Franz Josef Glacier Base

A Hub of Activity at the New Franz Josef Glacier Base


Earlier this year, the Franz Josef Glacier Guides team celebrated moving into the new Glacier Base – as our closest neighbour, we often visit to say hello.

Southern Alps View From Franz Josef Glacier Base NZ
Photo: Clint Trahan

Exploring Glacier Facts: What We Learned About Franz Josef Glacier

Glacier Base buzzes with excitement. It serves as the starting point for glacier heli hike adventures. Visitors can also explore informative displays covering local history and glaciology. This variety makes every visit interesting.

We decided to deepen our knowledge during our last visit. Here are five fascinating facts we learned about the area’s unique climate and geography.

Franz Josef Glacier
Photo: Geoff Marks

The West Coast’s Rainfall Mystery

Why does it rain so much here? The West Coast receives about 5 meters of rain annually. Even more impressive, the glaciers neve sees 10-15 meters of snow each year. This phenomenon, known as Orographic Lift, occurs as westerly winds pass over the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, dropping moisture as rain or snow.

Why Steep Glaciers Excel

Franz Josef Glacier stands out due to its steepness and speed. Stretching from 3,000 meters down to 240 meters in less than 11 kilometres, its shape promotes rapid ice movement. While most glaciers move up to one meter per day, Franz Josef Glacier can shift up to four meters, making every visit unique.

Heli Hikers Franz Josef Glacier
Photo: Geoff Marks

Understanding Glacier Retreat

Since 2008, Franz Josef Glacier has retreated significantly, losing about 800 meters in length. A notable event in 2012 accelerated this retreat. Overall, the glacier has retracted three kilometres since the late 1880s, despite periods of advance.

Franz Josef Glacier From Alex Knob Track
Photo: Roady NZ

Key Historical Moments

The West Coast boasts a rich history, from mountaineering to gold mining. Notably, gold discovered in 1865 led to community development. The first car arrived in Franz Josef in 1911, and scenic flights began in 1934, enhancing accessibility and tourism.


The Pre-Gold Era

Before the gold rush, Māori sought pounamu in Westland. Evidence suggests settlements existed in Jackson Bay and Bruce Bay centuries ago, highlighting the region’s deep cultural roots.


Visit Rainforest Retreat and Franz Josef Glacier Base


When staying with us at Rainforest Retreat, the Franz Josef Glacier Base is just across the road – we invite you to visit the Glacier Base building. Experience the history, adventure, and beauty that Franz Josef Glacier offers.

#GlacierBase #FranzJosefGlacier #WestCoastNZ #WestCoastNewZealand #GlacierCountryNZ #NewZealand #HeliHike

Modern and Luxurious Individual Accommodations set amongst lush native bush.

Space and seclusion. Family Tree Houses and Lodge cabins, individually sited.

Comfortable Motel rooms, Dorm Rooms and Powered Campervan Sites


Sorry no jobs currently available.