Franz Joseph is the cutest little town ever, with a small main street of restaurants, cafes, shops and one grocery store. Conveniently, the glacier is a 5 minute drive from downtown. I’d suggest staying two nights here maximum, or just pass through on the way to the next destination. You can hike the glacier and take a chopper ride in one full day.
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How To Get Around Franz Joseph:
Franz Joseph is a 20-minute drive from Fox Glacier and almost 5-hours driving from Queenstown and Christchurch.
Renting A Car: This is a MUST while visiting New Zealand, as most of its sights are far apart. Be sure to rent/bring a GPS, especially if you won’t have wifi on your phone. For 2 weeks, we rented a car for about $600USD (around $40USD/day). Note: New Zealanders drive on the opposite side of the road as Americans, so be careful!
RV Rental: Many people rent a camper van/motor home and utilize that as both their transport and accommodation (we’ll be doing this next time!). Juicy Rentals is by far the most popular in town. A standard camper van will cost about $1470USD for 2 weeks (around $105USD/day). Don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas.
Where To Stay In Franz Joseph:
There are a lot of accommodations in both Franz Joseph and Fox, but we opted to stay in an Airbnb at the nearby beach town of Okarito (30 minutes from Franz Joseph Town), which I’d highly recommend. It’s a quiet, small town, right on a beautiful beach. Many people camp/park their RV’s there as well. The night sky is so dark and clear, it’s absolutely perfect for star gazing.
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Aspen Court is in an excellent location, with kind accommodation and staff. We would’ve stayed here if not for the Airbnb. The rates start at $200USD/night.
Rainforest Retreat has it all, from deluxe retreat rooms, to backpacker hostel bunks, and is centrally located. Dorms start at $40USD per person and the deluxe rooms go up to $700.
What To Do In Franz Joseph:
Franz Joseph Heli Services Snow Landing:
Scenic Flights allowed us to see the glacier from a different view and it is so amazing to see this massive glacier from an aerial view versus hiking it (both are recommended). I totally think the shortest heli ride is worth it to see the view, while still being able to walk around at the top of the glacier for 10 minutes. There are MANY different flight options, so have a look at their website. Be sure to get the FRONT seat of the helicopter, as the helicopter holds 6 people and 1 pilot! For a 20-minute ride up to 6,000 feet, the cost was $240NZD per person.
Franz Joseph Glacier Valley Walk:
Notes: Tragically, like Tasman Glacier, this glacier has been melting over the years due to global warming and you cannot hike up close to it, which is why I totally suggest taking the heli ride. The glacier walk was lovely, as the landscape included, mountain, rivers, a bridge, a waterfall and lots of rocks from the melted glacier. This mild hike is free and takes about 2 hours roundtrip.
Where To Eat In Franz Joseph:
The Landing Bar has a wide menu of western food and good beer….enough said.
Alice May has a nice atmosphere with a more upscale menu, Alice May offers typical New Zealand food: meat, potatoes and hearty dishes.
Snake Bite Brewery:
Snake Bite Brewery is an Asian fusion restaurant with great service. Order the beef cheek rendang. Yum!
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