Skip to Content

25 EXCITING Things to do in Franz Josef (My Favorite Attractions!)

25 EXCITING Things to do in Franz Josef (My Favorite Attractions!)

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Thinking of dropping by Franz Josef, home of gorgeous glaciers and incredible hikes? This small but undeniably stunning town has so much to offer!

I was actually really surprised when I first visited to find that Franz Josef is FULL of incredible activities, from the relaxing to the adventurous. Safe to say, it’s now one of my favorite places to explore in New Zealand, and I visit whenever I’m in the area.

To help you make the most of your time here, I’ve put together this list of 25 things to do in Franz Josef so you too can fall in love with this small town. Let’s dive in!

About Franz Josef Town

Scenic view of Franz Josef town, New Zealand
Scenic view of Franz Josef town, New Zealand

Franz Josef is located along New Zealand’s stunning West Coast in a place known as “glacier country.” On a road trip along the West Coast, Franz Josef is the most popular place to stop for a night or two to fuel up, get some rest, and explore before continuing on further north or south.

The town of Franz Josef sits on the western side of the Southern Alps and is surrounded by glaciers. The two most popular in the area are the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Both can be viewed for free via short walking tracks in the area.

In town, you’ll find a small grocery store, lots of restaurants and cafes as well as a fuel station and DOC visitor center. Franz Josef has everything visitors require on a road trip around NZ.

Franz Josef is a great place to visit all year round, however, summer is easily the most popular season. During the winter Franz Josef is very quiet, which adds a beautiful feel to the town. Not to mention the amazing hot springs! In summer, expect most accommodation options to be booked up, and be sure to plan ahead by booking your hotel well in advance!

I personally love Franz Josef. It’s a quiet town surrounded by the epic scenery you’ll only see on the west coast of the South Island. Not to mention, every time I visit I find more new and exciting things to do. Seriously, this list of things to do in Franz Josef will only continue to grow!

Related Read: Driving to Franz Josef from Queenstown? Check out my road trip guide from Queenstown to Franz Josef!

Franz Josef FAQs

Bailey enjoys a beer at Snakebite Brewery in Franz Josef
Here’s to Franz Josef!

Things to do in Franz Josef

1. Hike the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

Bailey at the Franz Josef valley viewpoint
The glacier viewpoint!
Bailey at the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint along the Franz Josef glacier valley walk
Come and enjoy the view!

The most popular hiking trail in Franz Josef and one of my favorite hikes is without a doubt the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. The 1.7-kilometer (1-mile) return track is considered easy to moderate and should take most people about 30 minutes to complete from the parking lot located about a 5-minute drive from Franz Josef town.

One thing to note is that this track has recently changed and been shortened. A few years ago you could walk closer to the glacier, and the trail took you through the valley, next to the river, and even past a waterfall! However, the river has since cut off the trail access, so now you can only hike to the viewpoint of the valley and glacier.

The trail starts in the forest and you’ll head slightly uphill until you reach a clearing and viewing platform. From here, you’ll see Franz Josef Glacier in the distance. There are also various information boards about the glacier and area, as well as info about how much the glacier is shrinking.

The scenery is truly stunning! But, exercise caution and stay behind the barrier at all times. Being too close to an actively moving glacier is dangerous as ice and rockfall from the terminal face without warning.

From the end of the trail, you can see the glacier clearly, however, it does sit somewhat in the distance. Unfortunately, Franz Josef Glacier is retreating so the viewpoint is no longer as close as it once was. With that said, this is the best free way to get close to Franz Josef Glacier.

If you’re keen on learning more about this ever-changing environment, you can take this guided nature tour. Your guide will lead you on the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk and go in-depth about the geology and glaciology that makes Franz Josef Glacier so unique. This tour includes transportation from your hotel and wet weather gear if needed, you can book it in advance for $90 NZD!

2. Take a helicopter flight over the Glacier

Views of the Southern Alps on a scenic flight
Flying high on my scenic flight above the Southern Alps. You can see Franz Josef Glacier under the snow in the distance!

If you’re traveling to New Zealand to tick off those epic bucket list experiences, then this next activity is a must. A scenic flight from Franz Josef will have you flying over the Southern Alps, Franz Josef Glacier, and Fox Glacier as well as landing high up in the mountains to get out and explore.

Scenic flights differ from heli-hikes (you’ll find this option below) because they are short and sweet, and a great option for those with limited time or without the physical capabilities to trek on a glacier. You will get to ride in a helicopter from Franz Josef Village and soar over the glaciers. The pilot will skillfully land on one of the mountain tops and you will have a few minutes to explore (depending on the tour length you choose).

The 20-minute flight tour is the most budget-friendly option, but, you can choose to upgrade your flight to this epic 30-minute tour for a truly bucket-list-worthy experience. I myself did a 30-minute tour and loved it. Any shorter and the experience would’ve been over so quickly. Although more expensive, the 30-minute option is the way to go in my opinion. Even though 30 minutes is relatively short, the world seems to slow down and I completely lost track of time, so the 30-minute ride was certainly worth the cost.

If you can, go around an hour before sunset for the best views. This is what I did and that golden hour light reflecting off the mountain peaks and snow was out of this world! This is one experience I’ll certainly never forget.

You can book the 30-minute scenic flight in advance here!

Did You Know – following a spectacular collapse of the glacier’s terminal face in 2012, it is now only accessible by helicopter.

3. Glacier walking tour

Franz Josef Glacier trekking tour
Walking on a glacier is an unworldly experience!

Walking on a glacier was like walking on another planet for me. The tour was unworldly and had me staring into deep crevasses and listening to the sounds of flowing water beneath my feet. Crazy to say the least.

In Franz Josef, the best way to access remote glacier terrain without any prior experience is on a guided heli-hike. This is a guided tour of the most stunning ice architecture of any glacier in New Zealand.

You will be helicoptered from Franz Josef over the Southern Alps and onto the glacier where you will begin your 2-hour guided hike through spectacular ice formations and seriously incredible scenery. On your hike, you are likely to come across towering walls of ice, blue ice tunnels, and ice caves. And because the glacier is constantly changing, no two hikes are ever the same. My guide was amazing and gave a great insight into the geology and glaciology of this thousands of years old glacier- it was truly fascinating!

Each trip is tailored to your abilities as well as the conditions of the ice that day. These tours start at around $700 NZD and although not cheap, they include a scenic flight and a glacier trek.

It’s important to note that these tours are extremely popular and often are fully booked weeks to months in advance. You can book your spot online here. If you make your booking a few days out, your booking will likely be rejected due to availability. Please book this in advance if you want to do it!

If you are planning to book last minute, check out this 30-minute scenic flight with a snow landing. It’s a great second option because so many people reach out upset that the glacier trekking is fully booked.

4. Glacier heli-ice climb

Franz Josef Glacier Guides Ice climbing
Photo credit: Franz Josef Glacier Guides

Feeling brave? Why not undertake an introductory course in the adrenaline-pumping sport of ice climbing whilst still enjoying the spectacular scenery of Franz Josef Glacier? This tour allows up to 6 hours on the ice. Your guide will provide you with all technical knowledge and climbing equipment so no prior experience is necessary. On the tour, you’ll be taught the skills needed to safely climb the glacier by an experienced guide.

Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a scenic helicopter flight to and from the glacier!

While ice climbing is a more challenging activity, you don’t need any prior experience to join this tour. You will need to be moderately fit, but I think having a willingness to learn and get outside of your comfort zone is most important!

This tour is $999 NZD per person for an 8-hour tour! While it’s a bit more than taking a heli-hike, you’ll also be out exploring for twice as long. So for the price, you’ll get much more ice time and the tour groups are much smaller!

5. Visit the Glacier Hot Pools

A lady relaxes in the Franz Josef Hot pools in Franz Josef
Relaxing in the most amazing hot pools!

Nestled in lush green rainforest, the Glacier Hot Pools is home to three main pools that are hidden among the gorgeous scenery. No need to worry about the rainy West Coast weather here – the pools range from 36 to 40 degrees Celsius and are covered by giant sails offering protection from the wind and rain.

Visiting the Glacier Hot Pools is easily the most relaxing thing to do in Franz Josef and after lots of long hikes and days exploring, what could be better to soothe your sore muscles!?

Entry to the public pools costs $29 NZD for adults, $25 NZD for children, and kids under 5 are free. You can also book a private pool for 45 minutes- the perfect experience to relax with a loved one. The pools are located in the center of Franz Josef town on Cron Street. From most hotels, you can easily walk there.

6. See a Kiwi at the West Coast Wildlife Center

Bailey reads a sign at the West Coast Wildlife Center in Franz Josef
Reading up on these little birds!
Kiwi enclosure at the West Coast Wildlife Center in New Zealand
The enclosure. You can’t photograph the kiwi!

The West Coast Wildlife Center is the largest kiwi-hatching facility on the South Island. Visiting is a great family-friendly activity in Franz Josef as you can spot young Rowi Kiwi in the natural bush walkthrough as well as the highly endangered Tuatara.

The kiwis raised here are taken to islands around New Zealand that are predator-free so they can grow before being returned to the area. This drastically increases the rate of survival from as little as 5% up to 80%! Projects like these are ensuring the survival of these endangered birds that are unique to New Zealand.

You have the choice between two different experiences here. The first is a general entrance ticket. This ticket costs $38 NZD and you can either book it online here or when you arrive. This is a self-guided experience where you will get the chance to read lots of info boards before entering the kiwi enclosure area. Here, you must look for kiwis in the dark.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need some patience to spot the kiwis here. They do try to keep the kiwis somewhat “wild”, and as such, there are plenty of places for them to hide in the enclosures. When I last visited, I had to wait for about 45 minutes in the dark, quietly waiting for the kiwis to come out of hiding so that I could actually see them.

The good thing is that once you purchase this entrance ticket, you are allowed to come back to the center at any point over the next 48 hours. This means if you don’t see a kiwi on your first visit, you can come back later and try again. Booking your tickets online ahead of time also lets you skip the line, so you can spend more time looking for kiwis! You can buy your general entrance ticket online here.

If you want a more in-depth experience, then you can book the backstage ticket instead (it’s an optional add-on). This backstage pass includes an exclusive look at the hatching and incubation program for kiwis, and more interactive time with the kiwi experts. It is a little more expensive at $69 NZD and should be booked in advance here, as these passes are limited.

Besides kiwis, you can also see Tuatara here. There is also plenty of information and it is kind of like a mini museum, as well. There’s also a gift store and an excellent café on-site.

Did You Know – Less than 600 Rowi Kiwi remain in the wild and hence they are classed as a vulnerable threatened species.

7. Quad biking tour

A quad bike rases through the jungle near Franz Josef
Now this looks fun! Photo credit: Across Country Quad Bikes

Want to get that adrenalin pumping? Why not jump on this quad biking tour and take in the incredible Franz Josef scenery in a unique way!? Each tour is 2 hours long and you can choose from a single person to up to three people on a quad bike or buggy. You will follow your experienced guide across bright blue rivers, through stunning rainforests, and even speed over ancient glacial riverbeds.

Interestingly, the wet West Coast weather makes quad biking all the more fun – as your guide will tell you the more mud the better for this experience! Not sure there could be a more beautiful place to go quad biking in NZ and this is one tour that’s high on my bucket list.

Tours start at $137 NZD for two people and go up depending on the size of your group. There are multiple departure times throughout the day, so you can easily combine this 2-hour activity with other things to do in Franz Josef. I recommend booking your tour in advance, as this popular activity fills up quickly!

8. Go skydiving

Skydiving in Franz Josef
Those views! Photo credit: Skydive Franz

This is definitely an activity for the bravest travelers. If you’re looking for a thrilling thing to do in Franz Josef, a skydive over the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers has to be one of the most scenic skydives in the world.

You can choose from a 16,500ft skydive with 65+ seconds freefall (the most popular option), 9,000ft, 13,500ft, or the huge 18,000ft! On your skydive you will also take in the sights of Westland and Mount Cook National Parks – this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for thrill-seekers.

I will warn you though, when you go skydiving you get a thing called sensory overload which makes it hard to remember the views and the skydive. The best way to help is to get yourself the video and photos after the jump. Trust me, I’ve been skydiving twice, and without the photos, it’s a bit of a blur!

All in all, this experience will take 2 – 3 hours. As for the skydive, depending on the dive you choose you will be freefalling for anywhere between 20 – 90 seconds! The higher you go the more your skydive will cost. You can all the skydive options in Franz Josef and book your perfect jump here!

Why I Book Tours on Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book all of my tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here

9. Eat at Alice May Restaurant and Bar

Bailey with her food at Alice May Restaurant and Bar
The food is so good!
Slow cooked beef cheek from Alice May Restaurant and Bar in Franz Josef

This cozy New Zealand eatery on Cron Street in Franz Josef is dedicated to Alice May Parkinson, an interesting figure in New Zealand history. Alice was a New Zealand murderer who became an icon for socialist and feminist campaigners in her era, due to her sentence being much harsher than male criminals who committed the same crime.

At Alice May Restaurant, there are stunning mountain views from the courtyard, so be sure to grab a seat outside (if the weather allows). You will find local produce and great New Zealand dishes the highlights of the menu. Personally, I loved the pork spare ribs!

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

10. Fox Glacier

Close up photo of the Fox Glacier
A close-up of the Fox Glacier. It looks so cool!

Just over a 25-minute drive from Franz Josef is the popular Fox Glacier – known to be one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. A whopping 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) in length, Fox Glacier is the West Coast’s longest glacier. It is also known as Franz Josef’s Twin Glacier!

The best way to experience Fox Glacier is to join a heli ice-trekking adventure! This ice-hiking option is said to be an easier option than the neighboring Franz Josef glacier since it’s not as steep. This tour includes two helicopter flights and three hours of guided ice trekking, led by an expert guide who teaches all about the glacier as you go!

This experience can be booked for $673 NZD per person, and while it’s a bit expensive, you won’t forget how epic this experience is.

However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, you can book a scenic helicopter flight to see the stunning glacier from above! On this 20-minute scenic flight, you will get gorgeous views of New Zealand’s glacier region below, with commentary from your pilot so you know exactly what you’re looking at. This tour is $337 NZD and can be booked in advance here.

You can also book a guided overnight heli-trek to Browne Fox with Fox Guides. This trip takes in stunning mountain and glacier views and gives you the chance to sleep in a historic alpine hut.

A fantastic walk and bike track in the area and just 2 minutes from the town of Fox Glacier is the Fox Glacier South Side Walkway which follows the Fox River through ancient rainforest. About 40 minutes of walking will take you to a stunning viewpoint of Fox Glacier.

After this, you will come to an old car park, which if you’ve cycled is where you’ll have to leave your bike and continue the rest of the track on foot. It’s a gentle downhill hike to the best view of the glacier in my opinion.

11. South Westland Salmon Farm

Bailey with her food at South Westland Salmon Farm, Franz Josef
Salmon benedict!
Salmon pens at South Westland Salmon Farm, Franz Josef
The fish pens!

South Westland Salmon Farm is a popular salmon farm and café, about an hour and 10-minute drive from Franz Josef on SH6. South Westland is a pond rearing farm, and they farm Chinook, King, Spring, and Quinnat salmon here. At the on-site café, salmon is highly recommended but, they also have a host of counter foods like cakes and sandwiches if you’re after something else.

If it’s nice out, be sure to take your food and drink to the outdoor seating area and enjoy those West Coast views. There’s also an on-site gift shop that sells both fresh and smoked salmon, as well as souvenirs.

12. Lake Matheson

Bailey at Lake Matheson with reflections on the mountains
This is one magnificent spot!
Bailey on the edge of Lake Matheson, New Zealand
Oh, the reflections!

Just a 30-minute drive from Franz Josef town is the gorgeous Lake Matheson. It’s said to be one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand. On a clear day, be sure to have your camera handy as you will see both Mount Cook and Mount Tasman reflected on the surface of the lake.

To get the famous view of the lake you need to walk a 40-minute trail from the parking lot to the viewpoint called “Reflection Island” or undertake a slightly longer walk at 1.5 hours round-trip which takes you all the way around the lake. On your walk, you will see the Clearwater River suspension bridge as well as tall rimu and kahikatea trees. If you look closely you may spy long-finned eels in the dark water of the lake.

If you want, you can even join a guided nature walk to Lake Matheson. This is a fantastic option for those who want a more immersive experience, as the guides teach about the area’s ecosystem, and help you find some off-the-beaten-path areas! If you’re looking for the best photography tips and locations, the guides are experts in this as well. This tour provides transportation from Franz Josef Village (about 30 minutes away) and can be booked in advance for $90 NZD.

Did You Know – Lake Matheson is a traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for the native Maoris.

13. Drink coffee at Full of Beans

For your caffeine fix, you can’t go wrong with the aptly named Full of Beans on Main Road. The interior is warm and cozy and serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with rave reviews. It is particularly popular with locals and larger groups.

I loved their all-day breakfast and the fish and chips. Of course, their coffee is excellent too and there’s a small selection of counter goods if you need food in a hurry. Full of Beans is a staple in Franz Josef!

14. Spend the night at Rainforest Retreat

A room at the Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef
Stay in luxury surrounded by nature! Photo credit: Rainforest Retreat

One of the most luxurious accommodation options in Franz Josef is the surprisingly budget-friendly Rainforest Retreat on Cron Street. This scenic hotel is surrounded by native forests and features a fantastic onsite restaurant and modern and luxurious accommodations. You can choose to splurge on a family treehouse or deluxe cabin, or simply save some money and stay at their holiday park.

Regardless, this place gives visitors the true West Coast feel which includes wildlife, lush rainforest, and the sound of nature. If you’re looking for a relaxing thing to do in Franz Josef, be sure to book a stay at the Rainforest Retreat!

15. Visit the white heron colony at Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve

Two white heron at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve
The birds are beautiful!

This is a truly unique tour – a chance to see white herons in their natural breeding colony! It is the only white heron nesting site in New Zealand, so bird lovers listen up. This tour operates from the small town of Whataroa, about a 25-minute drive from Franz Josef. The tour takes 2-3 hours and is operated by a small family-owned business. In fact, you can only get to see these beautiful winged birds by taking a guided tour. 

White Heron Tours is the company that operates the only tour through the nature reserve at a cost of $150 NZD for adults and $75 NZD for children. Although expensive, the guided tour lasts 2.5 hours and includes your DOC entry permit to the nature reserve.

16. Explore Lake Mapourika

Bailey at Lake Mapourika Recreational Area
Lake Mapourika Recreational Area!

Just a 5-minute drive from Franz Josef via the SH6 lies the largest lake on the West Coast. Lake Mapourika is a popular spot for fishing, bird watching, and kayaking. It is a water lovers’ paradise!

I loved taking this guided kayak tour because it allowed me to kayak, even though I didn’t have any gear myself! It gave me 3 hours to paddle around this expansive lake, and the guide was great at pointing out wildlife, mountain peaks, and telling us about the fascinating history of Lake Mapourika.

They provided transportation from Franz Josef, the kayaks, as well as dry bags to keep our belongings safe- I thought was worth the $145 NZD price tag!

If you don’t fancy getting in the water, you can book a 2-hour scenic cruise around Lake Mapourika! This small group tour of 12 people makes this an intimate and relaxed way to experience the lake’s beauty.

The captain will provide commentary as you cruise to learn about the surrounding landscape and wildlife. There’s abundant birdlife so keep an eye out, and you may spot birds like the rare crested grebe, white-throated shag, white-faced heron, and kingfisher, to name only a few.

But the best part about this scenic cruise is that it is BYOB (bring your own beverage), so grab a bottle of wine and truly relax on this cruise! Transportation from Franz Josef is included, and you can book this tour in advance for $120 NZD.

17. Enjoy Peters Pool Walk

Bailey at Peters Pool in Franz Josef, New Zealand
Peters Pool!
Peters Pool in Franz Josef
The view is magnificent!

Peters Pool Walk is a 25-minute loop track that’s easy and flat making it an ideal walk for all ages. The path takes you through the native rainforest to a small kettle lake – created by melting ice from a glacial moraine a little over 200 years ago. If you get here early in the morning or before sunset you will see stunning reflections on the surface of the lake of the surrounding mountains!

Peter’s Pool Walk is an easy trail that’s super accessible, so it’s a great option for families visiting the area, or anyone who just doesn’t want to trek too far! It’s only 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) return and there’s just 14 meters of elevation gain, so this is a nice, easy stroll.

It starts at the Franz Josef Glacier car park. You can walk to the trailhead from Franz Josef town if you wish. Simply head South and cross the Waiho River bridge then turn left onto the Glacier Access Road, it’s 4 km (2.5 mi) down this road to the parking lot which is the starting point of the track.

18. Explore mining tunnels on the Tatare Tunnels Walk

Entrace the the Mining Tunnels on the Tatare Tunnels Walk
The entrance to the tunnels. It’s dark below!

Now, this is certainly one of the most interesting things to do in Franz Josef – walk (or wade) through water tunnels, carved by miners in the early 1900s. Make sure to bring a torch (flashlight) as it is very dark as well as appropriate footwear (ideally gumboots) as otherwise, you are likely to get very wet feet. Some people choose to go barefoot too. The walk is 1 hour 20 minutes return.

Walking through the 500-meter (1,640 ft) tunnel itself can be a pretty spooky experience as it’s very dark and the water can get to 100 mm (4 in) deep depending on the weather conditions. In summer though, there’s much less water.

The Tatare Tunnels Walk isn’t the most beautiful hike in Franz Josef, but it sure is the most unique! You can find the entrance to the tunnels here!

19. Callery Gorge

Bailey looks at the blue water in Callery Gorge, Franz Josef
The glacier water is really that blue!
Bailey crosses the suspension bridge at Callery Gorge in Franz Josef
How cool!

The Callery Gorge hike starts from the same point as the Tatare Tunnels Walk. It’s a fairly easy hike, and it’s relatively little effort for a big reward. The trail is pretty short at 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles) return and although there’s some elevation gain there are no long steep sections. And when you get to the Callery River and get a glimpse of the brilliant blue water, you’ll realize that it would be worth a longer trek to see. 

The highlight of this trail is the Groge Viewpoint, where you’ll walk on a bridge. It’s truly beautiful!

Plus, the route itself is pretty nice, with lots of mossy trees and birds around. I recommend allowing about 2 hours to complete it in total. You’ll need about 1.5 hours to walk, but you’ll probably want to spend a while taking in the beauty of the gorge itself.

To find the trailhead, park at the end of Cowan Street, which on Google Maps comes up as the trailhead for the Tatare Tunnels walk. The path for the two routes is the same at first, but they diverge after about 500 meters. Keep right to follow the Callergy Gorge trail and then it’s pretty much plain sailing from there.

20. See some glow worms

Glow worms in a cave in New Zealand
Aren’t they beautiful!

This is a great activity if you have kids – the unique opportunity to see glow worms on a gorgeous walk completely free. Access to the glow worms is via the Terrace Walk at the southern end of town. It’s a 1.8-kilometer-long track (1.1 miles) and should take 30 minutes to complete.

Glow worms are unique to New Zealand and Australia, so this is the ideal thing to do in Franz Josef!

Top Tip – Under the fallen trees near the beginning is the best place to spot the shimmering glow worms. Even in daylight, this walk is still a gorgeous walk as it winds through lush rainforest.

Related Read: Seeing glow worms is one of the best things to do in Te Anau. If you’re heading there, check out my blog!

21. Visit Te Koha Gallery

Te Koha Gallery Franz Josef
Photo credit: Te Koha Gallery

Te Koha Gallery in Franz Josef is a jade carving studio where you can carve your own pounamu jewelry! You can pick your own stone (the most popular is the 100% NZ Nephrite Jade), as well as the shape and design of your necklace, and create a lovely souvenir to take home from your vacation.

This is seriously the best souvenir, especially if you’re good with your hands. I’m embarrassed by the one I carved so I refuse to show anyone but that doesn’t mean yours won’t look better!

The Gallery itself is a relaxing space to enjoy a cup of tea and music to encourage your artistic side. Allow up to 2.5 hours for this experience. It only costs $85 NZD per person which includes your jade – a good deal if you ask me. This is a truly unique thing to do in Franz Josef!

22. Roberts Point Track

Views on the Roberts Point Track in Franz Josef
Stunning views of the glacier!

The Roberts Point Track is my favorite hike in Franz Josef. This 12-kilometer return track (7.5 miles) requires a good level of fitness due to the steep uphill climb towards the end. It should take about 5-6 hours to complete at a steady pace. You can walk to the starting point of the track from Franz Josef town, cross the Waiho River Bridge, and then follow Glacier Access Road.

One hour into the walk you will reach the photogenic Hende’s Hut (FYI – a great place to have a picnic). From the hut, the track continues to climb up to Roberts Point where the glacier views are spectacular. Being this high above the glacial ice gives you a true sense of the sheer size of the glacier.

It’s definitely worth the steep uphill climb once you get to the top as you will see New Zealand’s gorgeous waterfalls and the surrounding mountains in the distance.

23. Have drinks at Snakebite Brewery

Bailey with a beer at Snakebite Brewery in Franz Josef
Bailey with her meal from Snakebite Brewery in Franz Josef
The food is also really good!

This unique restaurant on Main Road opened in 2015 and has proven to be one of the most popular restaurants on the West Coast since. Foodwise, Snakebite Brewery serves up authentic Southeast Asian dishes such as dim sum, dumplings, and tempura.

They also serve beers from some of the best craft breweries in the country including Sprig and Fern Brewery in Nelson and Renaissance Brewery in Marlborough. It’s the perfect place to quench your thirst after a day exploring Franz Josef!

Related Read: Continuing on a road trip from Franz Josef? Consider driving from Franz Josef to Punakaiki, or, from Franz Josef to Wanaka – both are epic road trips that end in stunning destinations.

24. Canavans Knob

The main reason I’m mentioning this Canavans Knob trail is because there’s a really nice viewpoint at the beginning, so it’s still worth checking out even if you don’t complete the entire trail. You’ll have gorgeous views of the mountains, river, and of course, the Franz Josef glacier itself, which really is quite the postcard-perfect scene.

You can easily walk to the trailhead from town, which should only take you about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can drive here and park in the small car park.

If you just climb up to the viewpoint, it’s about 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) out and back from the trailhead. If you choose to complete the entire hike, it’s 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles), but the best views are at the beginning, so there’s no need unless you’re just the kind of person who likes to hike as much as humanly possible!

25. Visit Fox Glacier town

Te kopikopiko o te waka Peak View
Te kopikopiko o te waka Peak View near Fox Glacier!
Bailey at Betsey Jane eatery & bar in Fox Glacier
Betsey Jane eatery & bar in Fox Glacier

Located about a 30-minute drive from Franz Josef is the small village of Fox Glacier. Fox Glacier town shares the same name as the glacier itself, and while most people only visit the glacier, I think the town is pretty cute on its own! It is smaller than Franz Josef but still offers a few places to stay, shop, and eat.

When you visit Fox Glacier, I highly recommend stopping in at the local restaurant called Betsy Jane. The food here is so delicious and the atmosphere is relaxing. They even have a covered patio with mountain views – you really can’t go wrong with a meal here. The last time that I visited I had the Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout and it was scrumptious!

Also, be sure to visit the plane crash memorial site. Here, you can learn about the skydiving plane that crashed in the area in 2010. But besides that, there is a beautiful viewpoint of the Fox Glacier here too, as well as some short walking tracks.

Note: Lake Matheson is located just down the road from Fox Glacier, so it’s wise to visit both of these attractions at the same to avoid having to drive back again from Franz Josef.

Where to Stay in Franz Josef

Franz Josef town, New Zealand
Franz Josef town, New Zealand

The small town of Franz Josef may be small, but it’s such a beautiful place to stay with lots of lively restaurants, bars, and other fun attractions to check out in town! There are lots of fantastic accommodation choices in Franz Josef to check out too – here are some of my favorites:

Glow Worm Accommodation – $

For budget travelers, Glow Worm Accommodation is a great choice. It’s located within walking distance of everything and offers dorm and private rooms at really affordable prices. I stayed here on my first-ever trip down the West Coast and had a social night with other travelers. The private rooms here are also really nice, and super affordable!

A bed in a dorm here starts as low as $40 NZD per night, and you can nab a private room from around $115 NZD per night. This is a popular accommodation choice though, so make sure to check out your dates in advance. You can book your stay here on or here on Hostelworld.

Aspen Court (Franz Josef) – $$

For those with a slightly larger budget, the Aspen Court Franz Josef is a good mid-range option with outstanding reviews. The hotel is located on the outskirts of town but is only a short walk from the best restaurants and bars. They also have apartments and studios, so it’s perfect for those who like to prepare their own meals or those traveling in a group/family.

A one-night stay here at Aspen Court starts from around $297 NZD for a studio room, with all rooms coming with a kitchenette too. You can check out available dates and book your stay here on

Te Waonui Forest Retreat – $$$

If you’re a luxury traveler, the Te Waonui Forest Retreat is pure bliss! The entire retreat is surrounded by lush forest, and you’ll be able to hear the sounds of nature right from your balcony. Rooms are also large and well decorated, and you’ll also have access to their state-of-the-art spa during your stay, offering massages, facials, and more.

Don’t forget about their incredible on-site restaurant too! The Canopy Restaurant and Bar offers “fine dining in the rainforest,” where you’ll dine among the treetops, savoring local produce and the world-famous Otago lamb!

Rooms here at the Te Waonui Forest Retreat aren’t cheap, starting from around $900 NZD per night. That said, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, looking for the perfect place to enjoy your honeymoon, or simply want to experience one of the best hotels Franz Josef, this is the place for you! You can check your dates online here and book your stay here on

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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 rent 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’s what most budget travelers use 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…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey walks down the main street in Franz Josef town, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, there’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Franz Josef. Those were 25 of the best activities in Franz Josef, and I’m sure you’ll agree there’s something for everyone here.

Thanks so much for reading my blog! I really hope you found enough fun activities to make your trip to Franz Josef unforgettable! If you did, stay and browse around some more, I have so many more detailed blogs about Queenstown and New Zealand including guides on Wanaka, road trips, and more!

5 Types of Milford Sound Tours from Te Anau (The BEST Tours & Cruises)

The BEST Lake Cruise in Queenstown – TSS Earnslaw vs Spirit of Queenstown

COMPLETE Guide to the 13 National Parks in New Zealand