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Drive Greymouth to Franz Josef

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Greymouth to Franz Josef
West Coast Self Drive Travel Guide.

Travel Information  Travel Facts
Distance: 177 km (110 miles)
Approximately: 3 hours 10 minutes
Road Conditions: State Highway 6

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Greymouth - Hokitika - Ross - Whataroa - Franz Josef

The drive to Hokitika is varied, interesting and offers many diversions along the way. Approximately 15 minutes south of Greymouth we come to the Taramakau River crossing.

Taramakau Road Rail Bridge
Taramakau Road Rail Bridge.

This is a Road-Rail bridge, where trains always have the right of way. If you are riding a motorcycle or cycle be careful of the ruts on the bridge, they can and will throw you off.

Do slow down when approaching the bridge and be sure it is clear before driving onto it. From here it is about 5 minutes drive time to the Kumara Junction

The Kumara Junction about half way between Hokitika and Greymouth is another unique carriage way of New Zealand with the rail line between Greymouth and Hokitika running straight through it.

From this point follow the signs south to Hokitika.

Greymouth - Hokitika - Ross - Whataroa - Franz Josef

Hokitika, Westland New Zealand.
Hokitika Clock Tower.

Hokitika is now a realatively quiet township than it was a 100 years ago, dependent upon farming and tourism. From about 1864 when the township first sprang up it, like most other Coast towns, was a centre of boasting gold miners, hundreds of hotels and liquor shops, dancing girls and a considerable population of diggers from many parts of the world.

At one stage boasting a regional population of 50,000 Hokitika was the sixth town in New Zealand, ranking after Nelson.

There are many attractive spots within easy reach of the township, including Lakes Kaniere and Mahinapua. The rich dairy lands of Kokatahi and Kowhitirangi and the popular must see Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve.

The drive south to Franz Josef is easy travelling as we continue to follow State Highway 6.


Greymouth - Hokitika - Ross - Whataroa - Franz Josef

"The museum and former Gold fields are a must stop for visitors to the region."

The township of Ross, approximately 30kms from Hokitika was once one of the most prosperous gold fields on the Coast. The museum and former Gold fields are a must stop for visitors to the region.

There is a goldfield walkway to explore, when gold was discovered in this region is was unusual in that it was found in all forms; alluvial deposits, quartz and beach sand gold.

The Water Race walk is a moderate walk with some up hill sections which will take about one hour for the round trip.

The road south skirts the eastern shore of Lake Ianthe a popular picnic spot and one of Westland's scenic gems, a perfectly located photo opportunity.

This region while predominantely a farming area is the northern gateway to Westland's Tai Poutini National Park, at Harihari the Coastal Walkway once used to bring in supplies for miners is one of a range of walks and tracks that offer spectacular views. Nestled between the rugged Southern Alps and just as rugged coast line Harihari is is approximately the halfway point between Franz Josef and Hokitika.

The road takes you past many of Westlands scenic wonders and awesome sites, but with a wild streak. The farmland is trying to turn back into forest, and the beauty of the snow and ice feed rivers is primeaval as they literally carve their way around the mountainous regions spilling out on the flat lands before pushing on to meet the Tasman.

At Whataroa, (25 minutes north of Franz Josef), you can visit New Zealand's only White Heron (Kotuku) nesting colony. Nesting season generally runs from late October through to March.

Entry is by permit only, tours are approximately 2 and a half hours in duration where you can also see Little Shag and Royal Spoonbill and other birdlife all in their naturl environmnet.

Greymouth - Hokitika - Ross - Whataroa - Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier, Westland.
Franz Josef Glacier, Westland, New Zealand.

Within the boundary of Tai Poutini National park there are in excess of 60 glaciers, the two most easily accessible and well known are Franz Josef and Fox.

Franz Josef Glacier is one of the regions unique relics of the last ice age. Rivers of white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, like Fox Glacier, Franz Josef is classically beautiful in the glacial sense. Nowhere else in the world have glaciers advanced so close to the sea at this latitude.

First explored in 1865, you can walk to the terminal of the glacier in about 10 minutes. Franz Josef township has a good range of accommodation and eating establishments.

A short drive south, 25 minutes, will bring you to Fox Glacier. With Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers so near each other you have a wide range of activities to choose from in Glacier Country.

One must see moment to begin your Glacier Adventures tomorrow is at Lake Matheson, just west of Fox Glacier. Shortly after sunrise the still waters of the Lake mirror the peaks of New Zealand's highest Mountains Tasman and Cook to their best photo opportunity.

Lastly a word of caution when visiting.

Please do not be stupid and enter onto either of the Glaciers unless you are with a Trained Guide. Both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are living, moving rivers of ice and they can be dangerous.

Welcome to Galcier Country - enjoy your stay

This Guide last Updated: November 2010.

Driving Distance and Times


O The distances and times within the Travel Guides are based on travel at an average of 80 to 90kmph in good weather and light to medium traffic, allowing for a break of 10 minutes from driving in each full hour.

Allow extra time for:
Sight seeing, Heavier traffic conditions, Inclement weather and any other needs you have.

There are many factors beyond the authors and our control that can and will impact upon the true distance travelled and time taken to complete any journey.

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