An unmissable stop on the west coast of the Southern Island of New Zealand, the Franz Josef Glacier is unusual among glaciers, being located just 300 meters above sea level. As such, it's extremely easy to access and many tourists visit each year.
Nevertheless, after an hour's walk through the valley, I was quite disappointed that I hadn't really managed to get any closer to the glacier. In fact, a warmer climate and excessive visitors numbers have led to the glacier withdrawing by a few kilometers in the space of just a few decades. Nevertheless, the valley in the glow of the glacier's bluish hues is truly exceptional.
I suggest that you make the most of the early evening and visit the hot pools in Franz Josef Village, relax, and enjoy the thermal pools. They are a perfect remedy for anyone who has pressed on while walking and is starting to feel the onset of aches and pains as a result.
Finally, if you've not yet managed to see a real kiwi (the birds, that is, not the people!), you can visit the Wildlife Center, which serves as an incubator for kiwis. As I have had the chance to observe them in the wild, I can't tell you what the center is like, but it could be your only opportunity to see them in the flesh.
The first images that pop up in my mind when I think back to Franz Josef Glacier are the hordes of tourists walking toward the glacier. All enhanced by the noise from helicopters. Because access to Franz Josef Glacier is very easy (about 40 minutes from the parking lot), this spot draws big crowds.
If, like me, you're content to just walk to the glacier, you may be a little disappointed. In fact, unlike Fox Glacier, it's impossible to get close to the foot of Franz Josef, and you will only be able to see the colossal ice field from far off.
To see it from a closer spot, ask in the village, as a number of companies offer a walk on the glacier. They'll give you the adequate equipment and guide you on the ice.
If you like hikes, go to Okarito, about thirty kilometers from Franz Josef. There you can go for a nice walk along the seashore. In the distance, you'll have a wonderful view of the snow-capped mountains.