Day 22: Hokitika to Franz Josef

We left the campervan park early and continued south into the glacier region, where there are two main glaciers in the area – Franz Josef and Fox. Both have receded significantly in recent times making access difficult without a helicopter.

We had booked the Ice Explorer tour with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, which included a helicopter transfer onto the glacier, followed by a two hour guided hike across the ice. Our group was fully kitted out with boots, crampons and waterproofs and then headed to the helipad for our flight where there was a constant stream of helicopters ferrying people to and from the ice.

Once we had landed we started our trek across the ice, which was an amazing experience. Our guide carefully checked the path each step of the way, redirecting streams and breaking away loose portions of ice. Even though the glacier has shrunk so much, it is still vast and contains a variety of interesting formations. Towards the end of our hike dark clouds started forming closely followed by rain that was set to continue for the next few days, so we were lucky to fit this in!

Back on unfrozen ground we had an opportunity to use the local hot pools, before finding a free campsite at Doherty Creek, just south of Franz Josef, to stay for the night.