Franz Josef

This is Franz Josef glacier country! So breathtakingly beautiful, so unforgettable to all who visit, and so vastly untouched for millions of years that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Area. And perched so perfectly within this alpine vista, amid rainforest and mountains, is your Franz Josef accommodation of choice – Haka House Franz Josef.

Located in the town of Franz Josef/Waiau on the outskirts of Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Haka House Franz Josef offers easy access to famous Franz Josef Glacier – just five km away – and the host of outdoor activities in the area that ranges from horse trekking and quad biking, to skydiving, kayaking and trout and salmon fishing.

Topping the list of things to do in Franz Josef, is of course a visit to Franz Josef Glacier itself. Just a few minutes’ drive from town is the start of the 1 ½ hour Franz Josef Walk, which begins with an easy meander through forest terrain and then becomes more challenging as it follows a rocky riverbed to an elevated viewing point from where the most famous Franz Josef attractions can be seen some 750 m away.

If it’s an up close, boots on the glacial ice experience you’re after, there are year-round helicopter flights that combine aerial sightseeing of the Franz Josef Glacier with a landing for a guided walk among the ice caves, pinnacles and seracs of this gorgeous alpine setting. Purely sightseeing flights are also available, and the helicopter pads are located right in town.

You can spend many happy days in and around Franz Josef discovering this exceptionally beautiful bit of west coast South Island real estate, and your nights enjoying the inviting atmosphere of Haka House Franz Josef with its private and shared room accommodation and features like a movie room, sauna, lounge area, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, and outdoor area with BBQ.

The natural beauty and striking majesty of the Te Wahipounamu – Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area really needs to be seen to be believed. This 2.6 million hectare site encompasses Westland Tai Poutini, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks, its almost surreal landscapes characterized by dramatic glaciers, towering mountains, mirror-like lakes, thundering waterfalls, steep fjords and rocky coasts. Much of the area is covered in southern beech and podocarp trees some over 800 years old, while the world’s only alpine parrot the Kea lives here, as does the rare flightless bird the Takahe and several endangered species of Kiwi.

The region is known in the Maori language as Te Wai Pounamu – the greenstone waters. Pounamu – greenstone, or jade – was highly prized by the pre-European Maori for its beauty and steel-like tensile strength, and the only place it is found in New Zealand are the riverbeds and boulders of the South Island, especially the West Coast.

Thus, another of the Franz Josef activities on offer and one which reflects local history and culture, is a guided greenstone tour on which you can look for your own pounamu and learn how to carve it into a necklace. This can be done on the Arahura River, known to be one of the area’s richest sources of pounamu.

An excursion to Okarito Lagoon, the country’s largest unmodified estuarine lagoon wetland, is also on the list of Franz Josef things to do for those who like the idea of exploring by kayak a large area of sheltered water bursting to the brim with birdlife and surrounded by lush native rainforest. Around 30 minutes’ drive from Franz Josef Glacier, more than 70 bird species inhabit this picturesque coastal lagoon setting, including the Kotuku (white heron).