Experience the ultimate road trip in New Zealand with a drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef! Witness stunning landscapes and breathtaking views on this unforgettable journey.

Wanaka to Lake Hawea with The Neck scenic viewing point

The journey from Wanaka to Lake Hawea is a breathtaking experience.

Lake Hawea Outlook

One must-stop viewpoint is the Lake Hawea outlook.

On a clear day, the view is stunning. There’s a car park here, making it easy to stop and take photos. You can also enjoy some fly fishing or lake fishing.

The Neck

Continue to The Neck, another must-see viewpoint.

This small car park offers more incredible views and information about Lake Wanaka. Be mindful of traffic as you stop to enjoy the sights.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - The Neck is a point between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka

Mou Waho Island trip on Lake Wanaka

For a unique adventure, consider a trip to Mou Waho Island on Lake Wanaka.

Getting There

Take a water taxi from Wanaka to reach the island. The ride takes about 40 minutes.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Wanaka to Lake Hawea

Exploring the Island

On the island, you’ll find a lake within the island, which is in a lake – Lake Wanaka.

This protected area is accessible only by boat, making it a special side trip for nature lovers.

For more details, check out the Mou Waho Island Tour video.

Lake Wanaka Mou Wahu tour from Wanaka wharf

Siberia Experience tour from Makarora village

The Siberia Experience is a must-do wilderness trip from Makarora village.

What to Expect for drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

This special trip has been around for over 20 years.

Fly into the Siberia Valley, walk down the Wilkins River, and take a jetboat ride back to Makarora village.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Siberia Valley from Makaroa

Planning Your Trip

The trip takes about half a day and can be done on the way to Franz Josef or from Wanaka.

Makarora village has basic amenities like a campground, café, and public toilets.

For more information, visit the Siberia Experience official website.

Siberia Valley experience from Makarora village.

Walking the Blue Pools Track to the Makarora River

The Blue Pools Track is a popular stop for travelers.

Track Details

The well-defined track takes about 20 minutes one way.

You’ll walk to the Makarora River, where a side river flows into the main river, creating stunning blue pools.

Blue Lake Pool walk along the route from Wanaka to Franz Josef

Checking Track Conditions

Track conditions can change, so check the Department of Conservation’s website for updates.

Visit the Great Walks: Tracks and walks page for more information.

Additional Tips

The track is suitable for families and children. Nearby, the Cameron Flats campground is a good spot for motorhome travelers.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Blue Pools

Walks around the Haast Pass summit and Gates of Haast Bridge

Exploring the Haast Pass area offers numerous short walks and stunning viewpoints.

Fantail Falls

Fantail Falls is a must-visit spot, especially after heavy rain. The falls become very forceful and impressive.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Fantail Falls

It’s a short walk from the car park, making it easily accessible.

Gates of Haast Bridge along the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

The Gates of Haast Bridge is another key highlight. Be aware of the one-way bridge system, which requires traffic to take turns crossing.

Haast River Bridge along the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

After crossing the bridge, you’ll enter the stunning Haast River Valley with several viewpoints worth stopping at.

Haast River Bridge picture on the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

Village of Haast on the West Coast with Haast River Safari tour

The village of Haast offers essential amenities and unique adventure tours.

Village Amenities

In Haast, you’ll find a petrol station, an information center, a café, and accommodation options. It’s a great spot to refuel and rest.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Travel along the Haast River Valley

Waiatoto River Safari

For an unforgettable experience, try the Waiatoto River Safari. This jet boat tour takes you deep into the wilderness, showcasing the area’s natural beauty.

Waiatoto River Safari jetboating tour near Haast

The family-run business offers a unique adventure compared to the more commercial jet boating experiences in Queenstown or Wanaka.

Forest and beach walk at Ship Creek. Monro Beach Walk near Lake Moeraki

Ship Creek and Monro Beach offer picturesque walks through diverse landscapes.

Ship Creek Walk

Ship Creek features a lovely boardwalk that leads to the Tasman Sea. The area is perfect for a sunset walk.

Ship Creek Walkway along the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

The boardwalk also passes through a lagoon, adding to the scenic beauty.

Knights Point

Another popular stop is Knights Point, known for its stunning views. Be prepared for busier crowds.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Knights Point West Coast South Island

Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki

Located near Lake Moeraki, the Wilderness Lodge offers luxurious accommodation and guided nature walks.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Monroe Beach walk

Visitors can explore the nearby penguin colony and enjoy other wildlife experiences.

Monro Beach Walk

The Monro Beach Walk is a hidden gem. The trail leads through lush bush to a stunning beach, home to penguins, seals, and sometimes sea lions.

It’s a relatively easy walk and less crowded, making it a serene experience.

Monroe Beach Walk on the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

Fox Glacier Village, Lake Matheson Walk, Gillespie Beach Walk

Fox Glacier Village is a hub for exploring glaciers, mirror lakes, and remote beaches.

Fox Glacier Village on the drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef

With a small population, Fox Glacier Village offers essential amenities and a range of accommodation options.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Fox Glacier Village

Lake Matheson Walk

The Lake Matheson Walk is a must-do. This mirror lake reflects New Zealand’s highest peaks, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, on clear days.

Lake Matheson walk near Fox Glacier village

The walk takes about an hour and is best done in the early morning or evening for the calmest water.

Views from Lake Matheson towards the Southern Alps, Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman

Gillespies Beach Walk

Gillespies Beach is a hidden treasure, located about 25 kilometers from Fox Glacier Village. The gravel road leads to a remote beach with an old miners tunnel and a scenic reserve.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Gillespie Beach

It’s a unique, off-the-beaten-path destination perfect for those with extra time. Note that there’s no mobile phone reception here.

Side trip to Gillespie Beach from Fox Glacier Village

For those planning a visit to this region, it’s recommended to spend at least two nights in Fox Glacier or Franz Josef to fully appreciate the area.

Fox and Franz Josef glaciers with Heli-hiking Glacier tours

Exploring the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers is an adventure you won’t forget.

Heli-hiking Tours

Heli-hiking is the most popular way to explore these glaciers. It’s the only way to get onto the ice now. The short five-minute flight takes you to the glacier, where you hike for about two hours with a local guide.

Helicopter flights run from Fox Glacier or Franz Josef villages

These tours are a highlight for many visitors. You can book heli-hiking tours from either Fox Glacier or Franz Josef.

Heli-hiking guided tours run from Fox Glacier or Franz Josef villages

Weather Considerations

Weather in this area can change rapidly. It’s essential to pre-book your tour and be prepared for possible cancellations. If you have extra time, it’s worth waiting for a clear day.

Glacier Valley Walks

If you’re not into helicopter rides, walking into the Glacier Valley is another option. There are several smaller bush walks and viewpoint walks in the Fox Glacier Valley.

Despite the short distance between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, the zig-zag drive takes about 30 minutes. Both villages offer unique experiences and are worth exploring.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Drive between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier Village

Franz Josef village with West Coast Wildlife Centre and other things to do

Franz Josef village is slightly larger than Fox Glacier, with more amenities and activities.

West Coast Wildlife Centre

One of the main attractions in Franz Josef is the West Coast Wildlife Centre. Here, you can see Kiwi birds and learn about their breeding program. It’s an excellent activity, especially on a rainy day.

Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef with local kiwi birds

Other Activities

Besides glacier activities, Franz Josef offers kayaking, fishing, and quad biking. Franz Josef Wilderness Tours provides various outdoor adventures just outside the village.

Hiking Trails

Franz Josef has several hiking trails ranging from easy walks to challenging Alpine hikes. The Alex Knob Walk is a popular choice for those with good fitness levels. It offers stunning views on clear days.

Alex Knob hiking trail near Franz Josef village

For a more relaxed experience, there are smaller walks with equally breathtaking scenery.

Okarito Lagoon kayaking tours and scenic walks

Okarito Lagoon is a hidden gem located about a half-hour drive from Franz Josef.

Kayaking Tours

This tranquil lagoon is perfect for a kayaking trip. Okarito Kayaks offers guided tours and rentals, allowing you to explore New Zealand’s largest unmodified coastal wetland.

Scenic drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef - Stop at Okarito Lagoon

White Herons and Wildlife

Okarito Lagoon is home to White Herons and other wildlife, making it a paradise for nature lovers. The small village offers limited accommodation, adding to its remote charm.

Okarito Kayaking tours are available from Franz Josef as a day tour

Scenic Walks

Besides kayaking, there are several scenic walks around Okarito. These trails offer a peaceful way to explore the area’s natural beauty.

If you’re staying in Franz Josef, a trip to Okarito Lagoon is highly recommended for a unique and serene experience.

Other Self-drive Road Trips:

Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo to Mt Cook National Park

Lake Tekapo to Dunedin

Dunedin to Invercargill

Invercargill to Te Anau

Queenstown to Milford Sound

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