The Roberts Point Track is a challenging hike in Franz Josef that offers stunning views of the Franz Josef Glacier, Waiho River and the surrounding mountains. The trail is 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) one way and takes about 4-5 hours to complete. The Roberts Point track begins at the car park at the end of the Franz Josef Glacier Access Road and follows the Waiho River before ascending through dense rainforest to the viewing platform at Roberts Point. This is actually the closest you can get to Franz Josef Glacier without opting for the Franz Josef heli hike. The varied hike that takes you along a reflection pond, waterfall, over swing bridges and through native forest shows you what New Zealand is about. Read in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Roberts Point Track in Franz Josef.
How to get to Roberts Point Track
The trailhead for Roberts Point Track is at Glacier car park which is the same parking as for Franz Josef Glacier walk. It’s only a 10 minute drive from Franz Josef Township following the State Highway 6 towards the Franz Josef Glacier Access Road. The parking lot is very spacious with public toilets. From here the Roberts Point Track trailhead is clearly marked and well-signed.
Another option to start the Roberts Point Track is from Lake Wombat car park. This is where Alex Knob trail also begins. From this trail you will start on the Douglas Walk and merge on the Roberts Point Track which starts at the Douglas Bridge. However from this trail you will miss Peters Pool which is absolutely worth it. More about this later!
Roberts Point Track key facts
Before we dive into the details about the Roberts Point Track, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you’re well prepared!
Roberts Point Track distance and duration: The total distance of Roberts Point Track is 11.8 kilometers and takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete.
Roberts Point Track difficulty and incline: Roberts Point Track is considered being moderately difficult as the terrain is uneven and can be quite slippery at some parts. The total elevation gain of Roberts Point Track is 600 meters (1,970 feet).
About Franz Josef Glacier
The Franz Josef Glacier is one of New Zealand’s glaciers which is located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Being a remnant of the last ice age, Franz Josef Glacier is considered a unique natural wonder, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The glacier is named after the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Josef I and is one of two major glaciers in the region (the other being the Fox Glacier).
Franz Josef Glacier stretches for about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the Southern Alps down to the rainforest of Westland National Park. But unfortunately the glacier is rapidly changing and is even considered being one of the most fastest changing glaciers in the world! That’s bad news, and makes a visit to Franz Josef Glacier even more special, as the glacier might be gone in 10 – 20 years from now.
Over the past century, the glacier has been retreating at an average rate of around 40 meters (130 feet) per year, although this rate has accelerated in recent years. You can view the glacier from various vantage points, including helicopter tours, guided glacier heli hikes, and viewpoints on nearby hiking trails such as the Roberts Point Track.
Franz Josef Glacier is a rapidly changing environment, constantly changing due to natural processes. Melting and calving of ice, as well as the effects of climate change and other environmental factors affect the glacier and make its future uncertain. Therefore, if you have the opportunity, seeing Franz Josef Glacier from up might become unique and not possible anymore later in our lifetime…
What to expect along the Roberts Point Track
When starting from Glacier car park you will first follow the wide gravel path to Peters Pool between lush rainforest. This is only 500 meters until you reach this stunning reflection pool. Or at least, on a calm day it will be a mirror reflection. Hopefully you will have the chance to see these stunning reflections of the mountains in this pond before you continue the hike to the first swing bridge. Fun fact is that Peters Pool was created a few hundred years ago when a huge ice block melted during Franz Josef Glacier’s retreat.
The gravel path continues after Peters Pool until you reach a junction. Here you’ll turn right to the first swing bridge which crosses the glacier river and takes you into the forest.
The views here are already impressive as you look into the valley with the glacier river making its way through the rocks. Truly spectacular to realize how nature made this landscape over millions of years.
After this first swing bridge the hike continues in the forest with quite a few uneven steps, crossing small streams and some boulders. Although the path is easy to navigate, you’ll have to mind your steps here as the rocks can be slippery.
About a kilometer after the first swing bridge you will get to the second swing bridge which is a much smaller rope bridge! Although it’s an easy and short swing bridge to cross, it is the wobbliest swing bridge of this hike. The path then continues through stunning forest and after taking the stairs down you will soon get to the next swing bridge.
The longest swing bridge of Roberts Point Track
Welcome to the longest swing bridge of New Zealand! The Roberts Point trail swing bridge is over 100 meters long and is (one of the) longest swing bridges in New Zealand. This spectacular swing bridge is exciting to cross but is quite narrow. The maximum load is 5 people, but because the bridge has some good sway, I don’t want to think about how it would feel with 5 people walking on it! For your own safety I would advice to only cross it when no other people are on it. This will also allow you to stand still for a moment and take in the incredible views.
After this part, the trail starts to get really steep. You’ll wind your way through the forest and will encounter a part where you need to climb up with your hands. You can hold onto the tree roots, but this part might be a little bit challenging for some.
The technical parts continue while you have to cross a dry riverbed with huge boulders. They are not wobbly, but you will still have to walk with care and not slip.
Just after you pass Hende’s Hut which is an old mountain hut which can be used as shelter in bad weather, you will see another fun feature of this hike. The floating stairs! These stairs are attached on the side of the cliff and make the steep descent really easy with stunning forest and mountain views.
The last, steep part to Roberts Point viewpoint
After the floating stairs the steepest part of the trail begins including some scrambling! You will have to climb some rocky slabs which have good grip on dry days. However, here comes the part which can become quite dangerous on wet days. You will have to watch your feet and feel if you have grip before pushing yourself up the rock. Our hiking poles were a win in this situation and I will always recommend other people as well to use hiking poles when hiking in New Zealand! It just gives you that extra balance and you can easier push yourself up the hill with hiking poles.
After the rocky slab you will enter the forest again. Here the trail becomes a mix of mossy rocks, tree roots and sometimes muddy soil. While this whole section is steep and will need your attention, it is manageable. You’ll have to cross some more streams and pass a waterfall before you get to the wooden viewing platform from Roberts Point Track.
Roberts Point Track lookout
Walking up the last stairs to the wooden viewing platform really gives you that ‘It was worth it’ feeling! The elevated, fenced viewpoint is in the middle of the valley, surrounded by sheer cliffs with waterfalls pouring down and with the Franz Josef Glacier looming over you.
There is a bench to sit down and take in these dramatic views. It’s highly recommend to bring your lunch and enjoy it before returning to the car park.
This viewpoint is the closest you can get to Franz Josef Glacier without doing a heli hike and standing on top of the glacier. And although the viewpoint is fenced, which normally feels a bit too man made, you will be able to really feel one with nature. Surrounded by mountains and in the middle of this impressive valley you can really take it all in.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a roadtrip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will you give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Stationwagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 road side assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream roadtrip!
Where to stay near Roberts Point Track
Franz Josef is a small but charming town with a range of accommodation options, restaurants, and shops. It has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. You can then easily visit Franz Josef Glacier, the Glacier Hot Pools and many more attractions near Franz Josef. Here are the best places to stay in Franz Josef.
We have stayed here ourselves and absolutely loved the self contained chalets. It felt like a ‘home away from home’ with everything you need. A fully equipped kitchen to cook your own meals, comfortable bed, table with chairs for dining, comfortable couch, private parking and a shared laundry. Highly recommended!
Set amongst lush native bush in Franz Josef town is the Rainforest Retreat located. With a range of different accommodations from luxury tree huts to backpackers rooms the Rainforest Retreat has something for every budget. There are 5 bedroom holiday homes and one bedroom cottages. There is also the option to choose for a private hot tub with some tree houses or rooms with bunkbeds. With an on site spa, sauna and restaurant, there is nothing you will miss in this beautiful accommodation.
Centrally located in Franz Josef Village, the Scenic Hotel offers spacious and modern furnished rooms and suites with en suite bathroom. Some rooms have a balcony. You can enjoy breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant which serves modern New Zealand cuisine and quality wines.
Best tours on the South Island
New Zealand’s South Island is full of adventure, stunning scenery and fun experiences to be made. There are few experiences which are an absolute must when you’re traveling New Zealand’s South Island. Below a summary of the best tours you can book.
An absolute unforgettable experience in New Zealand is a helicopter flight to Franz Josef Glacier including a snow landing. Fly above the ice falls, snowfields, and crevasses before you land in a glacial snowfield. A must do in Franz Josef and absolute once in a lifetime experience!
Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small-group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to really take in the immense scale of the bluffs and explore Milford Sound in a unique way.
The lesser known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife while taking in the scenery. If you’re lucky you might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins. You naturalist guide will tell you everything and point out interesting sights.
A Milford Sound scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the 20 minute helicopter flight you will return to Milford base.
Another way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you booked the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise in Milford Sound. Take in the spectacular views of the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen on the picture below. This experience will take your breath away and is a must do if your budget allows it. Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Roberts Point Track. Make sure to put this awesome hike on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!