Fiordland is magic. Typically touted by vacationers as their favourite place in all of New Zealand (which is saying one thing as a result of all of NZ is epic), Fiordland is residence to so many distinctive experiences, uncommon wildlife, enormous mountains, historic rainforest, and pristine landscapes all alongside one of many wildest coastlines. Oh, and there are few individuals too.
Fiordland has earned her fame again and again.
Whereas I’ve shared a lot of my Fiordland adventures over time, it’s been some time since I’ve whipped up a pleasant overview of my favorites. Primarily based on practically a decade of expertise, listed below are 16 issues to do in Fiordland: get pleasure from the very best of the very best.
1. Spend the night time on the water in Uncertain Sound
I’ve achieved nearly each Fiordland journey and exercise conceivable in nearly each season. And one expertise tends to lord over the remaining – an in a single day Doubtful Sound cruise with RealNZ.
Actually, I’ve by no means heard a foul phrase about it, and so many individuals say it’s their favourite expertise of a New Zealand vacation. Uncertain Sound in a single day by no means disappoints. I’ve been fortunate sufficient to make two in a single day journeys to Uncertain Sound over time, as soon as in winter and as soon as in summer time, and so they had been equally spectacular.
On my most up-to-date journey, there have been two-night cruises in wintertime, and we awoke on our final day to recent snowfall and dozens of momentary waterfalls tumbling down the mountains, which didn’t appear actual.
Uncertain Sound has a singular story. It was the place of one in all New Zealand’s first vital conservation rulings. Within the 1960’s it was proposed the elevate the extent of close by Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri for hydropower, which might have destroyed a lot of the unbelievable ecology there. It’s additionally accessed by the Wilmot Move, New Zealand’s most costly highway, which connects Lake Manapouri to Uncertain Sound for the facility plant. And it’s an unconnected highway to another kiwi roads – fairly particular!
2. Go for a day journey cruise in Milford Sound
Milford Sound sits facet by facet on the high of the record of Fiordland experiences with Uncertain Sound. The one fiord accessed by highway instantly, it will get round a million guests per 12 months. Nestled alongside the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is a world-renowned pure marvel with towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and implausible wildlife.
You’ll undoubtedly see fur seals; if fortunate, you would possibly meet the resident dolphins and uncommon Fiordland crested penguins.
Most individuals come on day journeys to do a day cruise with RealNZ across the fiord. You gotta get on the water to totally respect the size of the place. Nonetheless, you are able to do an in a single day cruise too. Milford Sound is unquestionably on the high of issues to do in Fiordland.
3. Take your time exploring the long-lasting Milford Highway
There are numerous methods to reach in Milford Sound, and by highway has lengthy been my favourite. New Zealand has no scarcity of wonderful roads, many with spectacular views. However when you’ve pushed alongside the hanging valleys and crossed via the Milford Tunnel – nowhere tops it.
Many individuals head to Milford Sound as a day journey (3.5-hour drive a method from Queenstown or 1.5 hours from Te Anau), and should you e-book the Milford Sound day trip with RealNZ, their glass roof bus stops at the very best spots on the way in which to your day cruise. Your different choice is to self-drive, which I extremely suggest.
A bit secret from me – e-book a late afternoon cruise or drive on to Milford Sound after which do all of the highway stops in your method out. The daytrippers come over within the morning, and whereas they’re staggered, you typically can have in all places to your self as soon as the afternoon hits, particularly in summer time when the solar units at 11 pm.
4. Strap on a pack and stroll the Routeburn Monitor, one in all New Zealand’s Nice Walks
I first walked the Routeburn Monitor method again when in 2016. We went the primary weekend the hut tickets dropped the value for winter, and we completely froze our butts off. Whereas it was undoubtedly spectacular, my pervading reminiscence is the chilly.
However like most of Fiordland, these freezing nonetheless nights that carry heavy frost at all times harken a brilliant and sunny, cloudless day. Although generally, it could actually take some time for the steep Fiordland valleys to obtain the daylight. However boy, once they do, it’s magic.
I not too long ago walked the Routeburn Track once more, which was even higher than I keep in mind. It’s one of many shorter Nice Walks in New Zealand, and I discover it moderately straightforward. Clocking in at 31 kilometers, most individuals stroll it in three days. You additionally get a little bit of every part as you cross from Mt. Aspiring Nationwide Park into Fiordland. The trickiest half is that the beginning and end of the Routeburn are 5 hour drive aside. I at all times use Easy Hike to relocate my automobile for me.
5. Go to the native hen sanctuary, Punanga Manu o Te Anau
Fiordland is residence to a few of our most treasured, uncommon native hen species. It’s even residence to our solely native mammal – the bat. Most of the best conservation tales in New Zealand started right here, like rediscovering the kākāpō within the Sinbad Valley or the takahē within the Murchison Mountains – each believed to be extinct.
Whereas it’s uncommon or unimaginable to see a number of the uncommon species within the wild in New Zealand (many dwell on predator-free offshore islands or reside in areas of restricted entry), Punanga Manu o Te Anau/ Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a spot the place you get the possibility to see a few of these guys up shut in a respectful method.
Operating on donations, the sanctuary is free to the general public. The birds in aviaries right here have both been injured or can’t survive within the wild, and others are a part of captive-rearing packages. The injured birds are rehabilitated and, if doable, launched again into the wild.
6. Hike as much as Lake Marian for a picnic lunch
Whereas choosing a favourite day hike in Fiordland is difficult, Lake Marian undoubtedly sits on the high of the record. She is beautiful, and it additionally helps that it’s the primary place I ever noticed our uncommon blue duck, whio, within the wild.
An hour and a half steep slog up via the dense temperate rainforest will carry you out alongside the shores of probably the most picturesque alpine lake. The views are unreal in one in all Fiordland’s most interesting (and simply accessed) hanging valleys. On a peaceful day, the mountains are sometimes mirrored completely within the water under.
It’s simpler the fitter you might be, but it surely’s steep and muddy; it’s no stroll within the park.
7. Go kayaking within the rain in Milford Sound
I’ve stated it earlier than, and I’ll say it once more: Milford Sound is magical within the pouring rain. Fiordland receives an insane quantity of rainfall per 12 months. And whereas Milford is gorgeous on a sunny day, I believe it’s even higher when it’s moody. And the very best? Pouring down with heavy rain.
Typically a whole lot of momentary waterfalls cascade down the steep mountain faces to the fiord under. The peaks drift out and in of misty clouds.
Hop on a kayak journey with legends like Rosco’s Kayaks for a paddle round Milford and pray for rain and no wind. Then you definitely’ll expertise Fiordland at its most interesting. You may as well kayak from the boat on the in a single day cruises in Fiordland with RealNZ.
8. Search for the cheeky, uncommon kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot, round Fiordland
Africa has issues with wild elephants destroying valuable farmland. Canada has grizzly bears. Australia has snakes. And New Zealand has the kea.
The one alpine parrot, the kea, calls the alpine South Island residence. And you’ve got among the best possibilities of seeing these clowns down in Fiordland. The Homer Tunnel main into Milford sits round 1000 meters above sea degree. Since kea are inclined to dwell and grasp across the alpine space, it’s a superb place to see them within the wild with out climbing mountains.
However be careful. They’re naughty and clever and can rip off the rubber round your automobile home windows and windshield wipers. They will even open your packs or throw your tramping boots off a cliff, given half the possibility. Nevertheless it’s essential to not feed them. A fed kea is a lifeless kea.
9. Hop on a scenic flight above Fiordland
If you wish to really respect the size and enormity of the landscapes in New Zealand, you must get your self on a scenic flight above Fiordland.
In case you haven’t been right here earlier than, you’ll shortly notice there aren’t loads of roads within the distant a part of the nation, and Fiordland has only some. Whereas the Milford Highway is epic and a spot you shouldn’t skip, should you’re brief on time or eager to splurge, there’s no place higher than hopping on a fixed-wing or helicopter flight to Milford Sound.
Many selected to fly to Milford Sound for his or her day journeys with RealNZ from Queenstown. You may as well do helicopter flights which I like much more than the small fastened wings. Fiordland Helicopters are actual legends, and so they function out of Te Anau with some implausible scenic flights across the space. They’ve been round for the reason that deer wars of the 60s.
10. Stroll alongside the gorgeous Kepler observe or climb as much as Luxmore Hut on a day journey
The Kepler Track is one in all New Zealand’s Nice Walks and is definitely accessed from close by Te Anau. A 60-kilometer-long loop observe and most of the people stroll it in summertime over three to 4 days. The surroundings is spectacular and assorted; you by no means get bored.
The observe begins alongside the shores of Lake Te Anau, traversing lush forest earlier than climbing up via the bush to the Fiordland peaks like Mt Luxmore. The views are spectacular in any climate. In case you solely have a day, you possibly can climb as much as Luxmore Hut and past to Mt Luxmore for some unbelievable views. It’s a fantastic spot to observe for kea however be vigilant together with your belongings.
11. Go offline and spend every week on a ship in Dusky Sound
Final summer time, I spent 5 magical days off the grid in distant Dusky Sound with Wild Fiordland; an unbelievable native group that takes visitors out on their lovely boat, the Breaksea Woman. Off the grid in a real paradise, you’ll spend your days’ kayaking, snorkeling, consuming, strolling, and exploring some of the distant corners of New Zealand.
Since Dusky Sound is mostly solely accessed by helicopter, you too can get your repair for scenic flights too. In case you’ve been to Fiordland earlier than or should you’re after an additional particular journey of a lifetime, that is the journey for you.
Since 2015, RealNZ has been engaged on a long-term venture to take away predators from Cooper Island – the third-largest island in Dusky Sound to protect it as some of the intact ecosystems on this planet.
12. Discover the long-lasting Milford swing at sundown
I’m not fairly certain when the Milford swing on the waterfront grew to become a factor, but it surely’s straightforward to see why it’s so common. It’s an epic spot with epic views and the proper place to let your hair right down to movement within the breeze for Instagram.
Dealing with straight out in the direction of the long-lasting and mighty Mitre Peak, it’s comparatively straightforward to search out. Simply stroll alongside the Forest Stroll footpath alongside the foreshore of the fiord from Freshwater Basin. Crossing the little bridge, keep on with the suitable. There’s a small opening out onto the sandy seashore space (tide pending) the place you possibly can stroll out and see the swing in your proper. It’s not marked, however you possibly can simply discover it.
It’s a type of follow-your-nose conditions, greatest visited throughout low tide. I used to be there within the summertime at sundown and had the entire place to myself, besides for about a million sandflies.
13. Search for whio, our uncommon and elusive blue duck
Whio/Blue Duck are a number of the rarest geese on this planet and are solely present in New Zealand. Fiordland is among the locations you’ve got a very good probability of seeing them within the wild. The whio (pronounced “fee-oh”) was once discovered in all places in New Zealand, and now they’re nearly gone.
There are lower than 3,000 whio left, and they’re 20 instances extra endangered than kiwi. They’re most threatened by launched animals, like weasels and cats, which might simply kill them. In truth, with out our assist, 90% of whio nests fail within the wild. RealNZ helps DOC’s Whio Blue Duck Recovery Program, particularly in Fiordland.
I noticed my very first whio within the wild on the waterfalls on the Lake Marian Monitor. Generally known as the white water rafting duck, whio love to hang around in fast-moving mountain rivers.
14. Go botanizing within the Borland Valley
Clicking in at 1.2 million hectares, Fiordland is big, and most of it’s inaccessible besides by helicopter, boat, or our personal two toes. However the Borland Valley is among the few areas with highway entry, although it’s not at all times for the faint of coronary heart. Unsealed, slender, and steep, it’s not really useful for campervans, and 4WD is normally the very best. The highway was constructed to take care of the facility traces to the West Arm Energy Station in Manapōuri.
Nevertheless it’s the biodiversity of this a part of Fiordland that’s magnificent! Highway entry as much as nearly 1,000 meters makes this distinctive alpine setting way more accessible than others in Fiordland. It’s additionally residence to some of the botanically numerous alpine environments in New Zealand.
Whereas this a part of Fiordland perhaps doesn’t get as a lot consideration because the flashier Milford Sound, I discover it equally, if no more, lovely and thrilling.
15. Climb Gertrude Saddle and search for rock wren
Considered one of my favourite day hikes in New Zealand is the long-lasting Gertrude Saddle, which leads you to the saddle of the Gertrude Valley, trying down into Milford Sound. The view is epic, but it surely’s a difficult tramping observe. There have been many accidents and deaths on this observe over time.
You need to climb up, generally with chains, and stroll on substantial rock slabs which are slippery in something however dry climate. It’s additionally comparatively straightforward to overlook a path marker and get bluffed out, leading to fatalities. Lastly, it traverses many avalanche chutes, so it shouldn’t be tried in winter.
However should you’re a assured hiker with a head for heights., there’s nothing higher than the Gertrude Saddle route. And together with the views, it’s additionally a implausible place to search for the uncommon rock wren/tuke, our solely true alpine hen (kea nest within the bush).
16. Dive beneath the waters of Fiordland in search of black coral
Scuba diving is one in all my favourite journey spots, and I’ve dived in lots of locations around the globe, all of which had been tropical. However after listening to about how implausible diving in Fiordland was, I knew I needed to get down right here. I additionally knew it will be about as removed from tropical as I might presumably get.
Fiordland’s underwater habitat is extremely distinctive. Residence to the uncommon black coral, crayfish, fur seals, and greater than 150 fish species. Due to its insane quantity of annual rainfall, Fiordland has a phenomenon the place a couple of meters of freshwater sits on the floor of the saltwater, darkened by the tannins of the forest because it tips right down to the fiord. This darkish freshwater layer permits deep-dwelling black coral (white, go determine) to dwell close to the floor.
Diving with Descend Diving in Milford will carry you to some of the outstanding dive websites.
What did I miss? Share your favourite issues to do in Fiordland – I’m eager to listen to. Remark under!