Top 12 Things To See & Do In Franz Josef On A Budget
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17th Jul | 5 min read

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    Franz Josef is a lively town located on the South Island of New Zealand, near the Waiho River. It is the name of both the glacier and the nearby village. Franz Josef Glacier, also known as Westland Tai Poutini National Park, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. Feed your adventurous spirit through guided walks, kayaking, and action adventures like rafting, skydiving, and heli-hiking, or just lose yourself in the midst of nature as you hear the sounds of the native birds and explore the snowcapped mountains. 

    There is so much to see and do in Franz Josef, that we’ve made planning for your trip a lot easier with this guide. Below you will find some of the best places to visit and things to do in Franz Josef, and how much they cost.

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    Alex Knob

    Cost:  FREE

    The Alex Knob Track is a 4-hour climb starting from the Wombat Lake Trail to the top of Alex Knob. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Franz Josef Glacier, the Waiho River, the mountains, and the Tasman Sea. Along the way, you will get to see various forest birds, such as tui, bellbird, kereru, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some kaka, parakeet, kea, and pipit. This track is for experienced and well-equipped trampers only.

    Tatare Tunnels Walk

    Cost: FREE

    For a magical experience of seeing glow worms scattered around like fairy dust, head to the Tatare Tunnels. The 80-minute walk follows an old 4WD road and then leads to the old water tunnels. You will need a flashlight and raincoat to explore the tunnels

    Franz Josef Valley Glacier Walk (Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face)

    Cost: FREE

    The Glacier Valley Walk is a 90-minute hike (round trip), which will give you a chance to see a few waterfalls coming from the mountains of Fritz Range and take you right up to the face of the glacier. To ensure that you don’t miss out on these waterfalls, it is recommended that you do the 1.5 hours of walking to the base of Franz Josef Glacier and back. You can walk along the bank of the Waiho and enjoy views of Franz Josef Glacier and the surrounding picturesque mountains. The walk is pretty easy and is totally worth it. However, if you want to do a shorter walk, then you can go for the Sentinel Rock trail which takes about 20 minutes and will reward you with a view of the glacier. 

    Callery Gorge

    Cost: FREE

    Callery Gorge walk is the second most popular hike in Franz Josef. This 90-minute return hike passes through the rainforest, waterfalls, and ancient trees. There are beautiful birds here that have made their homes near the track and you might spot some flying around. The track also passes through an old mining water race, which is one of the last visual reminders of the gold mining era. At the end of the walk, you will reach the Callery Gorge Bridge, which is set above the water. After this, you can stay back and stroll along the banks of the Waiho River depending on the water level at the time, or go back to where you started from. 

    Roberts Point Track

    Cost: FREE

    Roberts Point Track is a 12.3-kilometer return hike and can be quite challenging. Beautiful views of waterfalls, lush green trees and rainforest, and breathtaking views of Waiho River and the Fritz Range will accompany you along the hike. As you near the peak, you will get an amazing view of Franz Josef Glacier, making this hike worth it. 

    Peters Pool

    Cost: FREE

    Peters Pool Walk is an easy, accessible walk that leads to a small kettle lake after passing through a rainforest. The reward after finishing this walk are beautiful sights of the glacier valley and mountains on the highly reflective water of the lake. This lake was formed 200 years ago when the ice melted amongst the glacial moraine.

    Canavans Knob

    Cost: FREE

    Canavans Knob Walk is a 3.9-kilometer moderate climb that winds through the rainforest and offers wonderful views of the surrounding green lowlands, right out to the sights of the sea and coastal town of Okarito. It is mainly known for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching. It is located on the banks of the Waiho River. Once you reach the top of Canavan’s Knob (40 minutes return), you will be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Franz Josef Glacier, mountains, and river flats.

    Glacier Heli-hike

    Cost: Adults from $485

    The Franz Josef Glacier Heli-hike offers beautiful scenery and a two-hour hike through the most spectacular glacier features. Since the bottom of the glacier has been pretty unstable in the past 15 years, helicopters are the only safe way onto the glacier. You will be accompanied by skilled and helpful guides on your ride.  

    Okarito Lagoon


    Freedom Kayak Rentals- From $60 per person

    Guided Kayak Trips- From $110 per person

    If sheltered water kayaking is something that entices you, then head down to Okarito Lagoon, which is surrounded by lush rainforest and picturesque snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps. It is home to more than 70 bird species and anywhere you look as you float in the water, the views will mesmerize you. 

    Lake Mapourika

    Cost: 2-Hour Scenic Cruise in Lake Mapourika from $85.20

    Lake Mapourika is a kettle lake and was born when a large block of ice melted some fourteen thousand years ago. The lake is great for fishing and is home to different native birds and fish, mostly Salmon and Brown trout. Not just that, you can also go on a kayak tour to get the full Franz Josef sightseeing experience.

    Skydive Franz Josef Glacier

    Cost: Adults $319.00 - $559.00

    Featured on Red Bull's Most Insane Skydives, Skydive Franz is New Zealand’s highest skydive at 20,000ft. Skydive amongst mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and ocean views, as your adrenaline reaches sky-high levels.

    Glacier Hot Pools 

    Cost: Adult single entry for the main pools is $29.00 and $99.00 for a private pool for two people.

    To unwind after a day of walking and traveling, head to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, which have three Main Pools that make their way through the rainforest and offer an amazing place to relax and revive in the midst of nature. You can also get a massage here. 

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