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Franz Josef, West Coast

Westwood Lodge, Bed and Breakfast Accommodation is located in Franz Josef on the West Coast of New Zealand. It is central to any itinerary between northern and southern West Coast. Learn about the history of Franz Josef below.

Westwood Lodge itself is situated just 1km from the bustling centre of town, and is easily accessible by car (with plenty of parking available) or by a pleasant 15 minute walk along a designated footpath.

Discover Glacier Country

New Zealand’s West Coast is an environmental treasure with ice age glaciers, swift flowing streams, plunging waterfalls, primeval forests, serene lakes and rugged coastline.

South Westland is bound by the surging Tasman Sea to the west, and the high snowfields and cloud piercing Southern Alps (including Aoraki Mount Cook) to the east.

You can experience the spectacular beauty of this part of the world from the comfort of West Coast Bed & Breakfast – Westwood Lodge, in the Franz Josef township.

History of Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier is set in native rainforest, and has been attracting travellers to South Westland since the early 1900s.

  • Julius von Haast, the geologist and explorer, named Franz Josef Glacier in 1863, after Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • The Maori name for Franz Josef Glacier is Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere (The tears of Hine Hukatere), named after the Maori legend lovers, Hine Hukatere and Tuawe. Tuawe fell to his death while exploring Fox Glacier, and Hine’s tears of grief formed the Franz Josef Glacier.
  • The Franz Josef Glacier is approximately 7000 years old, and a remnant of a much older and larger glacier which was originally swept right to the sea. Today it is 12 kilometres long, from the high snowfields of the Southern Alps.
  • During the last ice age over 13,000 years ago, ice sheets extended over the lowlands of New Zealand and down to the sea. Temperatures were at least 4 degrees Celsius cooler than at present.
  • Scenic reserves were established to protect the glaciers and local lakes in 1910. In 1990 2.6 million hectares of South West New Zealand was declared a World Heritage Area. The World Heritage Area protects Fiordland, Mt Aspiring, Westland and Mt Cook National Parks.
  • Today the terminal face of Franz Josef is just 19 kilometres from the sea, and only 5 kilometres from Franz Josef township. The relatively easy access provided by this unique glacier means you can enjoy a guided walk on the glacier, a scenic snow-landing flight or a heli-hike.
  • Franz Josef Glacier is formed when layer after layer of snow is compressed into hard ice (in the neve), then the glacier begins to flow down the valley as a river of ice, rocks and stones. The uneven valley floor and steady slow movement causes crevasses and pinnacles to form, creating the unique and ever changing landscape of the glacier.
  • The vivid blue colour of the glacier ice makes for some stunning photographs, and is caused by refraction (bending of light as it passes through the ice crystals).
  • The speed of glacial ice flow depends on the steepness of the valley. The Franz Josef Glacier takes about five years for ice to flow from the neve to its terminal. Fox Glacier takes about seven years to reach its current terminal face.
  • Since the last ice age, glaciers around the world have generally retreated, but there have been several big advances to Franz Josef over those years. Advances are usually caused by extra snow falling in the neve on a short term basis.
  • Franz Josef’s glacier terminal was positioned over Sentinel Rock in the 1890’s, the same location as the present car park in the 1920s.
  • Due to strong snowfall, it is one of the few glaciers in New Zealand which is still growing, as of 2007. The flow rate is about 10 times faster than that of normal glaciers, resulting in movement of about 70 cm per day when the glacier is advancing.