The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Maori) is a twelve km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier just twenty km to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
The area surrounding the two glaciers is part of Te Wahipounamu park, a World Heritage Site. The river emerging from the glacier terminal of Franz Josef is known as the Waiho River. The glacier area is one of the main tourist attractions of the West Coast, with around 250,000 visitors a year. Guided and unguided walks up to and onto the glacier are possible. The latter require some specialised equipment, namely ice axes and crampons that latch onto a sturdy boot.
As the walking part of any tour up to the glacier takes a long time, and ends at the first icefall (a sort of frozen waterfall, showing a natural dip of the land underneath), numerous tourists book helicopter tours from one of the several local airlines. They usually drop their guests between the first and second icefall, for a guided one to two hour walk through the broken ground atop the glacier. Though the glacial landscape changes almost daily with the glaciers’ unusually fast flow, and some walks include passages through ice tunnels, they are still considered quite safe and only somewhat strenuous. Franz Josef township is a little service village (approximately 330 inhabitants) located approximately five km away from the face of the glacier on State Highway 6. It has a small but busy heliport, restaurants, and a number of shops.
Alpine Glacier Motel’s has a 4 star Qual-Mark rating and all twenty-four units offer modern facilities, kitchenettes, and car parking right outside your unit. Many come with relaxing double spa baths and spectacular views of some of the smaller glaciers in a beautiful Alpine vista. ZENBU wireless internet is available from all the upstairs units. Enjoy comfortable, fully equipped units built in white alpine brick amidst views of glaciers, rain forest, and the snowy mountains. Walk to tour operators and restaurants from your unit. Warm up in the spa room after a day on the glacier. Five minutes drive and you’re at the glacier access. Most units have full kitchenette facilities, plunger coffee, and comfy king size beds. Some have a private balcony with snowy mountain views, others have spa baths. Full laundry is available.
- King Studio
- King Family/Twin Studio
- Deck Studio
- Queen Studio
- Spa Studio
- Two Bedroom Units
- Disability Units
A wonderful base for your adventure to New Zealand’s most beautiful glacier country, Alpine Glacier Motel is managed by locals with extensive knowledge and experience of the area. Enjoy spacious, well appointed units nestled in idyllic West Coast surroundings with views of the rain forest and snowy mountain peaks. Ask your hosts about Franz Josef township’s friendly local restaurants, pubs and cafes, and directions to the many other attractions in the area such as kayaking, scenic flights, jet boat safaris, bird sanctuaries, nature tours, and much more. Your hosts, Franz Josef locals Billy and Mark, will be happy to help you organise your stay in Franz Josef.
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