Our pick of the best walks & hiking tracks in Franz Josef
There are so many great walks in Franz Josef, it’s hard to decide which are the best. We really liked the Franz Josef Glacier walk and Callery Gorge walk for easy fitness and great views. See the full list of walks a bit further down this page. I haven’t managed to hike up Roberts Point yet, but Garry has and the hard slog to get to the summit was well worth it especially on a sunny day for excellent views of Franz Josef Glacier.
Better do the Glacier walk now!
Unfortunately, the view of the glacier face is getting further and further away with the glacier receding at such a fast rate, it’s a shame. Best you go there quick before you can’t see it at all unless you take a heli hike or a scenic plane flight.
As we’re members of the caravan association we normally camp on the section they have there, it’s very close to the hot pools and town, but it can get really busy.
What’s the weather like in Franz Josef this week?
Our list of the best walks in Franz Josef
We’ve personally walked and photographed all the walks in Franz Josef listed below. You’ll see detailed information on each walk including track times, distance, track quality, hazards, difficultly, map, river crossings, photos, track points plus dogs and bike access.
After your walk take a scenic flight while you’re still in Franz Josef, this one is the best:
You’ll have your own window seat plus the plane has wings above the windows for totally unobstructed viewing below. The Grand Traverse is approximately 50 minutes flying time from Franz Josef town returning to the same location.
The “Grand Traverse” is a spectacular scenic flight that explores the Mount Cook and Westland National Parks and shows you the region like no other flight. It’s recognised as the premier Aoraki Mount Cook flight-seeing experience and NZ’s “must do” scenic flight; this magnificent flight includes two World Heritage National Parks and 200 km of New Zealand’s most memorable and breathtaking scenery.
The highlights of the Grand Traverse flight include:
✽ Beautiful glacial lakes
✽ Braided river systems
✽ Glacial valleys
✽ Permanent ice and snow
✽ The Tasman Glacier
✽ The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
✽ Rainforests of the west coast
Book your flight instantly now:
You’ll only pay a 15% deposit now with the balance paid later. Your booking is secure. Freewalks NZ is an official booking agent for this scenic flight.
The most dramatic formations occur on a glacier when it moves downwards on a steep gradient. Fox Glacier has a gradual incline whereas Franz Josef is steeper. The surface of Franz Josef Glacier is full of crevasses and ice caves, where you have a much better chance of seeing the famous blue ice if you take a heli hike. Walks to the glacier face are around the same for each. Franz Josef Glacier is the fourth largest and Fox Glacier the third largest. But staying in Franz Josef and doing the walk from there is more convenient, there are lots more shops and places to stay plus the lovely hot pools are here too.
If you’re doing the free walk to the glacier face then comfortable walking shoes and a rain coat are a must. It can get really cold on this walk so be prepared, take a hat and gloves if you’re walking in autumn or winter.
No, is the quick answer on any DOC land, although you can get a permit to fly your drone (from DOC), including private and non-commercial use. Applying for the permit for the first time can be a little tricky, there is a free pre-application meeting then you need to contact the local iwi to assess whether your proposed activity will have any cultural effects. Oh, and it’ll cost you $74.75 for each DOC region you apply to use your drone. Use DOC Maps to help you find each region.
We love going to Franz Josef in spring just before summer really kicks in around Sept/Oct. By this time it’s warmed up a little but there is still plenty snow on the mountains. Franz Josef glacier weather can be really unpredictable, so be a bit flexible with your plans and always take a jacket on any walk.
Wanaka to Franz Josef drive is 285 kms and takes approximately three and a half hours but that doesn’t allow for any photo stops or just taking in the amazing scenery along the way. Plus if you’re going to do this drive then you’ll want to stop at the famous Blue Pools Walk, it’s a short easy walk located in the Haast Pass. Thunder Creek Falls Walk is also in the Haast Pass on the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef, another short easy walk.
Queenstown to Franz Josef drive is 350 km and will take you around 4 hours and 45 minutes. Again allow a lot more time to stop off in Haast Pass and do the walks mentioned above.
- Lake Matheson – walk around the mirror lake and relax at the cafe.
- South Westland Salmon – The place is getting a bit run down but interesting
- Knights Point Lookout – Stunning views of the coastline
- Blue Pools Walk – short easy walk located in the Haast Pass
- The Roaring Bills Falls – series of three waterfalls on the road side
- Thunder Creek Falls Walk – another short easy walk in the Haast Pass
Our Tips & Tricks on booking your trip to Franz Josef:
Here’s our tips for finding the best prices for your trip to Franz Josef.
Lowest Price Guarantee on Campervan Hire from Queenstown Airport – Compare Prices of 15 Motorhome Companies
Jucy Rentals are defiantly the cheapest with a really big range of camper-vans. If you’re looking for a van you can stand up in or with a bit more room then try Mighty. Britz and Maui are very popular and cater for small and really big campers.
Book your rental car from Queenstown Airport here
I’ve found the prices quite competitive for rental cars from DriveNow, they also have a really good selection to choose from. When booking there is a very handy “Live Chat” option if you get stuck.
Where’s the best place to stay in Franz Josef:
You can book a backpacker or hostel with Hostelworld, they have a huge range. If you want to stay at a hotel/motel or private home/holiday home, then use Booking.com. They consistently have the cheapest prices, plus you’ll find the same private houses that Airbnb have but you don’t pay the extra “Service Fee”. I use them all the time in New Zealand and overseas. Here’s my pick of the best accommodation choices in Franz Josef to save you looking through a whole pile!
Don’t forget your travel insurance:
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past especially for medical. I’ve been using World Nomads for years and it’s very good.
Share your walk with us
If you’ve been on one of these walks, please add a comment, we’d love to read about it and share with others. Or visit the our Facebook Group, ask questions, meet people, post photos and share your walking experiences! We’d love to hear from you.
Latest photos from Instagram…
Here’s what we’ve been up to recently on other walks, hikes, biking and anything else we’re doing around New Zealand!