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  • Franz Josef Trail
  • Franz Josef Trail
  • Franz Josef Trail
  • Franz Josef Trail
  • Franz Josef Trail
  • Franz Josef Trail
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  • What's Included
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Franz Josef Trail

Start:Hokitika/ChristchurchTours run:November - April (Tuesdays - fortnightly)
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easy grade
Duration:4 days/3 nights
excl GST

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Bush, Rugged Coastline, Gold, Untamed Rivers and Glaciers


Tucked between the high mountains of the Southern Alps and the rugged western sea coast is an area known as Westland Tai Poutini National Park. This park is part of a larger network of four national parks that is collectively known as Te Wahipounamu, one of the greatest natural areas of the world, now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Franz Josef Trail takes you on a journey of discovery in the National Park, with several short and longer day walks covering dense rainforest, scenic lakes, relics of old gold mining settlements and the spectacular glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox.

Your Franz Josef Trail starts in Ross, famous for the “Honourable Roddy” a gold nugget the size of a man’s fist that was unearthed in 1909. Remnants of the gold rush can be seen everywhere, in water races, tunnels and mining relics, and the first walk on your Franz Josef Trail explores this old gold mining area and the surrounding rainforest.

Progressing down the coast, you travel to Hari Hari for what is touted as “one of the most scenic coastal walks in the region”.  Start by following the Wanganui River past whitebait stands, through regenerating podocarp forest and onto a glorious black sand beach where you may spot seals on the rocks, and complete the loop by following the route of an old log tramway through the bush.

We spend the first 2 nights of our tour at the Franz Josef Village, a short distance from the glacier itself and you have the opportunity to view at close range this river of ice as we walk to a viewpoint overlooking the terminal face.

Our second full day of walking takes us to Okarito, a coastal settlement famous for its lagoon, to which more than 76 different species of native birds visit and call home, including the majestic kotuku or white heron.

Travelling further along the coast our next stay is at Fox Glacier. Fox Glacier is notable as one of the few glaciers in the world to end in rainforest at only 300 metres above sea level, and again we walk to take full advantage of seeing this glacier at close quarters.

Our final walk on the Franz Josef Trail is taken in the quiet of morning on our last day, to fully appreciate the peace and tranquillity of Lake Matheson and its captivating mirror images. On a very still day the backdrop of the Southern Alps framed in the waters of the lake are a photo that simply must be captured to be believed.

Your Franz Josef Trail includes transport from Christchurch if required, all meals on tour, accommodation in comfortable motels and the services of a knowledgeable local walking guide throughout. This tour is ideal for those looking to enjoy some iconic New Zealand scenery on foot and experience a glacier close up, and is graded easy for all levels of experience.

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Tours run:November - April (Tuesdays - fortnightly)
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We can customise tours to suit.





Itinerary & Map

For dates, availability & customisations Enquire

Franz Josef Trail

Bush, Rugged Coastline, Gold, Untamed Rivers and Glaciers

The Franz Josef Trail is a four-day fully guided walking tour in the spectacular Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

You will experience a number of unique walks that incorporate the dramatic ice formations of Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, historical gold trails, wondrous coastal beaches, captivating lakes and luxuriant West Coast rainforests.
Franz Josef Trail Tour


Day 1: Hokitika to Franz Josef

The Franz Josef Trail departs from Hokitika on a short scenic drive to Ross where you begin four days of unforgettable guided walks on the trail.

Ross is a small West Coast town where New Zealand's largest gold nugget, "The Honourable Roddy" was found. Your guide will take you on an expedition along the Water Race Walkway, which is an historic gold trail that winds its way up the hill behind the township. Stride through the regenerating bush and pass a network of water races that supplied water to the sluicing operations of the Ross Goldfields. There will be an opportunity to pan for gold here. You will walk past old miners huts and dams, and through the rainforest clad hills between the Totara and Mikonui Rivers.

Enjoy a picnic lunch before starting the Hari Hari Coastal Walk. Following the old packhorse tracks alongside the Wanganui River you will experience a mixture of bush and beach walking. Be on the lookout for seals heading off into the surf before you make your way into the lush rainforest via one of the many bridges along the track.

Tonight you will enjoy an evening meal in the interesting alpine village of Franz Josef, nestled at the foot of the Southern Alps.

Day 2: Franz Josef - Franz Josef

On Day 2 of the Franz Josef Trail you depart on foot from the centre of Franz Josef township, your guide will lead the group up to a high terrace behind the village on the Callery-Waiho Walk. The track passes old sluice pipes, which are still used to provide the town water supply. You will walk alongside an old goldmining water-race before descending to the Callery Gorge Bridge.

At Douglas Bridge you will take a look at some interesting plant life within the 40-year old shrub forest on the Douglas Walkway. Next stop along the way is Peters Pool, a kettle lake formed by melting ice in 1800AD. The track climbs onto ancient glacial moraine where your guide unfolds some fascinating natural history on how the glacial landform developed from 1600AD to 1750AD. Spectacular views of the glaciers can be appreciated from here, which makes it the perfect spot to take a break and munch on some lunch.

From this point you begin the Franz Josef Glacier Walk, following a rocky path over the riverbed and along the track that will take you close to the ice. You will be kept busy with boulder hopping, scenic waterfalls and a few small stream crossings.

Enjoy another night in Franz Josef village and a great meal with your group.

Day 3: Franz Josef - Okarito - Fox Glacier

This morning's walk will start in Okarito, a small coastal settlement surrounded by the panorama of ocean, tidal estuary, sea cliffs, lush forest and unsurpassed views of the Southern Alps.

Take a few minutes out to spot some distinctive West Coast beach pebbles as you walk along the foreshore amongst the rocks. At the bridge on a clear day you can see the awe-inspiring mighty Mount Cook and surrounding Southern Alps.

Indulge in amazing panoramic views of the Westland National Park coastline before your guide leads you along the inland route, and then over the Kohuamarua Bluff. This is a great spot to meander through towering rimu, rata and silver pine forest, before dropping down to a quiet sheltered lagoon.

After lunch you can take a peek inside the hut on the old jetty at Okarito. Here you can view old photos of the area and there is a storyboard illustrating the history of Okarito. This afternoon you will then view the dramatic ice on the Fox Glacier Walk. After inspecting ice in the river and enjoying the boulder hopping, you view the striking terminal ice face, which is a spectacular experience.

With a very unique and diverse day of walking under your belt you overnight in the town of Fox Glacier and enjoy restaurant dining with fantastic views of the area.

Day 4: Lake Matheson - Hokitika - Christchurch

Today is the final day of the Franz Josef Trail, before breakfast, you will take in truly stunning vistas on the Lake Matheson Walk. Your group will stroll along a very pleasant track with plenty of viewing platforms for capturing the famous mirror images of Mount Cook, Tasman and La Perous from different angles.

The lake is nestled in ancient forest in the Te Wahipounamu South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area, which includes the Westland Tai Pountini National Park. The lake was formed over 14,000 years ago when the Fox Glacier retreated from its last major advance towards the sea and left a depression which later filled with water.

After your walk around Lake Matheson you will enjoy a hearty and much deserved breakfast before setting off back to Hokitika. The Franz Josef Trailfinishes in Hokitika.

Return to Christchurch by:
  • TranzAlpine (extra cost)
  • Coach (no extra cost)
Ask our team for details.

If you wish to continue your stay in the West Coast region or explore another area of the South Island there are hire car facilities in Greymouth.
  • Walking
Hrs, KM

Dates For Next Summer

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What's Included

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Franz Josef Trail


Day One
  • Modern motel units with king bed, or king and single bed, kitchenette and ensuite bathroom.

Day Two
  • Modern motel units with king bed, or king and single bed, kitchenette and ensuite bathroom.

Day Three
  • Modern motel studio units with queen or queen and single beds, ensuite bathroom and great mountain views.

*Please note accommodation is double or twin share. If single room accommodation is requested, an additional fee of NZ$394 per person is payable to cover this requirement for the duration of the walk.


You will enjoy great local cuisine; continental breakfasts and hearty packed lunches during the day, and either restaurant meals or wholesome home-cooked fare prepared by your host/hostess in the evenings.

If you have any dietary issues or food allergies, we are happy to cater for these, please advise the office of details when you make your booking.

All meals are included in your tour cost. Wine and other beverages are available to be purchased during dinners.

Franz Josef Trail Tour Food

Fully Guided

Our guides are very experienced, friendly walkers and bikers who love to share their knowledge of New Zealand’s flora and fauna and local history. They all hold current first aid certificates, passenger driving licences and are the very best people to ensure your experience will be one to remember.

Franz Josef Trail Tour Guides
Staff induction day

Franz Josef Trail Tour Guides

Social Time

Exclusive to Tuatara Tours - Tour Kit Bag

To ensure you get the very best out of your journey with the least of fuss, we provide you with a calico kit bag full of useful goodies on the morning of your tour departure.

Franz Josef Trail Tour Guides kit

Franz Josef Trail Tour History
      Free Field and History Guide

Your Tour Kit Bag Contains the Following

Contents may vary from time to time!
  • Tuatara Tours cap
  • Tuatara Tours cup
  • Tuatara Tours drink bottle
  • Tuatara Tours hand sanitiser
  • Tuatara Tours tissues
  • Tuatara Tours lip balm and sunblock
  • Tuatara Tours emergency whistle
  • Tuatara Tours brochures
  • Field & History Guide of the area
  • Bag of Tuatara scroggin
  • Bag of Tuatara energy plus confectionary
Contents may vary from time to time!  


Tuatara Tours transports all your luggage for the duration of the tour.

All you carry is a small day pack with your personal gear, drink and lunch.

We do the Rest

What Do I Bring

For your own safety there are a few things that you must bring yourself:
  • Footwear with good ankle support – we recommend good hiking boots
  • Thermal top wool or polypro
  • Thermal bottom wool or polypro or long trousers
  • Waterproof parka with hood
  • Waterproof overtrousers
  • Fleece jacket or woollen jersey
  • Woollen or fleece hat
  • Gloves
  • Medium size day pack
Other things we recommend you bring are:  
  • Woollen socks
  • Dressing gown
  • Hat, sunglasses
  • Drink bottle – at least one litre capacity (we supply you with one bottle, but you may wish to bring another)
  • Swim wear
  • Sunscreen & insect repellent
  • Flannel
  • Camera
  • Small personal first aid kit including blister block or similar, Motion sickness medication, anti-histamines for bee stings
  • Casual attire for the evenings
  • Any other personal items
  • Your sense of humour

Safety and Risk Management

To ensure maximum safety for all, our guides are certified first aiders and fully qualified drivers. Tuatara Tours operate under a Safety and Risk Management Plan which is regularly audited and approved by a qualified and independent auditor.

Dates For Next Summer

Contact us now for a date for your group
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Franz Josef download


For dates, availability & customisations Enquire

Dates For Next Summer

Contact us now for a date for your group
btn enquire

Franz Josef download


For dates, availability & customisations Enquire


Franz Josef Trail - Free Field and History Guide

On the Franz Josef Trail we provide you a comprehensive field and history summary of the West Coast from Hokitika to Fox Glacier
Franz Josef Trail Tour History  
  • Geology
  • Fauna
  • Flora
  • Did You Know?
  • Maori History
  • And more...


Early Maori called Franz Josef, Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere The Tears of the Avalanche Girl (Hinehukatere).

Maori legend explains very poetically how the glaciers advance from snowfields high in the Southern Alps.

Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Tawe, to climb with her. Tawe fell from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears froze to form the glacier.

According to legend, the Maori chief Ngahue was brought to the West Coast of the South Island around 950 AD by the canoe Tahiriangi

Archaeological evidence suggests the first Maori settlers lived a coastal existence; exploring the mountains, bush in search of pounamu (jade or greenstone).

Because of the hardness of pounamu, it was prized for making ornaments tools and weapons of warfare.

Flora and Fauna

Flora: A huge area of the West Coast remains in an almost original state. Some areas nearer the coast have been cleared for farming and mining but there remains huge areas of conifer, broadleaf and beech forests.

Fauna: Because of the large forested areas on the West Coast, the abundance of native birds is greater than in most other parts of New Zealand. Conifer and broadleaf forests tend to support larger bird populations than beech forest because it is richer in food sources.

Before the arrival of man the area was populated by an abundance of bird life. Previously as an important food source for Maori and more recently because of the introduction of cats, stoats, ferrets and weasels by the European settlers, bird numbers and varieties have been drastically reduced.

Fortunately the region hosts a number of rare and protected birds such as kea, the New Zealand falcon, rock wrens, black stilt, wrybills, and black–fronted terns and these can still be seen today.

Introduced deer, thar, and chamois can also be found here and are hunted recreationally.

Tree fern found opening Koru
Tree fern found opening
NZ Whitebait West Coast Delicacy
NZ Whitebait
West Coast Delicacy
NZ Native Pigon Kereru
NZ Native Pigon


Although forestry is still an important industry on the West Coast, logging of nearly all native species has been stopped to preserve the pristine environment for future generations.

Gold and coal mining as well as tourism and fishing are now the main areas of industry in this region.

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new zealand: 0800 377 378
australia: 1800 044 633
world: +64 3 962 3280