Franz Josef Glacier
PHOTO: Jane Nearing | Creative Commons

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Introduction

The park extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, to the rugged and remote beaches of the wild West Coast. It is an area of magnificent primeval vistas – snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, rivers, wetlands and beaches.

Highlights

This world-class scenic landscape forms part of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area and is a treasure trove of amazing geology, rare flora and fauna and wonderful history.

Place overview

Activities

  • Camping
  • Climbing
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Mountain biking
  • Skiing and ski touring
  • Walking and tramping

Facilities

  • Visitor centre
  • Check clean dry
    Stop the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.

    Remember to Check, Clean, Dry all items before entering, and when moving between, waterways.

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Westland Tai Poutini National Park

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About track difficulties
About track difficulties
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Guided glacier walks

If you want to get closer to, or onto the glaciers, the safe way is to book a guided trip from Fox Glacier Weheka or Franz Josef Waiau.  Guided operators operate in each village and provide a safe, informative way to get up close and personal with these amazing rivers of ice. 

Mountaineering and ski touring

The high peaks within the park are a mecca for mountaineers, but are only suitable for the fit and experienced. There are five huts within the park which cater for climbers and ski-tourers.

Mountain biking

There are two tracks in Westland Tai Poutini National Park where bikes allowed – Te Ara a Waiau walkway/cycleway (Franz Josef Waiau) and Te Weheka walkway/cycleway (Fox Glacier Weheka). These joint use tracks enable legal, partially off-road bike access from the respective townships to the glacier valley road end car parks. Bike access is not permitted on any adjoining tracks or up to the glaciers.  

Mountain biking is also allowed on formed roads in the park – the North Ōkārito and Saltwater forests (north of Franz Josef Waiau) provide good opportunities.

Gold fossicking

A recreational gold fossicking area is located on the Waiho River bed in the general area between the Callery Gorge suspension bridge and the Waiho River road bridge. You are welcome to try your luck at finding gold with a gold pan or sluice box. No licence is required but your respect is appreciated.

Accessing the gold fossicking area:

  • off SH6 at the Waiho River bridge, approximately 200 metres south of the Franz Josef Waiauvillage. Access is up the true right of the Waiho River, and dependent on river conditions you may be able to get as far as the Callery Bridge from this access point.
  • using the Franz Josef Glacier road which provides access to the section of the gold fossicking area on the true left of the Waiho River.

Do not attempt to cross the Callery or Waiho Rivers on foot as both are very swift, cold and dangerous. Use the Waiho Road bridge.

A map of the area can be obtained from the Crown Minerals website. Please check the map carefully as the gold fossicking area is not marked.

Enquire at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre for more details.

Read the gold fossicking care code

Booking tourist activities

Scenic flights operate over the glaciers and alpine snowfields, and sky diving operates from both Franz Josef Waiau and Fox Glacier Weheka. Many other tourism opportunities operate in, or just adjacent to, the park boundaries including boat, kayak and quad bike tours.

Bookings can be made directly with operators or through the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitors Centre and i-SITE.

Child/family friendly activities

Kiwi Ranger Programme

The Kiwi Ranger Programme is a free, fun and interactive way to get to know this special place. There are activities for young and old alike, and a badge is awarded on completion.

Kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking is available on many lakes and rivers in the park, and there is a self-guided kayak trail on the Ōkārito Lagoon.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe from Mount Fox. Photo: Liz Brown.
    Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe from Mount Fox

    Westland Tai Poutini National Park was established in 1960. Split by the Alpine Fault, it is a place of dramatic contrasts.

    To the east of the fault mountains rise suddenly, and steep forested slopes are cut deeply with impassable gorges.

    High above, permanent snowfields feed a myriad of glaciers, including Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe and Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, which descend right down to the lowlands.

    Dense rainforest covers the lowlands west of the fault. Nearer the coast, there are scenic lakes, wetlands and wide river mouths.  

    Douglas Walk. Photo copyright: Katrina Henderson.
    Douglas Walk

    Wading birds and other water-loving creatures thrive in the wetlands around the coast. The threatened kāmana/crested grebe, can be found on Lake Māpōurika, and Ōkārito Lagoon is famous for the stunning kōtuku/white heron.

    In the heart of lowland forest lives the only population of the endangered rowi – New Zealand’s rarest kiwi. Kea are common throughout the park, and the forest is alive with birdlife. 

    Getting there

    Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located about halfway down the rugged West Coast of the South Island. The only road access is on SH6, via Hokitika in the north (approximately one and a half hours drive) or from the south via Haast (approximately two hours drive). 

    The townships of Franz Josef/Waiau and Fox Glacier/Weheka are on the park boundary and offer various services including accommodation, service stations, grocery stores and souvenir shops. Ōkārito is also on the edge of the park and has several accommodation options. 

    The closest commercial airport is in Hokitika, which has daily flights from Christchurch. There are also regular bus services along the coast.

    Know before you go

    Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

    Check weather and track conditions

    Westland Tai Poutini National Park lies in the path of the prevailing westerly winds, which can bring heavy rain at any time of the year, with up to five metres falling annually. 

    Weather conditions can change dramatically, in a short space of time, so make sure you check the latest forecast at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre and i-SITE in Franz Josef/Waiau or at the South Westland/Weheka Area Office in Fox Glacier/Weheka. 

    While you are there, make sure you check the current track conditions to ensure you have the most up-to-date information before heading out to explore the park.

    Weather for Westland Tai Poutini National Park - Westland forecast 

     Safety signs Franz Josef Glacier.
    Safety signs, Franz Josef Glacier

    Equipment

    Come prepared to encounter all conditions – you should carry warm and waterproof clothing with you at all times.  And don’t forget to bring insect repellent as sandflies are prevalent.  

    If you use the track system in the park for overnight trips, make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared. Make sure your group has a capable leader and that everyone is carrying a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, sufficient high energy food (with some extra for emergencies), a waterproof raincoat and overtrousers, gloves, a hat, and several layers of warm (wool or fleece) clothing.

    Visiting the glaciers

    See the visiting the glaciers safety information and obey all signs and rope barriers during your visit. 

    Visit the Glacier Country website to view the latest daily glacier access update.

    Contacts

    Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 3 752 0360
    Address:   69 Cron Street
    Franz Josef Glacier 7856
    Email:   westlandnpvc@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
    Hokitika Office
    Phone:   +64 3 756 9100
    Address:   10 Sewell Street
    Hokitika 7810
    Email:   hokitika@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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