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Why You Should See the Franz Josef Glacier from a Kayak

Enjoy the calm and tranquillity of Lake Mapourika

Enjoy the calm and tranquillity of Lake Mapourika

The mighty Franz Josef glacier is a highlight of many people’s South Island adventures. In this blog post, you’ll find out that one of the coolest ways (no pun intended) is to see the Franz Josef Glacier from a kayak!

The team at Glacier Country Kayak take you on a tour of the beautiful glacial lake, showing you absolutely breathtaking views, and filling your head with fascinating local knowledge. You can visit Franz Josef on our South Island or North and South Island tours. Find out more about our 2022/23 tours here.

Here’s why we think Franz Josef Glacier by kayak is the new NZ must do!

Mirror images

Lake Mapourika, situated in the Franz Josef Glacier valley, was created some 14,000 years ago as the glacier retreated after a significant ice age. The surrounding tall peaks leave the lake calm and mirror-like. Not only does the lake’s shelter make for easy paddling, it gives you unbeatable panoramic views of snowfields, glaciers and some of the tallest peaks in the country. Just check out these photos…

Enjoy the calm and tranquillity of Lake Mapourika


If you’ve heard anything about heli-hiking or the Franz Josef glacier, you’ve probably been told that the weather is highly temperamental. The west coast of the South Island is known as the wettest area in New Zealand (which is why the rainforest is so lush and beautiful).

The drawback to this is that some days the glacier is shrouded in cloud, and there’s not much to see. But there is some good news! Because Lake Mapourika is so sheltered by the dramatic, towering mountains that border it, often the weather on the lake is much better than it is on the glacier.

So on a rainy, foggy day, while you may not be able to see the glacier, you can still see some pretty impressive sights from your little yellow kayak.

Soak up the surreal atmosphere on misty mornings

Sustainable sightseeing

The team love New Zealand’s unique natural environment and have a passion for conservation and sustainability. Kayaking is a super low impact way to see the glacier and surrounding scenery, so you can be sure that you’re taking only photographs and leaving only paddle ripples. The lake you paddle on is surrounded by Jurassic age rainforest. It is part of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, a World Heritage Area.

Along with other precious native wildlife, the rarest Kiwi in the world, the Rowi lives here. Glacier Country Kayaks do their best to ensure your kayaking trip has the smallest impact on our environment as possible.

As well as this, part of the price of your ticket goes toward the Department of Conservation, which is responsible for protecting New Zealand’s unique natural, historic and cultural heritage. Go you!

Follow your nose towards the Franz Josef Glacier

Guides who show and tell

That National Park we told you about is also the oldest rainforest in the Westland area. It is home to a variety of native birds, from the infamous cheeky kea to the rare and beautiful crested grebe. The greatest part about having an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide is being able to understand what you’re looking at!

Your guide will tell you stories of local Maori legend, inform you about geographic history, wildlife and conservation of the area. These guys are truly passionate, so you’re bound to learn something new to share with your Stray mates on the bus.

If you choose the paddle and walk option, your tour includes a guided walk where you’ll learn more about the rainforest and the super rare Rowi kiwi. This track is made and maintained by Glacier Country Kayaks, so there will be no one else on it! This gives you a way better chance of seeing the wildlife, in the peaceful stillness of the lush rainforest.

Get up close and personal with the local wildlife

A picture paints a thousand words

Your guide will also document your kayaking adventure – they’re experts at grabbing those sought after candid shots, and making the most of the mirror-like lake. The best part is, you can take all your pictures home for free! So you can share your new fun facts in your Instagram captions, alongside epic photos.

About Glacier Country Kayaks

Glacier Country Kayaks is run by an awesome crew from a range of backgrounds who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They offer three kayaking experiences. Check out their kayak experiences and add one to your tour of New Zealand.