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  • Writer's pictureHayley Roberts

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 13 : Franz Josef

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

For our entire South Island trip I’d been barely containing my excitement about the activity we had booked for today, a helicopter ride onto a glacier! But, rising early we discovered that the weather was, much like every other day, drizzly and foggy and we learned with heavy hearts that our helicopter flight had been cancelled.

With desperate hopes that the sky would clear we rescheduled for later and headed off to do the Franz Josef Glacier walk which was a 2 hour, mostly flat walk of epic proportions scenery-wise. Sadly the glacier you see in pictures on Google has vastly reduced in size, having melted more in the past year than ever before, and you’ll notice that the locals refuse to talk about it in case it scares the tourists off.

Still, look at the following pictures and weep at how beautiful some parts of the world are, even without huge frozen chunks of ice.

The walk is roughly two hours returning back the same way you came. You’ll start by walking through a small forest which then opens up into this incredible scene fulls of waterfalls and rivers and bright green moss. You’re advised to stay behind the barriers when nearing the glacier by a life-size man cut-out (pay attention because you’ll hear more about him in the next post). The rock face is incredibly volatile but that didn’t stop numerous people jumping the barriers to get an up close Instagram-worthy shot on their mobile phones. If you’re really that keen you are able to get closer with an experienced guide.

It rained pretty hard for most of the walk and I actually ran for shelter towards the end of the track just to finally be somewhere dry. Naturally by the time we made it back to Fox Glacier it was sunny and bright (typical NZ) and we were hopeful our rescheduled helicopter flight would make it out this time, BUT … no such luck. Instead we decided to punish our bodies further by doing the two hour walk around Lake Matheson. Apparently the view of the snow-capped mountains reflected in the lake here is one of the best views in New Zealand but the fog had fallen again and we struggled to see the mountains at all. Still, the walk through the mossy rainforest to reach the “view” was like travelling through fairyland and made it all totally worthwhile.

We stayed atFox Glacier Lodge

We stopped at: Helicopter Line, Franz Josef Glacier Walk, Lake Matheson

We wore (in spring): Snow boots (we loved our snow boots because they kept our feet dry but sneakers will do fine otherwise), rainproof pants and jacket with hood, thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and beanie. The scarf turned out to be really handy for wiping water off my camera.

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