Franz Josef is a locality that exists mainly to serve visitors to Franz Josef Glacier. Located in Westland it lies at the foot of the western slopes of Mount Cook and is in the middle of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Tour buses generally make Franz Josef one of their stops, either for the night or at least a lunch break. Alternatively, for a really cheap option, try nakedbus.com or Intercity Bus - bus services start at $1.
Franz Josef Glacier. The 12 km long glacier is one of New Zealand's most spectacular natural attractions, a remnant from the Ice Age which is one of South Westland's major attractions for visitors. The Glacier area (which also includes Fox Glacier) attracts up to 250,000 tourists every year - most of them viewing the glacier close up by taking a walking tour or getting the big picture from the sky by helicopter. Having retreated several kilometres between the 1940s and 1980s, the glacier entered an advancing phase in 1984 and at times has advanced at the rate of 70 cm a day. The flow rate is about 10 times that of typical glaciers. From a long term perspective, the glacier has retreated since the last ice age, and it is believed that it reached the sea some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. It is receding at present. Being a slow moving frozen river, the stunning glacial landscape changes daily, and all safety warnings should be taken seriously. There are a number of walking tracks in the glacier valley. (43.4670 S,170.1915 E) edit
Franz Josef Glacier Guides, 63 Cron St, ☎ +64 3-752 0763 (toll free: 0800 GUIDES), . Offers a range of trips up on the glacier. From Valley Walks, half and full day options to ice climbing and heli hiking, there is a trip to suit every ability. It is the only operator permitted to guide on the glacier. Bookings are essential, availability can be checked online. edit
Air Safaris, Main Rd, ☎ +64 3 752 0716 (toll free: 0800 72 32 74), . Provides scenic, fixed wing flightseeing tours. The Grand Traverse scenic flight offers a view of the Franz and Fox Glacier and rugged Westland National Park before traversing Mount Cook and the main divide to explore the vast Mount Cook National Park. edit
Glacier Hot Pools, 63 Cron St, ☎ + 64 3 752 0099 (toll free: 0800 044 044, firstname.lastname@example.org), . 1pm-9pm. Fed with pure glacier water. You can also book a massage after a long day exploring the Glacier. Prices for the public pools are $26 per adult, $22 per child. These prices are for 90 minute use of the public pool, other passes available. Massages are offered as well as private pools. $26. edit
The Glacier Shop in the Alpine Adventure Centre on the Main Rd (Ph: 03 752 0131) offers a wide range of quality gifts, clothing and souvenirs. They have another store, The Hobnail Shop in the Fox Glacier Guiding Building, Main Road, Fox Glacier.
At the Blue Ice Cafe, and enjoy the music upstairs after your meal. Licensed till 3am, has DJs in house through the tourist season and has rave reviews for the Lamb Shanks, Whitebait and Pizza!
Just down the road is Fox Glacier, the biggest and least crowded of the West Coast glaciers. It is also currently retreating.