The next day we took the bus a short 30 minute journey further North up the coast, to Franz Josef Glacier. Franz glacier is known as the bigger and more spectacular of the two, so after Fox Glacier I was doubly excited to visit.
We used Franz Glaciers YHA Hostel for our stay – and they were really accommodating. We arrived on a wet and grizzly day, but our room wasn’t ready. They allowed us to hang out in the lounge area anyway and keep warm and dry!
WiFi in New Zealand is terrible. It’s renowned for it, and while I was hoping it was only a rumor, no. The WiFi around most of the south Island is abysmal, so I occupied myself with a puzzle.
The hostel was one of the busier ones we visited, so we had to fight for space in the kitchen in the evenings. (not literally of course!) Franz glacier is a quite a busy destination, so accordingly the hostels and accommodations get booked up pretty sharpish – bare that in mind if you intend on staying.
Terrace Walk/Glow Worms
I heard in passing that you could see glowworms in the rainforest at night around Franz, so when darkness fell, we headed out to see if we could spot some. We walked just out of of the Franz Josef village, to Terrace Walk – a short track that goes through the rainforest.
Completely under-prepared we were armed with only a smartphone for light, and let me tell you, those tracks are PITCH black. But we walked a short distance away from the road, turned out my phone light…and waited.
Nothing. Just complete darkness like I’ve never experienced before or since. The most penetrating blackness you can imagine. I started to think someone had been pulling my leg, but after several minutes of letting my eyes acclimatize, I saw a faint glimmer out of the corner of my eye! And then another, and then another. I squealed and made Ian jump. And then slowly more and more started appearing in front of my eyes. I pulled Ian to where I was and tried to point him in the right direction (easier said then done in the dark!) And eventually he saw them too. Hundreds of little glow worms doing there thing! Such a cool experience, I definitely recommend seeking them out.
The following day was time to see the big glacier! We walked out of the village and followed the road, crossing the Waiho river in the process. From there you reach the beginning of the Franz Glacier access road. I get the impression not many people walk it, and most people drive. As several road workers we passed gave us pretty odd looks. But it is really walk-able if you don’t have a car.
We then followed the road/track towards the car park. Surrounded by the rising mountains as you enter the valley. And waterfalls all over the place, and rolling clouds and mist hanging in the air. I must say it was a pretty atmospheric walk. From here things started getting really beautiful. Once you meet the actual car park, we were met with all the other visitors to the glacier, and even then in the shoulder season it was fairly full, so again, I’d recommend going earlier on the day if you can. Once past the car park, you’re almost immediately you are greeted with some gorgeous waterfalls on your right hand side (so Instagrammable!)
Past the car park, you have to walk across some slightly rougher terrain, and good shoes are recommended. Once you’ve crossed a few streams and crossed the valley, you find yourself climbing a steep rise, to get to the viewing platform. The glacial area is known to be hazardous, so here there are several warning signs regarding ice and rock falls. This steep section of the walk has a ‘no-stopping’ policy. Once you’re on it, you’re not supposed to stop, but keep moving till you reach the top. Or presumable go back the other way if its too challenging for you.
Once you do reach the top though, those views! Franz glacier is much more impressive than it’s smaller brother Fox Glacier. It’s considerably taller, wider, and a bit whiter looking than Fox. I must say the scale of the thing only came to my attention, when a helicopter flew over us and towards the glacier.
As I watched it get smaller and smaller in the distance did I realise how truly enormous the glacier in front of me was. Photos do not do it justice.
I loved my time here. Though I was shocked to see so many warning signs. Apparently lots of people ignore these, and try and get closer to the glacier. Accidents do happen. People die there. If you intend on visiting, follow the instructions. They’re there to keep you safe!
Again, as at Fox Glacier, here at Franz they also highlighted climate, and the retreat of the worlds glaciers. These are such important monuments, we really ought to take care of them. Visiting these definitely spurred me to be more aware of my effect on the environment and climate.
Franz Glacier Live weather Cam
Following our journey to Franz Josef we wandered back to the YHA and a well deserved night in. The following morning we had a relaxed start, coffee in a local cafe, and then took our Intercity bus to the next destination. The quaint Hokitika.
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