Heli-Hiking Adventure on Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand
I was a glacier virgin. I had never seen one in person before, much less set foot on one. That all changed though as the helicopter lifted off and took off towards the incredible Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island.
Almost as soon as the Glacier Helicopters flight lifted off, Mt. Cook popped into view, a looming presence throughout the area. We skirted over the lush rainforest and before I knew it, we were on top of the glacier. It’s amazing really; the glacier looks exactly like a glacier should look. It was a vast, frozen river leading from the tops of the mountains to the valley below. We landed at the top for a little exploration and impromptu snowball fights before taking off again to zoom past the massive crevices of the ice mountain. The ride back included even more impressive views of the glacier and the flat plains below leading to the Tasman Sea. It really is strange to see the glacier adjacent to the mild valley below. There’s something surreal about it all and that makes it one of the best adventure activities in New Zealand.
For your own glacier adventure, visit the small mountain town of Franz Josef where you can find tour providers operating a variety of ice-based activities, including these extraordinary helicopter tours.
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The Glacier of Legends
Brace yourself for the physical pull you'll feel as you approach the dramatic, 7.5 mile long glacier named Franz Josef, in Westland National Park in New Zealand. Together with the nearby 12 mile long Fox Glacier, you'll be astounded by this unique topography only 900 feet above sea level that is set in a temperate rainforest. How is that even possible?!
It's easy to see why this is now a part of a World Heritage Site park. The glacier was named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by the German explorer, Julius von Haast in 1865.
The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere and means 'the tears of Hinehukatere'. According to Maori legend, Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. An avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death and Hinehukatere was broken hearted. Her many, many tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier.
I loved my seasons leading biking trips in New Zealand so much that most mornings, I wake up hoping that I'll just magically be back there when I open my eyes. The cycling on the South Island is sensational and the sweeping changes in geography and scenery are impossible to beat.
This 9 night, 10 day trip is also a 'hidden multisport' trip in that you have chances to do other activities along the way. Heli hiking, scenic flights, bunjee jumping and beautiful hikes and walks await. You're in the adventure capital of the world!