Hiking Fox Glacier – Should You Also Visit Franz Josef?

Franz Josef Heli-Tour View

Franz Josef Heli-Tour View

Franz Josef Glacier is one of only three glaciers of its kind in the world. Of the other two, one is located just down the road at Fox Glacier and the other in South America on the border of Chile and Argentina.

Hello everyone. My name is Jay Darnell and I’m an American immigrant living in Christchurch, New Zealand. This coming weekend my wife and I will be taking our last big kiwi road trip before we return home to the United States. Our goal is simple: experience glacier hiking and the beauty of the West Coast. The catch: We’ve already booked a hike on Fox. So what do you suggest?

The two of us have been extremely fortunate during our adventures in Aoteroa. We’ve driven the Forgotten World Highway, ventured into the black abyss with the Black Water Rafting Company in Waitomo, hiked amongst the steaming pools of Waimangu Volcanic Valley, climbed through the goblin forest of Taranaki to converse with the lonely mountain himself, traveled into the shadows of the Southern Alps on horseback in Queenstown, sea kayaked off the coast of Kaiteriteri and more but this will be our first proper trip to the West Coast. We want to make it a memorable last adventure.

I’m eager to hear your feedback on any of the following:

1. The Glacier Itself

Is Franz Josef Glacier unique enough to warrant another hike when you’re already booked at Fox? Seeing that the two are part of an extremely rare type of glacier I’d venture to say yes but it will be a hard sell for a couple with limited funds. What do you think?

2. The Glacier Hot Pools

In doing a bit of research for this trip I stumbled across an article about the Glacier Hot Pools in Franz Josef. In the very least I’m interested in staying an evening in the area for a warm dip, especially considering it has started to really cool off. But are they open during the winter? Have you experienced the Hot Pools and were they as wonderful as they sound?

Photo By ghewgill

Photo By ghewgill


How does the heli-tour view compare to that of the standard day hike? This may sound like a silly question but is it worth the money? We are in a recession after all and the flight is a tad expensive. I’m keen on the idea but I’m interested in hearing from you!

4. Free Public Hikes

Are there any free public hiking trails in the area that you enjoyed during your visit? If so, what trails can you recommend and how can I find more information about them?

5. Grabbing a Cold One

While visiting the Franz Josef area did you find any enjoyable pubs where you can warm your hands as well as your insides?

Photo By Phillie Casablanca

Photo By Phillie Casablanca

In preparations for our trip I’ve set up a new Flickr Group for the Franz-Josef area. Please feel free to share your own images from your time in Franz-Josef! I would love to add some photographs like those found in Breezy Azevedo’s Gallery to the group in the future. They are amazing!


A New Police Station For Franz Josef

On the 19th of March 2009, Franz Josef was happy to welcome a “much needed” new police station to town. The facility cost $27,000, money well spent when one considers that there will now be a visible police presence on the streets of Franz Josef, not to mention a custom designed base for search and rescue operations. The new police station is a  replacement for the old station which was simply built into a courthouse in Whataroa, 31 kms away.

Police Minister Judith Collins had this to say about the new station:

“I firmly believe the success of any police service relies on two fundamentals:  having officers out on the streets, and having the full support and confidence of the community it serves.

“Here in Franz Josef, we now have both those things, with a highly visible police presence here on the main street, and the support of local residents.”

More infrastructure like this means better service to all in Franz Josef, residents and visitors alike.

Franz Josef Glacier Is Dangerous | Glaciers Can Kill

Falling Ice DangerTwo years before two men lost their lives under a crumbling section of Fox Glacier, two men were injured at Franz Josef Glacier after clambering over the safety barriers (one would have thought that the title ‘safety barrier’ would have been a clue, but it seems very little is able to dissuade the terminally dim from throwing themselves into harm’s way.

From TV3 News:

(2007) Falling ice has struck two tourists at Franz Josef Glacier, leaving one with a potentially permanent disability.

Police say the 34-year-old New Caledonian and 61-year-old Australian ignored safety barriers to reach the face of the glacier today.

A huge chunk of ice fell from a cave roof, badly damaging the younger man’s legs, but guides heard his screams and saved him from sliding into the Waiho River.

He has been airlifted to Greymouth Hospital with the older man, who suffered cuts when ice fragments struck the back of his head.

Please be careful when viewing the glaciers. The barriers are there for very good reason. We would prefer that you lived to tell others about the majesty of the glacier rather than perish beneath it.

Tagging The Face of Franz Josef Glacier

The Beautiful Franz Josef Glacier

The Beautiful Franz Josef Glacier

New Zealanders are very proud of their clean green image and most appreciate the natural beauty that they are privileged to live in. Every year thousands of tourists make the long journey from the far flung corners of the world to explore this little corner of the Pacific. The Franz Josef glacier is one of the natural wonders of New Zealand, and both the glacier and the area around it and its brother, Fox Glacier, are world heritage sites.

Imagine then, the uproar when a German tourist decided to deface this awe inspiring geographic feature by tagging on its face.

From the New Zealand Herald:

A German tourist was forced to clean up his handiwork, after he was caught tagging the Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast.

English tourists caught Jan Philip Scharbert on camera as he spray-painted graffiti on the rocks and ice face of the glacier last week, The Press reported today.

The amateur photographers handed their photos to Department of Conservation (DOC) staff, who informed police.

Scharbert, 28, from Munich, was arrested getting on a bus to leave Franz Josef, and was ordered to clean up the graffiti.

Constable Paul Gurney of the Whataroa police told newspaper Scharbert took 1-1/2 days to clean up his handiwork, and received reprimands from other visitors as he cleaned.

He escaped a wilful damage charge when DOC said it was satisfied with the repair job.

The punishment, somewhat reminiscent of historical punishments where criminals were made to face the public in the stocks, seems to fit the crime. The tourist was fortunate to escape serious charges that could have lead to jail time and deportation from the country. At 28 years of age, one might have thought that he would have known better than to deface one of the world’s dwindling natural treasures in front of a crowd of disapproving people. As my Grandmother might say if she were British…”There’s nowt sae queer as folk”  We can only hope that the glacier tagger learned his lesson and that others are also cautioned by his tale of glacier cleaning woe.