Franz Josef's 4 Best Secret Spots Revealed

The township of Franz Josef is famous for its glacier activities and rightly so. Franz Josef glacier is one of the most unique in the world thanks to its location, gradient and faster moving flow so no visit to Franz Josef is complete without a glacier experience.

However there are plenty of other fantastic activities on offer in and around Franz Josef. The Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools are the ideal way to relax after a long drive or a day of hiking, while a guided kayak tour is the best way to explore the region’s stunning water ways. Meet the world's rarest kiwi (the Rowi) at the West Coast Wildlife Centre or refuel in one of the many great local cafes, bars or restaurants.

But if you're an explorer at heart and are keen to get off the beaten track, here’s the inside info on the best scecret spots in the area. Put on some sturdy footwear, grab your camera and get ready to see the ‘real’ Glacier Country, just make sure you keep it to yourself!


1.    Lake Matheson

Ok so this first one is less of a ‘secret’ and more of a ‘must do’ but it’s surprising how many visitors miss the opportunity to view New Zealand’s most photographed lake. Lake Matheson is just 6km west of Fox Glacier and holds this title for good reason. When conditions are right you can see Aoraki (Mt Cook) and Mt Tasman reflected perfectly on the mirror-like surface of the water.  There is a boardwalk track around the lake so access is easy and well worth the stop.

Lake Matheson



2. Tatare Track Walk

This little-known track explores the remains of a tunnel system built in the early 1900’s.  It was built to pipe water from the Tatare Gorge to the Waiho Terrace for gold miners and went on to provide Franz Josef township with its water supply after gold mining was found to be unviable.  The walk is a fascinating exploration of pioneering engineering and starts on Cowan Street right in the Franz Josef township.



3. Okarito Trig Walk

Located 32 kilometres north of Franz Josef, Okarito (population 30 people) is a spectacular and tranquil beachside township. The Okarito Trig Walk is a 4.2 kilometre return trip and is one of the best short walks in the area. The trail winds gently uphill to the Okarito Trig Viewpoint where you will be rewarded with outstanding views of the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps, the lush forest of the National Park, the lagoon and the wild beaches of the Coast.  



4. Glow Worms on The Terrace Walk   

This is a great one for kids and adults alike – who doesn’t love a glow worm? You might not immediately associate glow worms with glacier country, but these little guys are happy in the temperate rainforest habitat around Franz Josef. After the sun goes down, grab your torch and head off for a glow worm hunt. A great spot for spotting glow worms is along The Terrace Walk, located just off State Highway 6 near the Westland Visitor Centre at the southern end of town. Look for glow worms around or under large fallen trees.

Terrace walk


So there you have it - the scret is out! Enjoy your visit to Franz Josef and Glacier Country, take the time to check out one of these lesser known spots and leave with an experience that's a little more unique.