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West Coast Glaciers

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Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier flows down the Southern Alps of New Zealand

Franz Josef Glacier flows down the Southern Alps of New Zealand

Photo: Gareth Eyres, courtesy Tourism New Zealand

The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most visited glaciers on the West Coast of New Zealand.

Coming from Greymouth and heading south on State Highway 6, it is the Franz Josef Glacier, the smaller of the two popular Westland glaciers, that you reach first.

Although its population is just over 7000, Greymouth is the largest New Zealand town on the West Coast. It lies northwest of Christchurch with the Tasman Sea to the west.

It's about 180 kilometres from Greymouth to the Franz Josef Glacier, first explored by Austrian Julius Haast in 1865, in Westland National Park. Haast named the glacier after the Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph I.

The state highway passes through the Franz Josef village where it carries the name Main Road.

The park visitors centre is at the southern edge of the Franz Josef village. Here you'll find information on snow walks, heli-flights, skydiving and other activities on and around the glacier.

Walk the walk

For the hiking enthusiast, there are a number of walks through rainforests and on snow at Franz Josef. These are mostly guided walks and can be organised at the village.

Aerial sightseeing trips take off from the helipad and airstrip just west of the village. You can organise to be landed on the glacier itself for a walk on the snow.

If you're staying overnight, bookings should be made in advance to be sure you have someplace to sleep.

There are restaurants and cafes in the village. If you plan to prepare your own food, there's at least one grocery — expect to pay more for your usual grocery items.

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