Franz Josef is a tourist destination. Its prime reason for being is to serve tourists visiting the 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 Airport is really only suitable for light aircraft. Mind you, Mount Cook Airport is just on the other of the mountains, and a scenic flightseeing trip can often be arranged at short notice.
While you can take your car to the car park at the foot of the glacier, you will need to get out and walk to the terminal face, as the Glacier is receding at present. There are a number of walking tracks in the glacier valley. Please take heed of the warning signs as you get close to the glacier terminal face.
If you prefer to do things the easy way, try flightseeing, either in a plane or helicopter.
Franz Josef Glacier. The 12 km long Franz Josef 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 taking the opportunity to view 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. Currently the glacier ends about 15 km from the Tasman Sea and the West Coast of the South Island. Being a slow moving frozen river, the stunning glacial landscape changes daily, and all safety warnings should be taken seriously. (43.4670 S,170.1915 E) edit
Visit the Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier Guides, 63 Cron Street, Franz Josef Glacier 7859, New Zealand, ☎ +64 3-752 0763 (toll free: 0800 GUIDES), . Franz Josef Glacier Guides offer a range of trips taking visitors up on the majestic Franz Josef Glacier. From Valley Walks, half and full day options to ice climbing and heli hiking, there is a trip to suit every ability. Franz Josef Glacier Guides is the only operator permitted to guide on the Franz Josef Glacier. Bookings are essential, availability can be checked online. edit
Air Safaris, Main Road, Franz Josef 7856, New Zealand, ☎ +64 3 752 0716 (toll free: 0800 72 32 74), . Provides scenic, fixed wing flightseeing tours flying from Franz Josef. The Grand Traverse scenic flight from here offers an incredible view of the mighty 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 Street, Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, ☎ + 64 3 752 0099 (toll free: 0800 044 044, email@example.com), . 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 of Franz Josef (Ph: 03 752 0131) offers a wide range of quality gifts, clothing and souvenirs. You may also be interested in visiting their other 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!