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Things to do in West Coast, South Island

Our most recommended things to do in West Coast, South Island

Franz Josef: Half-Day Glacier Helicopter and Hiking Tour

1. Franz Josef: Half-Day Glacier Helicopter and Hiking Tour

Get out into nature and experience the wilderness on this tour of the Franz Josef Glacier. Soar in the air in a helicopter, trek with glacier boots and crampons, and take in the fascinating colors of the ice flow. Meet at the Franz Josef Village base in the Westland National Park and hop into a helicopter. Fly up to the glacier and land on a section pre-checked for safety by your guide. Equipped with glacier boots and crampons, walk through ice formations and pinnacles for 2 hours. Touch the ice, breathe in the fresh air, and take note of the unique color of the glacier. Hike back to the helicopter and return to the base with a profound respect for nature.

Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

2. Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

Explore the ancient icefalls of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on a 30-minute helicopter flight. Experience the thrill of a snow landing with spectacular photo opportunities, and create unforgettable memories. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers provides stunning ice architecture and are two of the few glaciers in the world which exist in such close proximity to both an ocean and a rainforest. Make your way to a central location in Franz Josef township, where you will check in for your flight. Strap yourself in to your seat and prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime ride, soaring above the pristine scenery for spectacular aerial views of the glaciers. Listen to engaging inflight commentary from your experienced pilot and admire the stunning frozen landscape below through the panoramic windows. Midway through the flight, your helicopter hovers above the ice and snow before making a thrilling snow landing at the summit of one of the glaciers. Step out onto the breathtaking, frozen landscape to soak in the views and capture some incredible photos. Then return to the helicopter for the flight back to base.

Fox Glacier: Up to 3 Hours Hike with Helicopter Transfer

3. Fox Glacier: Up to 3 Hours Hike with Helicopter Transfer

Enjoy a thrilling hiking and helicopter experience on Fox Glacier. Marvel at dramatic landscapes from above, including spectacular ice caves, icefalls and Victoria Falls, which is the melted river from the hidden Victoria glacier. Land on the ice in a remote part of the glacier. Get fitted with crampons that are specially designed for icy conditions. Follow the ice steps cut by your guide as you explore the amazing formations and ice caves. Each departure is a truly unique experience as there are so many changing features. Depending on the weather, spend up to 3 hours on the ice before boarding your helicopter to return to the take off point.

Franz Josef Town: Glacier Helicopter Tour with Snow Landing

4. Franz Josef Town: Glacier Helicopter Tour with Snow Landing

Take in some of New Zealand’s most impressive mountains during a helicopter ride. Land among them for even more spectacular views and fantastic photo opportunities. Meet at the local partner’s office to check in and attend a safety briefing. Then, following a transfer to a private hangar, you will meet your pilot and board the helicopter for takeoff. Put your headset on to enjoy your pilot's guided commentary. Fly over the terminal moraine of the ancient Franz Josef Glacier and up the valley over the ice river. Take in the ice pinnacles and crevasses before flying onwards amongst the impressive Southern Alps. Land on an elevated landing site to enjoy stunning views of some of New Zealand’s highest mountains. You will have plenty of time to take incredible photos before returning to the hangar.

Franz Josef Town: 3-Glacier Helicopter Ride with Landing

5. Franz Josef Town: 3-Glacier Helicopter Ride with Landing

Take in three of New Zealand’s most impressive glaciers during a helicopter ride. Land on the elevated snow landing site to take photos of the spectacular views. Meet at the local partner’s office to check in and attend a safety briefing. Then, following a transfer to a private hangar, you will meet your pilot and board the helicopter for takeoff. Put your headset on to listen to your pilot's guided commentary. Fly over the terminal moraine of the ancient Franz Josef Glacier and up the valley to see the big three from above. The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are ice rivers that plug New Zealand's longest glacier: the Tasman Glacier. Take in their ice pinnacles and crevasses while flying amongst some of New Zealand’s biggest mountains. Admire Mount Cook in the impressive Southern Alps. Land on an elevated snow landing site to enjoy stunning views of Westland Tai Poutini National Park for 15 minutes. You will have plenty of time to take photos before returning to the hangar.

Franz Josef: Helicopter Trip over Two Glaciers

6. Franz Josef: Helicopter Trip over Two Glaciers

See two of New Zealand’s biggest glaciers — the Franz Josef and Fox or Tasman glaciers with uninterrupted views from a helicopter. Fly amongst the Southern Alps, admiring the ice pinnacles and canyons whilst learning about the awesome spectacle from your professional guide. After you check-in and have a safety briefing, you will be transferred to a private hanger, where you will meet your pilot and guide and board the helicopter. You will be provided headsets in order to hear your guide’s commentary. You will have the opportunity to stop and explore by foot at an elevated snow landing site for 15 minutes, perfect for taking photos.

Queenstown: Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise

7. Queenstown: Spirit of Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Scenic Cruise

Cruise farther and see more on this 1.5-hour Queenstown scenic cruise. Sit back, relax and enjoy spectacular views of the Remarkables, Bob’s Cove, Cecil Peak and Mt. Earnslaw from the comfort of the Spirit of Queenstown – an environmentally friendly and luxurious cruise boat. Take in panoramic views from the open top deck. Enjoy refreshments, snacks and lunch served in the café on board. Cruise across spectacular Lake Wakatipu as you enjoy entertaining commentary provided by the local skipper.

Franz Josef Glacier: 2.5-Hour Hike with Helicopter Transfer

8. Franz Josef Glacier: 2.5-Hour Hike with Helicopter Transfer

Soar to Franz Josef Glacier and see this 12-kilometer-long behemoth from above on a roundtrip helicopter tour from Franz Josef. Touch down on the glacier and follow your guide on a guided hike. Take in dazzling ice formations and stay warm with winter clothing and snacks along the way.  Start your journey at the glacier base in Franz Josef Town, where the team will check you in. Get kitted out with the essential gear and listen to a safety briefing. Once you are ready, follow your guide on a short walk through the native forest to the helipad to board the helicopter. After a thrilling scenic flight high above rugged terrain, land on Franz Josef Glacier and set off on a 2.25-hour guided hike. With an eye for the most spectacular ice formations, your guide will lead you through some of the most awe-inspiring glacier scenery New Zealand has to offer.  Each trip is tailored to the ability of your group, as well as the conditions on the day of your tour. During the hike, your guide will tell you stories about the local area and share their knowledge of the glacier and surrounding terrain. The glacier's features are constantly changing, so you might find yourself sliding through a narrow crevasse or between towering walls of ice, crawling through blue ice tunnels, hanging out in ice caves, or witnessing the glacier calving. 

Fox Glacier: Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing

9. Fox Glacier: Scenic Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing

Journey into the Southern Alps for this once in a lifetime helicopter flight over the Fox Glacier. Begin your adventure at the helicopter base in Fox Glacier Township, where you will be greeted by your expert team. As you take off in your helicopter, be amazed by the panoramic views over the town and surrounding landscapes before heading towards the Fox Glacier. As you draw closer to the picturesque mountains, fly over dramatic ice falls and deep crevasses before you descend for a snow landing. Here you will have an opportunity to take in your surroundings, breathe in the clean alpine air and take photos in this winter wonderland. When you are finished, join your pilot in the return flight back to the Fox Glacier Township.

Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

10. Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

Gear up for an incredible, three-hour guided kayaking experience. Begin your adventure by meeting your experienced team at the local partner's office in Franz Josef. Join them and your small group on a complimentary transfer out to Lake Mapourika. Glide effortlessly across the water, taking in panoramic views of the Southern Alps, glaciers, and untouched Jurassic rainforest reflected on the glassy waters of Lake Mapourika. Paddle into the heart of the Okarito Kiwi Bird Sanctuary, exploring the protected area with your knowledgeable guide. Tours depart at various times throughout the day. Mornings are often the calmest time of the day on the lake, a perfect choice for photographers looking to capture the beauty of the area. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an experience not to be missed during your visit to Franz Josef.

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What people are saying about West Coast, South Island

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 529 reviews

Really interesting and enjoyable activity. Our guide (Jakey) was really knowledgeable about the glacier and helped us make great memories on our trip showing us some ice caves, arches and taking photographs for us. All safety equipment including boots, warm gear, cramp-ons and poles were supplied and distribution was well organised. The helicopter ride was only short (5mins each way) but offered good views of the glacier and was an exciting addition.

The flight to Franz Joseph was the most beautiful flight I have ever taken, and I have flown a lot. We had exceptionally clear weather. The hike was challenging for someone my age, but I am so proud I did it. It was amazing! Our guide was friendly and extremely safety conscious. However, on more than one occasion I felt rushed. This was a bucket list experience for me, and that definitely detracted from the experience.

Heli hike was amazing. However…. Get your Guide tell you completely the wrong time for check in. Make sure you are there 1hr 15mins before your flight otherwise you will miss it. We were luckily able to hang around and two spaces came up on a later flight. The staff at the heli-hike were incredible and kind. Get your guide just tried to push the blame onto us.

Absolutely amazing experience. The landcrew was so nice and helpful, and Dean, the pilot, was the best. kind accommodating and just making it s treat of a lifetime to fly over the glaciers, and land in the snow not least. Worth every penny.

Amazing guide and experience! We had Brad he took his time to prepare us and then show us wonderfully around the glacier was awesome to see him as he dug stairs of ice in front of us!! Amazing sights and views!