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Destination Franz Josef: What to eat, see and do

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If you’re planning a road trip down the West Coast, Franz Josef is the perfect base to experience the stunning attractions of Glacier Country. From navigating ice tunnels, to kayaking through a serene lagoon and soaking in natural hot springs, we’ve rounded up the best things in to do in Fran Josef.   


Easiest glacier views 

One of the best walks in Franz Josef is the unique 2-hour Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. Less than 300 metres above sea level, there’s only two other glaciers in the world so close to the coastline. This hike is one of the best free things to do in Franz Josef, serving up not only views but lush rainforest, babbling brooks, the mighty Waiho River and thunderous waterfalls!  Enjoy scenic views up the valley from the safety barriers, towards the gigantic Franz Josef Glacier, with its creaking crevasses and icy-blue hue. Don’t walk past the barrier as this is alpine country and the conditions can change quickly but look out for kea and the soaring New Zealand falcon, both of which call the valley home.  


Best kayaking experience  

Glide across a pristine rainforest lake with New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook as your backdrop. Kayaking across tranquil Lake Mapourika’s dark tannin-filled waters is like travelling back in time. The remote serenity is only punctured by native bird song and the rhythmic splash of your paddles. (And yet you’re only 25-minutes from Franz Josef village). Book an expert guide at Glacier Country Kayaks or Okarito Kayaks to learn about the Okarito Lagoon eco-system and the wildlife it nurtures. 


A heart pumping heli-hike  

If you want to experience a majestic glacier up close, then book a heli-hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and The Helicopter Line. You’ll enjoy over two hours on the ice with your expert guide and all equipment is provided. Experience the adrenalin of a soaring helicopter ride up the valley to an icy ridge. Your guide will escort you across the icescape pointing out glacier features, past and present. Imagine sliding through a tight icy alleyway or crawling through blue tinged tunnels into a shallow ice cave. The guides often remark that no two ice-capades are ever quite the same as the glacier shifts, creaks and moves daily. Advance bookings are recommended, and full refunds guaranteed, if the weather conditions prevent the tour.  


A  rainy day plan 

Add the Lake Matheson track on your Franz Josef things to do list if your heli-hike’s postponed and the rain’s settled in. This all-weather trail provides stunning reflective views of the Southern Alps and a stylish cosy café for brunch or a quick bite. Then drop into the West Coast Wildlife Centre to learn about endangered kiwi and tuatara.  

Head for a soothing soak under a peaceful forest canopy at the rustic wood fired Waiho Hot Tubs or the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools.  For the ultimate indulgence book a treatment at the amazing Amaia Luxury Spa, surely one of Franz Josef’s best kept secrets. What a blissful way to spend your day. 

Mix with the locals over dinner at the charming Alice May gastropub and enjoy hearty West Coast fare in a character setting. The venison sausage with mash and salmon risotto are highly rated but leave room for the decadent chocolate fudge cake. You will want this dessert all to yourself! 

With so many things to do in Franz Josef, ask the Bella Vista Motel team for suggestions. They can provide information on the best walks in Franz Josef, places to eat and tours to book, for a fun and enjoyable stay.