Last time I was in Franz Josef I was able to get an amazing view of Franz Josef Glacier by hopping on my first ever helicopter ride and flying to the base of the glacier...before actually hiking up the glacier! It was crazy, it was scary, it was different and it was AWESOME, unfortunately it was also quite expensive.
This time, we are on a smaller budget so we tried the next best thing - a free walk which takes you as close as you can to the glacier to view it from a distance.
You can do this with both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, we had to pick one due to time restrictions so we chose Fox Glacier (the lady at the information centre told us that the walk is shorter but takes you closer to the glacier itself.)
The start of the walk is about a 20 minute drive from the centre of Franz Josef and on the way we decided to also visit beautiful Lake Matheson. I came here last time and when the Lake is still you can get amazing reflexion shots that look like this....
Unfortunately this time it was a bit windy so no luck with the pictures, however, the walk around the lake (which takes approximately one hour) is gorgeous and free! definitely worth a visit.
THE GLACIER WALK
You will be able to park your car for free in a car park right by the start of the walking track. The walk itself took around 20 minutes each way. It begins on a flat rocky plane & from time to time you will need to walk through small streams (I would recommend wearing closed waterproof shoes if you have them).
The last 50-100m of the walk is up a reasonably steep hill - it left me red faced and a little out of breath but that may be more of a reflection of my poor fitness level following my last 10 months partying in Cairns than it's difficulty!
Once at the top the view of the glacier is pretty cool, especially if you have not seen the glacier before. I must admit, I did think you would end up a lot closer to it, but in reality you are still nowhere near the Ice. Nonetheless, it is a nice walk, with gorgeous views to photograph.
Having done both the expensive tour which allows you to get on the glacier and the free walk that allows you to see it from a distance, I wouldn't hesitate to say that if money allows it the tour is definitely worth it. However, if like me you are on a budget, have a go at doing the walk it is free and a great alternative!