The spectacular Franz Josef Glacier, located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South island, descends to just 250 meters above sea level amidst the greenery of a temperate rainforest. The direct distance from Brisbane, Australia, to the glacier is approximately 2500 km.
Of all the accessible temperate glaciers in New Zealand, the Franz Josef Glacier is the steepest and fastest moving. While many glaciers worldwide have been retreating, the Franz Josef Glacier still flows almost to sea level, through a rainforest of ancient trees and other evergreen species.
This combination of ice and temperate rainforest is a unique feature of New Zealand's glacier country, and is an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world.
Running through Franz Josef is the Alpine Fault. Along this fault line, the Southern Alps have been pushed up, and continue to rise. The weather that flows on to the West Coast is forced to rise over the Southern Alps, thereby cooling and dropping most of its moisture as rain and snow.
This process causes up to 30 meters of snow to fall on the catchments area of the glacier, every year. The glacier slides forward at rates up to 10 times faster than most valley glaciers, presenting the visitor with a spectacular and unique view of ice caves and canyons.