The frozen landscape of the Franz Josef Glacier is set in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Chosen for its magnificence as one of the filming locations of Ered Nimrais in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the glacier is 12 km (7.5 mi) long and lies in the World Heritage Site park of Te Wahipounamu. It is currently advancing at the rate of 70 cm (27.5 in) a day, fed by the snowfield above it – so the landscape alters daily.
Within driving and walking distance from the main highway, the popularity of the glacier draws in around 250,000 visitors a year who marvel at the wall of ice in all its glory.
All walks now incorporate the “Heli Hike”, a helicopter flight up past the glacial face due to its instability. Once there, unguided walks up the glacier are possible; however for safety you can instead opt for one of the experienced guided walks on offer. Visitors should ensure they are equipped yourself with the correct specialized kit. Walks can include trekking through the many passages of breathtaking ice tunnels and viewing frozen waterfalls.