Main Street in Downtown Franz Josef Glacier

NZ’s Southern Alps Helicopter Adventure

Main Street in Downtown Franz Josef Glacier
Main Street in Downtown Franz Josef Glacier

On day 13 of our New Zealand explorations, we took a 40 minute helicopter tour from the tiny town of Franz Josef Glacier, population 100 (out of season residents) – 300 (tourist season residents). We were in town during their off season—lots of locals who all knew each other, and a handful of young tourists, then: us. The little town was quiet and fantastic! (Catch up on the details of the day we drove into town with this link and the day we took the tour, hiked to the glacier, and saw 2 Rowi (rare) kiwi, at this link.)

Anyway, the helicopter tour was one of the highlights of the trip. I had no idea how small the island actually is. We drove from town to town (or lodge to lodge). The average drive was 3 – 4 hours. But, when you see things from the air, the driving distances are great because you drive along the base of the mountains. So, you end up driving way out of the way to get to the next place because you have to go around the mountain ranges. Certainly, we didn’t mind because the drives were astonishingly beautiful!

From the air, we were just a hop, skip, and jump from all of the places we had been!

The video begins with a map to orient you to the terrain you will see when flying.

During the flight, we landed the helicopter high atop Mount Tasman and got out and walked around, sinking up to our knees in the snow. The views were expansive—all the way to the Tasman Sea. The snow from Mount Tasman creates the Fox Glacier. Seeing the snow from above cracking and creating thousands of enormous crevasses was a first for me. We were flying just over the crevasses in the snow and later ice. The crevasses looked like stretch marks as the heavy weight of the snow-turned-ice slid, melting, down the canyons.

We then flew along the Frans Josef Glacier itself. The scale of things was hard to determine until we saw a helicopter and a handful of people walking on the ice below. They looked like tiny toy miniatures. These are huge mountains and glaciers, though the glaciers are melting at unprecedented speed.

Enjoy the video!