How to experience a glacier in all it’s glory – do it in style!

  • Franz Josef Glacier is a 12 km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, on the West Coast of the South Island and about a 20 minute drive from where we were staying in Otago. Together with the Fox Glacier, it descends from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres (980ft) above sea level.
  • The first European description of one of the west coast glaciers (believed to be Franz Josef) was made in the log of the ship Mary Louisa in 1859.The glacier was later named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by the German explorer, Julius von Haast in 1865, our guide has his own theory as to why, because the glacier reminded Julius of the emperors long white beard (like the glaciers long white ice). 
  • Unfortunately, the ice is melting dramatically fast, due to increasing climates. Since the late 1880’s, this Glacier has had an overall retreat of around 3 kilometres. Since 2008, it has been in a period of retreat, and has lost around 800 metres of length. See a time-lapse here

We wanted to see it properly – so what better way than to book a helicopter to take us to the top, with a guide and a tour of the glacier?! We used The Helicopter Line.

Dropped off  – time to explore! 

Oh no! Just us and the glacier…

Glacier views

Happy hiker


Glacier rocks

Through the ice tunnels


A little unsteady on these ice shoes!

Through the caves

Ice hiking

We made it!

The ice is melting, creating these small pools everywhere

Time to go!

Views from the Helicopter

On our way down

 Incredible experience!