Franz Josef & the West Coast | Where to go in New Zealand | Lightfoot Travel
Franz Josef & the West Coast

Franz Josef & the West Coast

Franz Josef & the West Coast

The rugged wilderness of New Zealand’s West Coast lies in the shadow of the imposing Southern Alps, weaving between untamed beaches, still lakes and stealthily advancing glaciers.

With a population of just over 30,000, the West Coast is a sparsely inhabited region of the South Islands due partially to the dramatic and often unforgiving nature of its landscape. Torrential rainfall trades briskly with brilliant sunshine, perhaps explaining why half of the country’s national parks are located here. There are tiny settlements scattered between lakes and mountains, providing bases for adventure seekers and visitors to the legendary Pancake Rocks.

On the frosty coastal edge of the Westland National Park is the spectacular 12km Franz Josef Glacier, a relic from the Ice Age and one of the best glacier walking areas in the world. The town of Franz Josef exists exclusively for visitors to the glacier. Moving at an estimated 70cm a day, the glacier is one of the fastest moving in the world and today maintains a heart-stopping proximity to the sea.

With your crampons and Arctic gear on, hiking is the best way to get up close and personal with a real natural wonder, exploring glittering blue ice tunnels, vast frozen caverns and gorges. Walking or kayaking in the nearby area leaves Franz Josef a towering but eerily beautiful backdrop. And for a different perspective, helicopter flights reveal the glacier and valleys in all their glory. The West Coast is one of New Zealand’s best destinations for adventure, adrenaline and incredible natural beauty. 

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