot) in the surrounding rainforest.

Maori Legend: In Māori legend, Franz Josef Glacier is known as Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (‘The tears of Hine Hukatere’). Hine Hukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe was not as proficient and slipped from the peaks to his death. Hine Hukatere was devastated and her tears flowed down the mountain, freezing to form the glacier.

Remember that if you’re planning to visit Franz Josef Glacier, it’s essential to respect the natural environment and follow all safety advice, as glaciers can be dangerous places with crevasses, falling rocks, and rapidly changing weather conditions.