After my fantastic experience of hiking on Franz Josef Glacier, I’d had a taste of taking to the skies in my first ever helicopter ride and I really wanted to see more of the surrounding landscape. As part of the hike, you get to experience a 5-minute ride to and from the base of the glacier, but it’s fairly short lived. The great thing about Fox and Franz Josef Heliservices is that they have a range of options to allow you to explore the region from above.
There are four different flight options, and it will be no surprise to learn that the more you pay, the longer the flight duration and the more you see. All of the flights include a snow landing, and it really feels like a special privilege to be able to explore a patch of glacier free from footprints.
For $195, spend 20 minutes flying 6000 feet over either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, landing in the pristine snow for spectacular views across the Fox neve towards Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
Only departing from Fox Glacier and taking approximately 30 minutes, this flight takes you up over Fox Glacier and onwards towards the west faces of both mountains. This also includes a snow landing with some fantastic photo opportunities.
For $275, you can take in exceptional views of both Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. During this 30-minute trip, you will fly over one glacier, experience a snow landing and return via the other. On a clear day, there will also be the chance to photograph Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
This all-inclusive flight is the grand tour. As well as both glaciers and a snow landing, you will fly by the mountains and, weather permitting, cross the main divide for views of the Tasman Glacier as well. This option is $375 and takes 40 minutes.
Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. A helicopter flight is a great way to see the scenery and suits even nervous fliers. The journey is smooth and you will barely notice the take off or a change in direction.
They supply you with protective head sets and ensure that you are securely buckled into your seat.
All that’s left for you to do is sit back, relax, take in the views and snap photos through the clear glass windows.
It’s common in New Zealand for tour operators to take photos of you or your group and to give you the option of purchasing a small selection or a keyring at the end of your experience.
On this scenic flight, our guide went one step further. After landing high above the glacier, he took a photo of our group with the helicopter behind us and then, just minutes later, presented us with a photo package before we’d even left the glacier!
GETTING TO FRANZ JOSEF
Intercity Buses provide services to Franz Josef from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Greymouth (4 hours); Wanaka (6.5 hours); Queenstown (8.5 hours). Further transfers are available from these locations. Use the tool below to search for specific journeys or click through to the Intercity website for multi-journey discounts and information on day trips and activities.
WHERE TO STAY
For a relaxing stay just across the road from the Glacial Hot Pools, you should look no further than Rainforest Retreat. Immersed in forest is a wide selection of accommodation to suit any budget, including hostel dorms, motel rooms and private lodges, tree houses and huts. There’s a spa, sauna and massage therapist on site if you’re aching after your hike, or you can fill up on food and booze in the Monsoon Bar, where the slogan reads ‘If it rains, we pour!’
I was a guest of Fox and Franz Josef Heliservices. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.