One of the most popular destination on the West Coast of the South Island is Franz Josef Glacier. This stunning glacier is 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) long. It’s situated within the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, about five kilometres from the town of the same name.
The glacier’s European name comes from geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor when he explored it in 1865. The Māori name for the glacier is ‘Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere’, meaning ‘The tears of Hine Hukatere’. Hine Hukatere loved mountain climbing in the Southern Alps. Her lover Wawe was less experienced at climbing but would always follow at her request. One day an avalanche swept him down the mountains to his death. Hine Hukatere’s broken-hearted tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier.
Things to do in Franz Josef
First and foremost, you’re here to see the glacier! From the glacier carpark, you can hike to a choice of lookout points for a bigger view of this impressive river of rice. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a guided ice walk or a helihike. You’ll see frozen waterfalls, blue ice, ice tunnels and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Aerial sightseeing is another option.
In the town of Franz Josef you’ll find plenty of places to stay and eat. There is also the West Coast Wildlife Centre where you can learn about New Zealand species like the kiwi, and the Glacier Hot Pools to relax and unwind. At nearby Lake Mapourika there are kayaks for hire.