Franz Josef Glacier is a cool place for a quick look or guided expedition.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
New Zealand’s West Coast is home to some of the world’s most impressive and accessible glaciers, among them Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.
We arrived late in Franz Josef but found the Information Center still open. They phoned around to a number of B&Bs and updated their list of ‘full’ accommodations. As we were losing hope and thinking we would have to move on (Terry had already put in too many hours driving) their phone rang and a Top 10 Holiday Park reported a ‘no-show’. We grabbed it on the spot. It was very nice, other than having to dress and walk over to another building to use the common toilets and wash rooms. Outfitted with toaster, kettle and fridge, it worked well as we had our own cutlery, plates and glasses (none supplied).
After checking out the following morning, it was off to see what most of the tourists to town seek out … Franz Josef Glacier.
“Past glacial ice has created steep valley sides which collapse after heavy rain or during earthquakes,” a sign read. “Walking tracks are closed if landsides have recently occurred, or a rockslide is suspected.” With no rain in sight we took our chances with earthquakes and walked the trail to the observation platform at Sentinel Rock, one of the several ‘roches moutonnees’ in the valley. This French name, which translates as “sheep-like rocks”, describes large rocks which have withstood the scraping of glacial ice. Covered with ice during the Ice Ages, they are now clothed in forest.
There is Maori name for the Franz Josef Glacier – Roimata O Hine Hukatere (The Tears of Hine Hukatere or Tears of the Avalanche Girl). A Maori legend tells of how Hine was an adventurous Maori woman who loved mountaineering above all other activities. Her lover, Tawe, was not as fond of climbing as his sweetheart, but Hine’s powers of persuasion were strong and Tawe often climbed with her in the mountains. On one such adventure Tawe slipped at the head of Franz Josef valley and plunged to his death. Hine’s tears were so numerous they flooded the valley and were frozen by the Gods as a memorial to her grief.
In about 1865 the viewing platform we were standing on was built at the edge of the very large glacier. Information panels indicate the glacier has receded and advanced over the years but mostly receded.
With our night’s lodging confirmed, we ventured south to Jackson Bay.
It is a quaint little … no, not a town … no, not a village … a quaint little gathering of buildings … with no redeeming qualities. We were told, however, of its great walk to the beach. The trail started near the pier, along a boardwalk, over a marsh and into the woods. It was a pleasant walk and we emerged out on the beach. Our stay lasted less than 30 seconds as sand flies quickly swarmed our legs and commenced to dine. A hasty retreat back through the trees to the safety of our car ended our brief stay in Jackson Bay.
Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park
Surrounded by eye candy mountains, glaciers and forests, Top 10 Holiday Park offers a range of accommodation options from tent and RV sites, motel and lodge rooms to cabins.
Address: 2902 Franz Josef Highway, West Coast
Tel: 0800 467 897, 03-752 0735;
SIGHTSEEING IN FRANZ JOSEF
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
Glacier region walks brochure (PDF)
Visiting the Fox and Franz Josef glacier valleys safely (PDF)
NEW ZEALAND GLACIER COUNTRY WEST COAST
Daily Glacier Access Updates and tour information