About Franz Josef / Waiau
With its hiking trails, cave tunnels and an icy frontier, Franz Josef is a haven for adventure lovers. You'll find this small town gem on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island at the gateway to the region's glaciers. Discover ancient lakes on a kayaking trip or delve deeper with a tunnel tour into the depths of the earth. There are wildlife centres to visit for a glimpse of New Zealand's adorable kiwi birds and with the Waiho River close by, there's always a peaceful spot for a stroll.
Get the real mountain experience at a Franz Josef hostel in a chateau with a crackling log fire to warm up by. Unwind after a day of exploring the Franz Josef Glacier at a hostel with a spa pool or save some money at a place that includes a free dinner with your stay. Keep in touch with home at accommodation with free Wi-Fi and make new friends at Franz Josef hostels with cosy common rooms.
Thanks to the town's small size, you're never far away from adventure no matter where you base yourself in Franz Josef. All roads lead to nature walks or adrenaline-pumping experiences. For something a little quieter, Okarito is another small town half an hour away that's home to a serene lagoon surrounded by rainforest and birds. To visit the beach, drive for about an hour to Bruce Bay, which has a windswept rocky shoreline to explore.
The main draw of the town is the Franz Josef Valley. Take on a glacier walk past tumbling waterfalls and Callery Gorge, where you can stand on a wooden bridge and watch impossibly blue waters rush past. In Peter's Pool, gaze at the peaks of three mountains reflected on the glassy surface. You can kayak on Lake Mapourika and spot birds along the banks or take in the magic of glow worms lighting up the Tartare Tunnels. To relax, dip into a hot pool deep in the forest or dive into glacial waters for a brisk pick-me-up.
Hokitika Airport is the closest destination for getting into Franz Josef. It's around a 2-hour journey to the town when you take the bus or hire a car. It's handy to have your own wheels for getting to the glacier, though you'll have to do most of the work on foot once you're there. For getting around town, lace on your walking shoes – it's the best way to see all of Franz Josef's natural beauty.