Located in the heart of glacier country on South Island’s west coast region, Franz Josef is easily one of the most picturesque small towns in the country. It’s a great rest stop for those road tripping around the island, and the best part is that you don’t have to limit your visit to a single season.
Whether it’s summer or winter, Franz Josef has something up its sleeve. In summer, you can hike the nature trails and get lost in the beauty of the great outdoors. In the winter, you can jump into a helicopter for an unforgettable ice-hiking experience and dip into the glacier hot pools.
The truth is, Franz Josef has tons of different activities to offer visitors, so it isn’t surprising that so many people flock here during the busy season. Given its popularity, it is starting to become a hot spot for accommodations. You have plenty of different choices when it comes to deciding where to stay in Franz Josef, from luxury hotels to Airbnb-style homes to budget hostels!
If you’re having trouble deciding where to stay in Franz Josef, you’ve come to the right place! I’ll walk you through two of the best areas to stay in and around town plus ten hotels I highly recommend.
Ready to jump in?
The Best Areas to Stay in Franz Josef
A small town on the west coast, Franz Josef only has two main areas to stay in for visitors. It’s either right in the town or on the outskirts of town.
When deciding where to stay in Franz Josef, make sure you know exactly what to make out of your vacation as these two areas are not exactly accessible from one another (no public transportation available).
If you want to stay close to the town amenities and the hot pools, booking a hotel in the town center is your best option. Franz Josef town is small, so if you book a hotel in the town itself you will be within walking distance of all the town has to offer including restaurants and stores.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more of a quiet nature escape, it’s a great idea to stay outside of town. There are lots of really gorgeous properties located on the outskirts of town, but still only a short drive away. This might be the best option for you if you want a relaxing holiday.
Still undecided? I’ll tell you more about each area and my recommended hotels (for every budget!) below, so keep reading.
Staying in Franz Josef Town
Franz Josef town is the most popular area to stay in, primarily thanks to its host of restaurants and hot pool attractions. Visitors can find plenty of dining options within walking distance, along with some small grocery stores, and the Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor center.
Many hotels dot the town, too, from budget options for backpackers to mid-range hotels for a fancier stay. Apart from being a convenient base for exploring the area, I like how Franz Josef has remained pretty quiet and safe despite the rise of tourism.
Pros to staying in Franz Josef Town:
- Walking distance to shops and restaurants
- Close to attractions
- Has a wide range of hotels to choose from
Cons to staying in Franz Josef Town:
- Not many super luxurious places to choose from
- Not as quiet or surrounded by nature
5 BEST Hotels in Franz Josef Town
$$$ – Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Nestled right in the middle of the village and close to the Westland World Heritage Park, Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier is exactly where you want to be for a luxurious stay in Franz Josef. It’s really your only opinion when it comes to luxury hotels actually located within Franz Josef town.
Apart from offering you standard amenities like free Wi-Fi and a cozy ground-floor lounge, the hotel is one of the few accommodations in town that features an on-site restaurant. Its open-plan Canavans Restaurant and Moa Bar serve only the best West Coast cuisine and local fare, so you’ll surely keep coming back for more. If you’re not up for a fancy meal, you can always head out to the other nearby dining options.
Make sure to include a visit to the hotel’s Amaia Luxury Spa, too. Although it isn’t on-site like the restaurant, it’s actually just next door. You can choose from a superior range of treatments, one of which is my favorite, the Nume Coconut Body Treatment which exfoliates and hydrates the skin using coconut oil and natural cane sugar.
Back on the property, your elegantly designed room awaits. En-suite amenities include free Wi-Fi, a TV, a mini-fridge, and coffee and tea facilities. For an elevated experience, book the Superior Suites which comes with a lounge and is 49sqm in size!
Staying at Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier starts at about $206 NZD to $379 NZD a night. You can check availability and book online here!
$$ – The Terrace
Centrally located in the heart of Franz Josef, The Terrace offers easy access to some of the town’s best restaurants. This locally owned property is right next to the top-rated Alice May, where you can chow on some fish and chips and feta salad. If you’re not in the mood for that, you can easily walk to other dining options too.
My favorite part of staying at The Terrace is that on top of the basic amenities and services they offer like free Wi-Fi, guest laundry, and BBQ, they will happily arrange your activities for free! Whether you’re up for a scenic helicopter flight or a walk through the glacier, The Terrace staff can help you book these tours without any surcharge.
The best part? You can get discounts on helicopter flights and the restaurants nearby, too!
When it comes to the rooms, you can choose from as small as a studio to as big as a two-bedroom apartment. All of the units come with tea/coffee facilities, electric heaters, and flat-screen TVs. But for a touch of luxury, I recommend booking the one-bedroom spa bath apartment.
Not only will you enjoy a two-person spa bath and a well-appointed kitchenette inside but you will also be treated to a gorgeous view of the Croz Glacier and the Green Valley. All you need is a glass of wine and you’re set for a romantic lunch date in your room.
The rates at The Terrace start at $134 NZD to $200 NZD with continental breakfast available by arrangement. You should book The Terrace online in advance to secure your stay.
$$ – Bella Vista Motel Franz Josef Glacier
Giving you a nice view of the mountains while keeping you close to the town amenities, Bella Vista Motel Franz Josef Glacier is among my top picks in town. It’s a short walk away from the Glacier Hot Pools and the West Coast Wildlife Center, and there are also plenty of dining options nearby.
You can choose from 18 fully serviced units on the property, all of which are equipped with a fridge, microwave, complimentary tea/coffee/hot choco, kettle, LCD TV, and electric heater.
If you feel like treating yourself, make sure to book the upstairs studio with a king-size bed! Boasting an unobstructed view of the Croz Glacier in the Fritz range, this room is the perfect base for a budget-friendly honeymoon. You even have a kitchenette inside for the days when you don’t like to eat out.
Along with the low-cost accommodation, the property comes complete with standard amenities like free Wi-Fi, guest BBQ, DVD library, and laundry facilities. You can also enjoy continental breakfasts and dinner upon request.
The rooms here vary from studios and one-bedroom units, with rates starting at $144 NZD to $294 NZD per night. You can check all available rooms and corresponding rates online here.
$ – Chateau Backpackers & Motels
Want to stay somewhere peaceful and private but traveling on a budget? In that case, Chateau Backpackers & Motels is easily one of the best hotels in Franz Josef for your vacation. This budget-friendly property is only five minutes on foot from the glacier car park and within walking distance of plenty of restaurants and town amenities.
What made Chateau Backpackers & Motels stand out from the other Franz Josef hotels is its high-end dorm rooms that give you the privacy you want. Sure, you may be sharing a unit with four to six people, but you each have your own “pods.” The pods are basically beds enclosed on three sides and have a curtain on the front. You even have your own double power socket with USB charging ports and individual reading lights inside your pod.
If you prefer somewhere private, you can always just book the motel rooms that come with luxurious queen-sized beds and a kitchenette.
Outside your room are several other convenient amenities you’re free to use. There’s a spa pool, where you can dip and relax after a long day of adventure; a fitness room, where you can still stay active while on vacation; and a pool table, where you can play with other guests. You can also find laundry facilities and parking spots on the property.
For the rates, a bed in the dorm starts at $27 NZD, while the private room starts at $45 NZD per night. Both are already inclusive of free breakfast (pancakes, waffles, cereal, toast, homemade yogurt) and homemade soup in the evenings.
$ – Glow Worm Accommodation
Glow Worm Accommodation might not be the most luxurious Franz Josef accommodation, but it sure is one of the coziest and most affordable you can find within the town. In fact, the 6-bed dorm here costs as little as $28 NZD per night, while the Family Room is just around $123 NZD per night.
But beyond the budget-friendly price range, I like that Glow Worm puts you within walking distance of some of the best dining options. You can easily walk to SnakeBite Brewery to get a pint of craft beer and some Southeast Asian cuisine or to The Landing for a classic rib-eye steak.
Back on the property, you can spend your lazy afternoons in the TV room, by the cozy log fire in the communal area, or in the steamy spa pool. If you prefer heading to the outdoors, Glow Worm can book some activities for you.
When it comes to the rooms, you can either stay in the dormitory rooms or in the private rooms. Each one comes complete with cozy linens and unlimited Wi-Fi, plus you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, homemade veggie soup, and popcorn!
Related Read: Coming from Queenstown? Check out the best stops on the drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef!
Staying just outside of Franz Josef
While other people prefer staying close to the town amenities, some like being away from the hustle and bustle. If you’re the second type, the Franz Josef hotels outside of the town are just what you’re looking for.
There are plenty of properties you can find within a ten-minute drive of Franz Josef. Compared to those in the town, they’re easily more luxurious. You can still find some small boutique places, though. If you’re with a big group, you can also choose from large holiday homes.
From this area, the town amenities are still close enough to get to if you ever want a fancy meal for dinner, but they aren’t really within walking distance. That said, staying here means you have to get your own car, especially since no taxis or public transportation are available.
Pros of staying just outside of Franz Josef:
- Peaceful surroundings
- Beautiful hotels
- Luxury nature retreats
- Gorgeous mountain views
Cons of staying just outside of Franz Josef:
- A bit of a drive from town
- No restaurants within walking distance
- Need a car since there are no taxis or public transportation
- Most places are expensive
5 BEST Hotels just outside of Franz Josef
$$$ – Alpine Escape
Sitting just north of the town, Alpine Escape is the Franz Josef accommodation for you if you want to add a sprinkle of luxury to your vacation. This cozy property is located in a quiet area at the foot of the rolling hills, offering every guest a 360-degree view of the Fritz Glacier and Franz Josef Valley.
Each of the units here is carefully furnished so you can enjoy your stay to the fullest. There is a heat pump, free Wi-Fi, and air conditioning in the rooms. You also have a kitchen and lounge en-suite, complete with all the standard appliances like satellite TV, microwave, fridge, and toaster.
I particularly like how the living area is separate from the bedroom to give you a peaceful retreat at the end of a long day of exploring. And here’s the best part: the bedrooms open to the sunny deck, where you can look out into the grassy landscape in the morning and the starry sky at night!
A night’s stay here costs as little as $171 NZD. You can check availability and book Alpine Escape online here.
$$$ – Te Awa Cottages
Tucked away off State Highway 6 near the Tatare River, Te Awa Cottages is one of the best hotels in Franz Josef for experiencing the countryside. It isn’t only because the location offers a panoramic vista of the snow-covered mountains, but it’s also because, unlike other Franz Josef hotels, the property features adorable farm animals!
Right on the property, you can see a handful of lambs, sheep, cows, and even a dog and two cats. They surely add to the countryside atmosphere of the place.
But while you’ll be feeling the countryside vibe here, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get all the modern amenities you can expect in a home. Both of the cottages on the property are fully furnished with all the facilities you’d need for a comfy stay. You have Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a heat pump, and a spacious parking lot for your car. You can also enjoy a TV for entertainment, a well-equipped kitchen for meal prep, and a lovely terrace for enjoying the scenery.
Booking only a single cottage (either the Rua or Tahi) costs around $195 NZD a night for two people. For groups of 4, you can book a cottage for $320 NZD a night. You should book online in advance to avoid missing out – Te Awa Cottages always book up quickly!
$$$ – Travels Rest
So, you want to get away with your family but don’t know where to stay in Franz Josef with a big group. Travels Rest is the place for you!
About a six-minute drive from the town, this spacious air-conditioned four-bedroom holiday home can sleep up to nine guests and is the perfect spot for experiencing the impossibly green mountain views. Inside, you’ll have everything you can expect to find in a well-appointed house. There’s an open plan kitchen and dining area, complete with kitchenware, an oven, and a fridge.
You also have a separate lounge with a flat-screen TV for the days when you don’t feel the going out. Both the dining area and the lounge open to the private garden, so you can enjoy the views while lazying around. Feel free to head out to the sunny patio, too, for a better view of the gorgeous landscape.
The house is equipped with free ADSL internet access, and you also have phone coverage, although the Spark network is pretty limited.
This four-bedroom house starts at $380 NZD for four people, but the home does sleep up to 9 people for an additional fee. You should book this holiday home ASAP since it is one of the only larger homes available in Franz Josef.
$$ – JAG Escape Franz Alpine Retreat
Meant to keep you away from the busy town life, Franz Alpine Retreat is one of the best hotels in Franz Josef for those wanting some peace and quiet. It’s roughly a five-minute drive to the town, but you’ll be far enough to enjoy the stillness of the countryside. I actually love how the property is enclosed in towering mountains, and the night sky here is absolutely gorgeous.
The property caters to any group size, so whether you’re traveling alone or with friends and family, there is sure to be something here for you. Each one of the chalets is thoughtfully appointed with modern amenities like free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, heating, electric blankets, and a basic kitchenette with a fridge and microwave to make you feel at home.
As the cherry on top, the chalets have a furnished patio, too, where you can enjoy taking in the views of the mountains and the green landscape.
A night’s stay here costs from $105 NZD to $150 NZD. You can check availability and book Franz Alpine Retreat online here.
$ – Franz Josef TOP 10 Holiday Park
Looking for a Franz Josef accommodation that will let you experience nature up close? Then I suggest booking a spot at Franz Josef TOP 10 Holiday Park.
A holiday park just below the towering mountains and in the midst of lush vegetation, this property is the perfect base to enjoy the town’s beautiful landscapes. I particularly loved how visible the snow-capped mountains are from every angle, making them the idyllic backdrop for photos.
However, the scenery isn’t the only thing the property can boast about. They have everything you would need for a pleasant stay. Bringing the kids? There’s a kids’ playground outside and a fun games room and TV room in the main building.
You also have access to the communal kitchen and dining facilities plus BBQ grills, so you won’t have to worry about driving to town to dine. The cooking pans and pots are for hire, though, so make sure to include the fees in your budget.
Another great thing about TOP 10 Holiday Park is its large selection of accommodation types. You’ll surely find something here that fits your style and budget.
If you’re a fan of the outdoors and bringing a campervan with you, there are plenty of spaces for you here. You’ll find both powered and non-powered sites that are either on concrete or on the grass. You’ll need to book in advance, though, since summer is a busy season. The property has several options for non-campers, too, from motel rooms to fancy cabins.
The rooms start at $98 NZD per night, while you can book the camping sites for as low as $49 NZD. Book the accommodation online in advance here.
Related Read: The hike to Franz Josef Glacier is one of the top hikes on the South Island!
Things to do While in Franz Josef
Even though Franz Josef is a tiny town with a population of only around 1,074 people there is a lot of scenic things to do while in Franz Josef. Below are some of my top suggestions!
- Guided Heli-Hike – From Franz Josef, you will soar over the Southern Alps and land on the glacier where you will begin your 2-hour guided hike through spectacular ice formations and incredible scenery. Each trip is tailored to your abilities as well as the conditions of the ice that day. These tours start at around $500 NZD and although not cheap, include a scenic flight as well as a glacier trek.
- Quad Biking – In this 2-hour tour, you will follow your experienced guide across bright blue rivers, through stunning rainforests, and even speed over ancient glacial riverbeds. If conditions are muddy the more fun you will have!
- Skydiving – If you’ve always wanted to try skydiving or want to do it again but in the most scenic locations in the world. You can do it from Franz Josef and pick between 3 different heights, the higher you jump from the longer the freefall!
- Glowworms Caves – These natural caves are one of the best free things to do in Franz Josef! You can get to them from the Terrace Walk.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
And there you have it – everything you need to know about choosing where to stay in Franz Josef! All of the above hotels, hostels, and holiday homes come highly rated. And I’m sure that by choosing any one of them that you’ll have an excellent stay.
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