A Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tour is an adventure of a lifetime.
Imagine yourself flying through the air, above the lush landscapes and snow-capped mountaintops. There’s layers upon layers of green, gray, and white. Off in the distance, you’ll catch the glimpse of a pale blue lake, just the kind of turquoise waters you’ll find in New Zealand. Gently, you’ll drift down to land, only to be surrounded by fluffy, white snow and imposing peaks. Now, this experience doesn’t have to remain a dream or imaginary situation. It’s waiting for you at Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Franz Josef Glacier Video
We’ve captured our adventure in this short cinematic travel video, so you can witness the magic of a Franz Josef Glacier helicopter ride for yourself. We’ve also included footage from Hokitika Gorge in this video, which is an exciting natural wonder just a short drive away from Franz Josef.
Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Tour
Have you ever flown in a helicopter before? Justin and I have only taken a helicopter flight once before in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. Needless to say, we had an extraordinary time and couldn’t wait to fly up high in the sky once again.
Glaciers are a phenomenon of nature and it’s a unique experience to view them from above. Flying up over the ice and snow allows you to admire glaciers from entirely new perspectives. View crevasses, pinnacles, and the deep blue ice of the glacier. Taking a helicopter tour in New Zealand is certainly a bucket list activity and one that’s worth the price.
We booked our Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tour with Heliservices.NZ, conveniently located in three locations on the South Island’s west coast: Haast, Fox Glacier, and Franz Josef Glacier. As Justin and I spent the previous night at Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef, it only made sense to depart from that town. Franz Josef Glacier is a small town and our hotel was only a couple of minutes away from the Heliservices.NZ tour office.
Our New Zealand Helicopter Tour
There are multiple options for scenic flights at the Heliservices.NZ website. You can choose to fly over Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, or a combination of both. There are lengthier tours that fly around Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and the Tasman Glacier. Regardless of the tour you choose, you’ll witness spectacular views of the Southern Alps.
Justin and I opted to take the “Twin Glacier” tour to marvel at both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier from above. We crossed over the ridge separating the two glaciers. This beautiful scenery was definitely a highlight of the excursion, although there were breathtaking views around every turn. Thankfully, we had a clear day and the weather was cooperating perfectly.
At the midway point of our tour, our helicopter landed…not back at the original starting point, but on top of a glacier! That’s right, we made a snow landing on a glacier. Stepping foot outside of the helicopter into the fluffy snow was an exhilarating adventure. We made our first footsteps into the snow and walked a short distance from the helicopter. It was a bright and white scene; all we could see were massive snow drifts with distant mountains behind them.
I breathed in. The air was chilling, fresh, and clean. I picked up some snow in my hands and tossed it into the air. It’s easy to feel a connection to this beautiful scenery when the whole experience makes you feel so alive. Embarking on an excursion to ride a helicopter in New Zealand wasn’t only thrilling, but allowed us to visit a place that we’d otherwise never see.
After snapping some photographs, our small group was ushered back into the helicopter. We’d be treated to another round of stunning panoramic scenes from inside the helicopter before making our final descent into the town.
What You Need To Know
There are a few key pieces of information that you should know before you go on your Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tour. When you’re booking your tour online, you’ll see numerous time slots and various tours. We took the Twin Glacier tour in November at 10:30am. Justin and I booked the morning tour, just after checking out from our hotel, to maximize our time for the rest of the day. I recommend booking your tour in advance because the tours could fill up, especially the more popular time slots during high tourism months.
First, be sure to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled New Zealand helicopter ride. This allows you to fill out the proper waiver forms and prepare yourself for your trip. Leave everything in the car that you don’t need to bring with you: purses, bags, backpacks, etc. You’re allowed to bring your phone and your camera gear.
What to Bring (& Not Bring)
Don’t bring any selfie sticks on your flight as they can be a safety hazard. Additionally, you may not use iPads to take pictures while in the helicopter as they can block the view of the pilot and other passengers. So, you’re encouraged to bring your phones, cameras (whether pocket sized or DSLR) and GoPros, but not iPads or selfie sticks.
Bring sunglasses (the snow can be very bright!) and hiking shoes/sneakers (as long as they have a closed toe) because you’ll be walking in the snow. There’s no need to bring anything else. You’ll survive out there without hats, mittens, scarves, and so on. When landing on the glacier, the temperatures are five to ten degrees cooler than down below, so dress accordingly.
Where To Stay
Looking for a hotel or accommodation in Franz Josef Glacier? We stayed at a Deluxe Tree Lodge at Rainforest Retreat and we highly recommend it.
This premium suite at Rainforest Retreat is not your typical hotel room. Spacious and stylish, the Deluxe Tree Lodge is a standalone house, rising above the forest. The house is high above the ground with a car park beneath it. Each tree lodge or tree hut is self contained, meaning that your neighbors are a great distance away. As you can imagine, you won’t hear a sound at night, unless you leave the windows open to listen to the gentle ambiance of nature.
It’s right in the middle of Franz Josef, acting as the perfect home base for countless day trips or expeditions in the area. All excursion offices are right on the main street in town, and Rainforest Retreat is practically around the corner. Click here to book your stay at Rainforest Retreat, and be sure to check out reviews from fellow travelers.
So, are you pumped to take the activity of a lifetime? I hope you take a New Zealand helicopter trip when you travel there. It was one of our favorite and most memorable journeys of our entire holiday.
Want to see more photos from our journey? Click here to see our entire Franz Josef Glacier photo album. You can also purchase printed photos, canvas pictures, housewares, phone cases, and much more directly from our Smugmug photography site.
Thank you so much to Heliservices.NZ and 100% Pure New Zealand for sponsoring a portion of our Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tours.