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True South Flights

Explore New Heights of Franz Josef Glacier with a Scenic Heli-Hike Adventure

Embarking on an outdoor adventure in New Zealand? You're on track! With its diverse geography, from white sand beaches to volcanic craters and glaciers, New Zealand promises an unforgettable experience.

Twelve kilometres long, the Franz Josef Glacier stretches across the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This is one of the most unique glaciers in the world, moving faster than many but offering a relatively temperate climate at the same time. 

These factors, combined with the low altitude of this iconic ice formation, mean that adventurous travellers from here and abroad are able to visit with a Franz Josef helicopter tour.

Touch down on the ice, hike through incredible landscapes and experience the wonder of one of Aotearoa’s most beautiful natural features. Ready to get to know one of our most popular tours? 

Read on as we break down everything you need to know, from how the Franz Josef Glacier came to be to the little details of this iconic hike.


Your Itinerary

Pick-Up from Our Friendly Transport Team

Things kick off in the morning with a convenient pick-up from our friendly transport team. We offer courtesy transport between your accommodation and Queenstown Airport. This is where the airfield is located, allowing you a smooth journey without worrying about parking.

Fixed Wing Flight from Queenstown to Franz Josef

We take you on a beautiful 60-minute fixed-wing flight from the Queenstown airfield to the Franz Josef Glacier township to get to the helicopter. Also known as Waiau, this is a small but lively village only a few kilometres from the iconic Glacier. This is where the Glacier tour’s base of operations is.

Departure times for the village are at 9am from Queenstown, so we encourage anyone who chooses to make their own way to our facility to arrive at least thirty minutes before take-off.

Equipment and Safety Briefing

You’ll be headed into the heart of a glacier, so knowing the dos and don’ts of being on the ice is important. On arrival at the Franz Josef helicopter tour facility, True South Flights will accompany you to your check-in before handing your group over to our trusted partners – the incredible Franz Josef Glacier Guides.

From there, the guide team will match you up with the right equipment and give you a safety briefing. Remember, the glacier is the fastest-moving commercially toured glacier in the world. While this journey is safe, paying close attention to the briefing is important to get the most out of your journey.

The Helicopter Ride

We don’t call this a Franz Josef helicopter tour for nothing! Take to the skies for a scenic helicopter flight over the mountain ranges, eventually touching down on the glacier itself. This usually takes about 5-7 minutes, although it can go faster depending on the conditions.

The Ice

This is the part we’ve all been waiting for. Once you touch the ice, the guides will take a moment to ensure you’re oriented; then the hike will begin.

When you hit the ice, expect to slide through narrow crevasses, step past staggeringly beautiful ice towers, or even squeeze through ice caves. Franz Josef Glacier is a moving, living ice wall, meaning no two days are the same on the ice. This is why it’s important to always listen to your guide and make the most of your experience. There’ll never be another one like it!

Once you’re glacier-ed out, it’s just a helicopter ride back into Waiau, where you can debrief, warm up, and return any equipment.

Fixed Wing Flight from Franz Josef back to Queenstown

Once you’ve touched down in Franz Josef township from your helicopter ride, we’ll whisk you into your final flight of the day to head back to Queenstown.

Where weather and time permits, we can take a different route back via Mt. Aspiring, so you’ll always have new, beautiful scenery to look at as you glide through the air.

Things to Know Before You Book

Four-Passenger Minimum

Our helicopter seats a minimum of four guests, and we want to make the most efficient use of space possible to preserve the untouched beauty of the glacier and that of our wider Aotearoa. With that in mind, we do operate with a four-passenger minimum on all Scenic Heli-Hike tours.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do this glacier if you’re a solo traveller! Get in touch with us, and we’ll see if we can place you with another group of heli-hikers to ensure you get the glacier experience you’re after.

Weather Can Be Unpredictable

Remember, even though our guide partners and pilots are very experienced, they cannot control the weather. Occasionally, this will present some potential issues, meaning we might have to switch between the two sides of the mountain to give you the best experience. Our other glacier tours are very similar – you won’t be disappointed.

In the event that the weather prevents us from going up completely, we will inform you as soon as we can and work with you to reschedule your day.

All Equipment Provided

Hiking through this Glacier requires some specialised equipment, which our partners at Franz Josef Glacier Guides are able to provide as part of your package.

This includes:

  •       Crampons
  •       Boots
  •       Socks
  •       Ice axes

However, it’s vital to dress warm. Temperatures can get very low in winter months and are still quite cold in the warmer times of the year. We recommend wearing a warm base layer (ideally merino wool or a polypropylene layer of some kind). On top of that, layer another warm merino or fleece jumper to keep your core toasty. You’ll be supplied with a waterproof jacket, so just bring gloves and your favourite beanie.

Allow the Entire Day

Accounting for the 1-hour fixed-wing flights both ways, equipment fitting, the helicopter rides, and the 2 hours of ice time, we estimate the trip to last almost eight hours. It’s best to block out the entire day, as you’ll most likely be very tired following our detailed exploration of this iconic Kiwi glacier.

All in all, the Franz Josef Scenic Heli-Hike is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. This glacier is one of the world’s natural wonders, showcasing nature’s sheer power and scale. With help from True South Flights, you can experience a once-in-a-lifetime day out.

Book your Franz Josef Glacier Scenic Heli-Hike today.

With all flights, equipment hire, and ice time included, this incredibly convenient package allows you to experience something few ever get to see. Book your heli-hike now.

If you have any questions about the Franz Josef helicopter tour, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team to find out more about this True South Flights adventure.

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