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 secret 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!
4 of the best secret spots around Franz Josef Glacier
Okarito Trig Walk
Located 32 kilometres north of Franz Josef is Okarito, a spectacularly tranquil beachside township. With a population of just 30, Okarito is a peaceful spot overlooking the Okarito Lagoon. We think the Okarito Trig Walk is one of the best short walks to do in the Glacier Country area. It’s just 4.2 kilometers return and winds gently uphill to the Okarito Trig Viewpoint. Here 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.
Maybe not so much a secret of the West Coast, but it is definitely a “must do”. Lake Matheson is just 6km west of Fox Glacier and has the title of most photographed lake in New Zealand for good reason. On the right day, you will see a perfectly mirrored reflection of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman on the water. There is a boardwalk track around the lake so you can soak up all of the West Coast goodness.
Tatare Track Walk
Not many people know about this walk that 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. You can start the walk on Cowan Street at Franz Josef township.
Glow Worms on The Terrace Walk
After the sun goes down, grab your torch and head off for a Glow Work walk. You may not think of glow worms and glaciers together in the same location, but there are many spots around the Fox and Franz Josef Glacier area where you will find these little creatures. One of the easiest spots to see glow worms when staying in Franz Josef Glacier is along The Terrace Walk, located just off State Highway 6 near the Westland Visitor Centre. Look for glow worms around or under large fallen trees.