Franz Josef Glacier
Over the last 200 years the relatively steep Franz Josef Glacier has frequently advanced and then withdrawn again. On balance, however, it has retreated markedly. Meltwater from the glacier forms the Waiko River.A narrow road (6km) runs along the south side of the Waiko valley to the parking area at the mouth of the glacier. On the way there it is worth taking the side roads going off to Peter's Pool, Sentinel Rock and various lookouts with views of the glacier.A walk (2 hours there and back) over the wide river bed and rocks polished by the ice leads to a viewpoint at the glacier's mouth. For a walk over the glacier itself it is best to join one of the guided tours, which are available twice a day.
There is a breathtaking view of the Franz Josef Glacier from the Alex Knob (1295m).
Franz Josef Glacier Village, New Zealand
The village called Franz Josef Glacier is a popular tourist resort. The little church of St James was built in 1931. From its chancel window there was once a good view of the glacier.
8km north of the Franz Josef Glacier village on Highway 6 is the idyllic little Lake Makourapi, whose waters mirror the majestic alpine peaks and green expanses of forest. The lake is the haunt of many bird species.
Okarito, New Zealand
25km north of Franz Josef Glacier village is Okarito, a small township founded by gold miners in the 1860s. In good weather there are marvelous views of the Southern Alps from here.
The Okarito Lagoon is a bird sanctuary, established to protect the white heron. This is its only nesting place in New Zealand. There are guided bird watching walks from November to February.