How Best to See Franz Josef
The area is packed full of amazing natural attractions and their related activities. Let’s concentrate on a few of the sights you’ll not want to miss during your visit.
The largest estuarine lagoon you’ll find in New Zealand, Okarito Lagoon sits alongside a settlement of the same name, home to just 30 permanent residents. The lagoon is a half-an-hour drive north of Franz Josef, and in addition to curious humans, it is visited by more than 76 different species of native birds. So put your bird-spotting specs on and also look out for the reflection of the Southern Alps on the Ōkārito Lagoon.
Weatherproof Landscapes at Andris Apse Gallery
The West Coast is a wild, untamed place so don’t be surprised if it rains unexpectedly while you’re there. If you’d rather stay indoors on one such day, you can still see New Zealand landscapes in photographic form at the Andris Apse Gallery. The internationally renowned photographer’s work can be seen daily between 8am and 8pm.
The Easiest Way to See Franz Josef Glacier (with both feet on the ground)
The foot of Franz Josef Glacier sits less than 300 metres above sea level, making it extremely easy to view. A ten-minute drive from the village to the glacier carpark puts you at the start of the 20-minute Sentinel Rock Walk. The gentle climb up a well-maintained track rewards visitors with brilliant views of the Waiho River and the termination point of the Franz Josef Glacier. As you walk take a moment to think about how the Sentinel Rock you’re treading on was ground into shape by the receding glacier, and only exposed to open-air in 1865.
Franz Josef is a slice of paradise in the scenic cake that is Westland.