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Franz Josef Glacier holds a great selection of amazing family friendly walks!  There’s a walk to keep everyone entertained including children of all ages.   Look no further as we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the 10 best family friendly walks in the South Island’s town of Franz Josef Glacier:


Tartare Tunnels Franz Josef

1. Tartare Tunnels Walk

Duration: 1 hr 20 min

Distance: 3.6km return via same track


The Tartare Tunnels walk begins in the Franz Josef Glacier Township.  It follows a 4WD drive road before a gentle climb to a view of the scenic Tatare Gorge.  The track then becomes steeper and narrower for the short climb up to the tunnels, which allows you to experience the lush temperate rainforest.   It stops before the old wooden flume, at the end of the first tunnel.

If you wish to explore the tunnels you will need a torch and raincoat. Be aware you may get your feet wet – there is water in the tunnels that can get ankle deep. It’s worth it through – once you’re in the tunnels and turn your torch off, you’ll spot the glow worms!


Te Ara a Waiau Cycleway Franz Josef

2. Te Ara a Waiau Walkway / Cycleway

Duration: 2 hr

Distance: 8.7km return via same track


You can walk or cycle along this track from Franz Josef Township to the Franz Josef Glacier Carpark. Walking is a 2 hour return trip and cycling takes around 1 hour.  The track runs alongside the left hand edge of the Glacier Access Road before heading into the forest for a short time and re-emerging to cross the Glacier Valley Access Road (please take care when crossing and give way to traffic). The track then winds its way easily up to the Franz Josef Glacier valley through the rainforest.  Along the way enjoy the sounds of abundant native birdlife, and you can stop to read info boards along the track.

Views of the mountains and upper valley are possible at all times as you head up the valley. If you cycle you must leave your bike at the bike rack at the end of Te Ara a Waiau as there is no bike access on any other tracks in the area.


Sentinel Rock Franz Josef Glacier

3. Sentinel Rock Walk

Duration: 20 min

Distance: 900m return via same track


This walk is a short steady climb up a now bush-covered ice-scraped rock to a landing up the top. It has impressive views of the glacier and the Waiho River. There are information panels at the viewpoint showing dramatic photos of the glacial retreat, making it one of the best places to appreciate the power of the mighty Franz Josef Glacier.


Peters Pool Franz Josef Glacier

4. Peter’s Pool Walk

Duration: 25 min

Distance: 1.1km return via same track


This is an easy walk from the Glacier carpark that winds through the rainforest to a small kettle lake. This lake was formed by ice melting amongst glacial moraine about 200 years again. Enjoy the beautiful reflective views of the glacier valley and mountain peaks. A bench beside the lake offers a moment to sit and enjoy the view or have a snack before returning or continuing on with the Douglas walk.


Douglas Bridge Franz Josef Glacier

5. Douglas Walk

Duration: 1 hr

Distance: 3.9km return via same track


This is an easy bush walk that carries on from the Peter’s Pool walk. It crosses over glacial landforms that are over three and a half thousand years old. It will take you through a succession of vegetation types each representing a different stage of re-growth behind retreating ice & different soil types. Stop off at the historic Douglas Bridge.

You can return via the same track or cross the glacier access road to the Te Ara a Waiau trail which will lead you back to the carpark.


Canavans Knob Franz Josef

6. Canavans Knob Walk

Duration: 1 hr return

Distance: 3.2km return via same track


The first 800 metres of this track is along the river stop bank. A short and steady climb then takes you through the rainforest to the top of this granite outcrop. You will get great views of the sea and lowlands to one side and up the Waiho River to the glacier and Southern Alps on the other side.

You can also start this walk from the township of Franz Josef – cross the Waiho River Bridge and turn right onto the stop bank. Halfway along the stop bank follow the marker pegs across the bridge over the creek and onto the next section of stop bank where you continue to start the Canavans Knob walk. This is around 1 hour 40 minutes from the township.


Lake Wombat Franz Josef Glacier

7. Lake Wombat Walk

Duration: 1 hr 30 min

Distance: 3.8km return via same track


This walk climbs steadily from the car park through rimu forest to Lake Wombat. Lake Womat is a kettle lake which was formed by the melting of a huge piece of ice left amidst glacial debris about 9000 years ago. There are no wombats kids – the lake is named after Jack Irwin, alias Wombat Jack who sluiced for gold in the area in the 1800’s.

There is a bench by the lake and it is a nice spot to have snack and if you are quiet there are lots of birdlife to spot and listen too.


Blacks Rail Tractor Pakihi Walk Okarito

8. Pakihi Walk

Duration: 30 min

Distance: 1km return via same track


Before you start the walk check out Blacks Rail Tractor which is on display with info boards at the start of the track. The track then crosses Pakihi swamp before climbing gently through a forest of kamahi and rimu to a lookout platform. At this platform you will be rewarded with views out to the coast, Okarito Lagoon, the surrounding rainforest and up to the Southern Alps including Aoraki Mount Cook.

This area is home to the Rowi (Okarito Brown Kiwi), the rarest of the five species of Kiwi.


Okarito Wetlands Walk

9. Okarito Wetland Walk

Duration: 30 min

Distance: 1km return via same track


This track crosses the estuary on a curving boardwalk before climbing gently to a viewpoint overlooking the estuary. From here you can carry on to the Okarito Trig.


Okarito Trig Walk

10. Okarito Trig Walk

Duration: 1 hr 30 min

Distance: 4.2 km


The Okarito Trig walk follows the Wetland walk before veering off to the left and winding gently uphill on a well-graded track before reaching the Okarito Trig. On a clear day the view is unbeatable overlooking Westland Tai Poutini National Park you can see Mount Cook & Mount Tasman, the Southern Alps across the extensive native forest to the lagoons and beaches of the coast.


For more information on these walks and other walks available in Glacier Country follow this link.


Before you go please remember to:

  • Check the current track conditions and weather forecasts at the Westland Tai Poutini National Visitor Centre before starting your trip.
  • Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly.
  • Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.