Before you arrive in at Franz Joseph we want to prepare you for what lies ahead: some of the most amazing scenery that New Zealand has to offer. You will continue on Highway 73, which will lead you directly to the west coast highway (Highway 6). Once you pass through the Kumara Junction, you will take a left on to Highway 6 and drive parallel to the Tasman Sea. After about 20 minutes , you will end up in the small beach town of Hokatika.
Hokitika Pull Off Activities
From Hokitika, continue the drive down Highway 6. Once you pass Okarito you’ll be around 20 minutes away from the town center of Franz Josef. If you happen to arrive around sunset, it may be worth your time to pull in there and hike to Three Mile Lagoon. Apparently from there you can get an amazing view of the sunset hitting the Franz Joseph Glacier.
Once you're settled at your accommodations in Franz Joseph, look into these activities:
Franz Joseph Activities
While the town is small, there is a ton to do; whether it be visiting Tatare Tunnels or taking one of the scenic hikes up to the Franz Joseph Glacier. Given that you have 2 days planned for this stop, we have made some suggestions as to which hikes to do and places to see. The map below is of Franz Joseph and we highlight the key areas and hikes you should check out.
In the top right corner of the map you will seek hikes A-E. Here's the break down of each hike, as explained to us by locals:
A - Franz Joseph Glacier Walk: Described as the shortest walk, you can take this hour and a half trek to its end point where you see the front face of the glacier from a distance. Difficulty level is low.
C - Roberts Point Track: Described as the most beautiful walk, this one is highly recommended for those who have more time to spend at the glacier (4 hour return). The trek finished with a picnic table and a close up view of the glacier. Moderate difficulty level.
E - Alex Knob Trek: Described as the longest, you trek for 8 hours through tree covered mountain side without seeing the glacier until the very end where you have the best view and closest experience then the other treks. Highly recommended for going at sunrise and has a low level of difficulty.
Roberts Point Track
F - Terrace Walk to see Glow Worms:
Helicopter Flight (On Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier): While this itinerary is geared more towards budget backpackers, we were told that the heli-hikes on Franz Joseph are a one of a kind experience. Make sure to read the fine print though: you may not get your full money's worth. Reason being is the weather along the mountain range is susceptible to quick change as it's situated along the coast. If you fly to the glacier and are on the it for a minimum time (around an hour), then the tour will end and you will have "paid" for your full time. Always keep an eye on the weather to see if this would be a good addition to your trip.
If you have the money and time, visit TripAdvisor for more details on costs and people's experiences.
Franz Joseph Accommodations
Franz Joseph has plenty of motel and hostel options in town that make going out to restaurants and activities easy. For hostel accommodations, we recommend checking out Chateau Backpackers and YHA Franz Joseph. If you want to check out more options, look at the map below. For prices and availability, check out Booking.com. Furthermore, if you're interested in an AirBnb, look what's available here.
Food Options in Franz Joseph
Located in Franz Joseph are restaurants, cafe's, and a grocery store to stock up on supplies. If you're looking for a cheap bite to eat, we recommend checking out Alice Cafe. Snake Bite is a popular brewery that is located in the heart of Franz Joseph that has good drinks as well as food to fill up on after a long day of hiking. For a good breakfast option that wont break the bank, The Landing Restaurant in town is a great option. For more food options, check out the map below or Tripadvisor.