New Zealand Travel Diary: Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

After our beautiful road trip down the coast, we found ourselves in a heavenly little hotel in a cute little town! We stayed at Franz Josef Oasis and absolutely loved it. Modern, but comfortable decor, good location to town (but kind of on the outskirts so its scenic!), and even had a fireplace in the room! What's not to love? (And worth mentioning, their little breakfast is one of the best you'll find in this small town, as well as their amazing espresso machine!)

Franz Josef Glacier



We started out to explore Franz Josef Glacier. As you can see in the middle of this photo, the glacier was pretty close to the car park. I would guess we walked for about a half hour. We wore technical gear, but it was short and mostly flat. The last 5 minutes are so are on an incline, but nothing treacherous. I wouldn't even call this a hike, to be honest. But it sure was pretty!




You walk along what seems like a slightly dried up riverbed (there's still a small river running through it) up to the glacier. While you can't get ON the glacier anymore without a helicopter tour (which are close to $300 per person!!!!!), you can get pretty close! We were about a football field away after that 30 minute walk. Amazing!





Aren't those blues and whites incredible? These photos aren't edited... it was just that pretty in real life. And most photos (at least the ones with us in them) are not zoomed so you can see it was pretty close!




The glacier was retreating from the 40's-the 80's, and then hit a massive growth spurt between 1984 and the early 2000's. Since 2011, it's retreated immensely again (see the photo in this link between 2001-2011, then compare to the photos I've posted). There are several theories, one of course being global warming. But many believe this glacier will hit another growth spurt again in 20 years or so. With it's history of growth & retreat, I am kind of on the growth spurt side of the argument! Also, they've protected it against everyone climbing on it, so that should help, too.


There are several theories, one of course being global warming. But many believe this glacier will hit another growth spurt again in 20 years or so. With it's history of growth & retreat, I am kind of on the growth spurt side of the argument! Also, they've protected it against everyone climbing on it, so that should help, too.


There were tons of natural waterfalls, too! These are just from the snow melting :) So fun.


Fox Glacier


We did the Chalet View walk to Fox Glacier. Unfortunately, it was a really cloudy day, but this lush, tropical hike made up for it! It actually rained pretty hard at one point (lifesaver = rain jacket), but it kind of made it more magical. 




While this hike was a little steeper, it was nothing compared to Tongariro. While I still don't think you need a guide for this AT ALL, you should definitely wear layers and the right shoes. 


This was our view.... a little anti-climactic in the rain....but pretty majestic nonetheless. It was raining so hard when I took this photo! You can get much closer to Franz Josef than you can to Fox, but if you're in the area, I'd say this was definitely worth the pretty hike!




A few tips on visiting Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers:
  • If you have budgeted for the helicopter tour, and that's worth it to you - go for it. HOWEVER. Please note that we were told that heli's only fly about 40% of the time they're scheduled to go due to weather or foggy conditions. 
    • Some will transfer you to only a walking tour (which you could do for free, see below), some will only partially reimburse you. Please read up before you commit (or perhaps wait until the day you get there to sign up!) And keep in mind they start around $300 per person, up to almost $500.
  • If you are NOT going to do a helicopter tour, do your own tour. They offer "glacier walk" tours for $75 per person.... when you can do the same tour for FREE! There are some times it's worth having a guide, but this is literally a straight line from the parking lot to the huge glacier in front of you.. not hilly or hard, I think you can do it :)
    • These tours will NOT gain you access to the ice, unless you are paying over $300 for a heli tour or heli hike, or glacier ICE tour, do not expect to step on this ice. Just keep that in mind. 
  • Here is information on the free glacier valley walk for Franz Josef Glacier.
  • Here is the information on getting to the free Chalet View walk for Fox Glacier.
  • Here is information on all the walks in the region. If we had stayed longer, I definitely wold have done a few more! 
  • Visit the iSite in Franz Josef township to get a map with all of the trails when you arrive. They can also let you know if any of the trails are closed, if helicopters are running, and what the weather is going to be that day. Helpful folks!
Up next is another little road trip and the infamous Milford Sound! Eek!

Let me know if you're planning a trip to the Glacier Country, I'd love to answer any questions you have!
xo

PS - just for a laugh.....
Matt and I climbed on a boulder (maybe 5-6ft high) to get a good photo of the glacier over the crowd. There's this majestic glacier in front of them, and these tourists were taking pictures of Matt taking a picture. I couldn't help but capture them right back. I guess life does imitate art ;)


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