From Queenstown to Franz Josef discover the wild beauty of New Zealand's West Coast. Leaving Queenstown, travel by luxury coach through the stunning scenery of the South Island. Your driver guide will provide entertaining commentary and point out sites of interest as you pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Dunstan, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. After a morning tea break in Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, you'll travel through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps, before emerging on the West Coast. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Skirt the coast and see waves crashing on rocky beaches before returning inland. Before arriving in the afternoon at the small village of Franz Josef. From here you can explore the world famous Franz Josef Glacier.
You will be met at your accommodation by a representative from Glacier Valley Eco Tours and taken on a short tour to view the glacier. Your shuttle vehicle will transfer you up the Franz Josef valley to the road end. Here you will have the opportunity to walk to view the glacier from a viewing platform. Or enjoy one of the short walks available in this area. You will be returned to your accommodation by the Glacier Valley Eco Tours shuttle.
Franz Josef is small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice up close walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.
Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.
The Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk will take you up alongside the mighty Waiho River bed, following the glacier’s path as it winds its way through the remarkable landscape. Here you will learn about the glacier’s history and learn the legend of Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere. After a brief climb you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the glacier’s rapidly changing terminal face. Accessing some exclusive trails and including great storytelling from your experienced and well-trained guide.
Following on from your scenic walk enjoy access to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, the perfect end to an unforgettable day.
Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquility. Unwind in one of the three main pools. Temperatures range from 36 to 40 degrees and the water comes directly from a glacial stream. Wash off the day and rejuvenate in this unique forest paradise.
This morning travel north through the small townships of Whataroa and Harihari. Stop at the Bushman's Centre for refreshments and a chance to experience a bit of West Coast humour. Continue through the township of Ross, which in the late 1800s was the centre of one of New Zealand's richest alluvial goldfields. In 1903 the largest gold nugget ever found in New Zealand was discovered at Jones Creek, not far from the town centre. It weighed 2807 grams. The New Zealand Government later purchased the nugget and presented it as a coronation gift to King George V. On arrival in Hokitika there is time to purchase lunch and explore the town centre. Hokitika is the administrative and commercial centre for this part of Westland. The major primary industry is timber milling. Dairy and sheep farming, commercial fishing, white baiting and eel processing being the other major industries. Continue onto Greymouth Railway Station from where you catch the world famous TranzAlpine train across the Southern Alps to Christchurch.
Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.