Most of the West Coast of New Zealand is the glacial zone. If you want to experience the most amazing of glacial environment in New Zealand then Franz Josef Glacier is a sure bet. The Glacier was a huge mass of ice shelf in the last ice Age but gradually dwindled in size with time.The glacier rises upto 300 meters above sea level. It is included in the possessions of Westland National Park on the West Coast. What is interesting is the landscape. The glacier stands amidst green surroundings of a rainforest. The Waiho River originates from it. It is named after Franz Josef I of Austria by a German explorer who visited this place. In local dialect the place is called Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere which means the tears of Hinehukatere . According to this legend Hinehukatere persuaded her lover Wawa to climb trees. Wawa was killed by an avalanche. Hinehukatere cried her heart out and it is said her tears frozed and became the glacial structure.
Franz Josef Glacier attracts almost 250,000 visitors each year. There are both guided and guided tours through the glacier. Specialized equipments like ice axe and crampons are needed to walk through. Some tourists take the helicopter ride if they are not able to face the harsh cold and rough landscape. The fast movement of the Glacier makes a moving glacier. There is a passage through ice tunnel here that gives a sense of mystery to the region. A little distance away from the Glacier is the Franz Josef township. Accommodation options are offered here along with restaurants and shops.
Many of us have seen the beautiful location of Franz Josef Glacier in the epic movie of Lord of the Rings . Many of its scenery which we felt were heavenly and true wilderness was shot here.
Some of the walks in Franz Josef Glacier
The Alex Knob climbs passes through lowland forests of sub alpine scrup, alpine meadows, and fields of herbs. These are punctuated with glaciers and seascapes.In the initial phase you will see rimu, rata and kamahi forest which will change drastically as you go forward. It is also a good place for bird watching with exotic species like kaka and parak co exists with endemic birds like New Zealand pigeon. Start your walk early as it is advisable to reach the summit before noon. The Rata Lookout gives a good view of the Glacier. As you climb the upper bush track, the vegetation changes into snow tussock and mountain daisies. Callery-Waiho walk advances steadily from Franz Josef Waiau village. It passes though gold mining water-race and then descends into the Callery Gorge Bridge. Canavan’s Knob is a steady climb through rainforests into the glacial and seascapes. It is composed of hard granite. It is rich in its insect and bird population. As you move up fern and herbs covers your way. One of the viewpoints from here looks straight to the Tasman sea. If you want to walk amongst ancient glaciers that originated about 1600 AD and 1750 AD then the Douglas Walk is a sure bet. It passes though shrub trees that are 40 year old.Stop by at the kettle Lake of Peter Pool.