The Ultimate Guide from Queenstown to Franz Josef

Adventure Editorial Inspiration
Are you planning a trip from Queenstown to Franz Josef?  In this ultimate guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about this scenic journey.  From understanding the route to sightseeing opportunities along the way, we've got you covered.  

The Journey Highlights from Queenstown to Franz Josef

The journey from Queenstown to Franz Josef is an unforgettable expedition through the heart of New Zealand's South Island, offering a tapestry of breathtaking landscapes and iconic destinations.  As you embark on this scenic drive, you will be immersed in a world of natural wonders and cultural richness that define the essence of this region.

One of the first stops you should make on your journey is the captivating Lake Wanaka.  Nestled amidst the Southern Alps, this glacial lake is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.  Take a moment to breathe in the crisp mountain air, marvel at the mirror-like surface of the lake, and perhaps even indulge in a leisurely lakeside picnic to truly savor the serenity of this picturesque setting.

Lake Hawea can be a surprise to travellers making their way between Franz Josef and Queenstown.  This beautiful lake covers 141 square kilometres, with calm, flat water reflecting the mountain peaks that surround it.  Lake Wanaka is close by, situated in another glacier valley, eight kilometres to the west, although at their closest point they are just 1000 metres apart.  The lake itself is damned at the southern end by terminal morriane left by the glacier some 10,000 years ago.

A popular and much photographed spot is the 'Blue Pools'.  Pull over and take a short stroll through beech/tawhero forest to a swing bridge that crosses the Makarora River.  Follow the boardwalk to a viewing platform over the Blue Pools then cross the Blue Pools bridge for great views up the river gorge.

In addition to the natural attractions, there are also cultural and historical sites to discover.  Visit the small town of Makarora, known for its rich history and Maori heritage.  It's a chance to learn about the indigenous culture and take part in traditional activities.

Continuing on your route, the town of Haast emerges as a gateway to the untamed beauty of the West Coast.  Here, you can meander through the enchanting Haast Pass, a scenic drive that winds its way through ancient rainforests and rugged mountains.  Be sure to stop along the way to admire the cascading waterfalls, verdant valleys, and dramatic landscapes that unfold before your eyes, offering a glimpse into the raw, unspoiled wilderness of New Zealand. 

A good lookout stop is Knights Point which is around 20 minutues further north. 

As you continue your journey, make a stop at the South Eastern Salmon Farm Cafe for a coffee or bite to eat.  It's also where you can see first hand how salmon are raised and processed.  This is a unique opportunity to learn about the local industry and sample some fresh and delicious salmon products.

Before reaching Franz Josef,  you've the option to visit another glacier.  Similar to Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier is a mesmerizing sight that is definitely worth a visit.  If you have time, you can book a heli-hike to get up close and personal with this frozen wonder.

One of the highlights of this journey is of course the opportunity to witness the majestic Franz Josef Glacier.  Known for its awe-inspiring beauty, this glacier offers a unique and unforgettable experience.  Consider taking a guided tour or a helicopter ride to truly immerse yourself in this natural wonder.

Travel Time and Distance

The journey from Queenstown to Franz Josef spans approximately 5 hours, covering a distance of around 350 kilometers.  While the allure of reaching your destination may be strong, the true essence of this expedition lies in the journey itself.  Embrace the leisurely pace of travel, allowing yourself to immerse in the natural splendor that surrounds you and to forge a deeper connection with the land and its stories. 

Best Time to Travel

The best time to undertake this journey is during the spring and summer months (October to March) when the weather is milder and the days are longer.  This will give you ample time to explore the sights and make the most of your trip.

In terms of essential items to pack, make sure you have comfortable clothing, sunscreen, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes.  Keep in mind that the weather can change quickly in this region, so it is always a good idea to be prepared for various conditions.

Transport Options

When it comes to transportation options, there are two main choices: self-drive or public transport:

Self-Drive - If you prefer the freedom to explore at your own pace, renting a car is a fabulous option.  Furthermore, there are several car rental companies in Queenstown that offer a range of vehicles suitable for different budgets and preferences.  Make sure to book in advance to secure the best deal.

Bus  - If driving isn't your cup of tea, there are public transport options available.  You can choose to take an Intercity bus from Queenstown to Franz Josef.  This option allows you to sit back, relax, and let someone else take care of the driving while you enjoy the magnificent views.