Domestic Flights - The nearest airport is Hokitika, the 140 km (90 mile) drive will take at least 2 hours (slow we know, the roads are narrow and you might have to give way to a herd of sheep!). You can fly to Hokitika from pretty much anywhere in New Zealand, but all fights come via Christchurch.
By Train - You can’t go by train all the way, but the TranzAlpine runs from Christchurch to Greymouth, you can travel by road from there. There’s only one train a day, leaving Christchurch at 08.15 am and arriving into Greymouth at 12.45 pm. From here it’s about 2.5 hours to cover the 180km (110 miles).
From Christchurch to Franz Josef: Not really recommended in one day as you’ll miss too much. The distance by road is 385 km (240 miles) and a quick search on Google will tell you it takes 5 hours, but we’ve driven this road hundreds of times and know it takes longer, and that’s without stops. You’d miss out on things like walking in Arthur’s Pass or checking out the greenstone carvers and the beach in Hokitika if you’re in a rush. Our pick - overnight in Punakaiki before heading down to the glaciers.
From Queenstown to Franz Josef: This is a journey a lot of people make, but another one we don’t not one we like to do ourselves. Why? On hilly and windy roads, the 350 km (220 miles) will take 5 hours, with minimal stops only. If you’re coming to New Zealand for your ‘Dream Trip’ and may be only going to make this journey once in your life why not take your time and enjoy it, it’s pretty amazing country!
From Wanaka to Franz Josef: Travelling from Wanaka, rather than Queenstown, gives you much more time to travel safely and really enjoy the ‘Heritage Highway’. When we make this trip, we’re in no rush and take most of the day to cover the 290 km (180 miles) because we know everyone loves all the photo opportunities and short walks on the way. What are our favourites? The lookouts on Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, there are so many stops in Mt Aspiring National Park, but we like the Fantail Falls, Blue Pools and Thunder Creek, the Gates of Haast are pretty impressive too. Once you hit the coast Ship Creek is a must, keep your eye out for our little Hectors dolphins in the surf just off the beach. If you’re in no rush you can check out Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson on your way through to Franz Josef, you won’t be sorry you took the slow road.
From Abel Tasman / Nelson to Franz Josef: If we were showing mates around NZ and this was on our route, we’d travel from Nelson to Paparoa National Park, spend 2 nights there, before heading down to Glacier Country. Technically you could do it in one day, but you’d miss so much of the countryside so what’s the point? The distance is 480 kilometers (300 miles), don’t even think about it!