Fiordland National Park

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Curated By

Jasmine Jackson

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  • Nature Escapes

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • New Zealand

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  • National Park

  • Relaxation

Fiordland National Park
Curator’s statement

Nestled in the rugged embrace of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park has emerged as a timeless symphony of nature, resonating with the echoes of ancient glaciers that have meticulously sculpted fjords, rainforests, and towering peaks. In the Māori language, Fiordland National Park assumes the native name "Te Moana o Atawhenua," translating to "The Fiords of the Wilderness" or "The Sea of the Standing Waters.” It’s a name that evokes the vast reflections you’ll see in the glass-like waters there. While Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, both majestic fjords, are the crown jewels of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, don’t miss the other wonderful treasures hidden in this land of over 800 waterfalls.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay

Matakauri Lodge

Matakauri Lodge offers luxury lodge accommodation in Queenstown and overlooks a mesmerizing panorama.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

  • $100 food / beverage or spa credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Eichardt's Private Hotel

Absolutely stunning premium lakefront hotel in the heart of Queenstown — perfect for a wedding.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Blanket Bay

With its breathtaking mountain views, pristine lakefront and elegant accommodations, this retreat offers a perfect escape for those seeking tranquility and adventure.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Unlock perks by contacting Jasmine to book your trip.

About

Fiordland National Park, as part of Te Wahipounamu, proudly wears the UNESCO World Heritage Site crown—a badge of honor that speaks volumes about its natural brilliance. Visitors to Fiordland can explore its wilderness through hiking trails, boat cruises, and various other outdoor activities. The park is a vibrant sanctuary for wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and unique bird species.  In this remote haven, where untouched horizons meet pristine landscapes, Fiordland National Park welcomes all visitors to an exhilarating wilderness experience like no other!

Activities

Immersing in Nature

Within Fiordland's captivating embrace, visitors have the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities, each allowing for an intimate connection with the park's stunning surroundings:

  • Hiking: Traverse well-known trails like the Milford Track, Kepler Track, or Routeburn Track, where diverse landscapes and challenges await, providing a deeper understanding of Fiordland's natural beauty.

  • Boat Cruises: Embark on boat cruises to witness the grandeur of fjords like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. These cruises offer glimpses of wildlife and the spectacle of cascading waterfalls.

  • Kayaking: Paddle through serene waters, exploring fjords or the park's lakes by kayak—a tranquil way to connect with the natural surroundings.

  • Wildlife Watching: Join wildlife watching tours to observe seals, dolphins, and native birds in their undisturbed habitat.

  • Scenic Flights: Soar above Fiordland with scenic flights, capturing breathtaking aerial views of mountains, fjords, and lakes.

  • Fishing: Engage in fishing activities in designated areas, surrounded by the tranquility of Fiordland's landscapes.

  • Stargazing: As a designated Dark Sky Sanctuary, Fiordland National Park offers unparalleled stargazing opportunities. The lack of light pollution provides clear views of the night sky.

Thrilling Adventures in Fiordland:

For adventurous souls, Fiordland National Park offers a range of thrilling activities:

  • Diving in Doubtful Sound: Plunge into the underwater wonders of Doubtful Sound, discovering unique marine life and submerged fiord landscapes that unveil a world beneath the surface.

  • Sea Kayaking: Paddle through the fjords, exploring hidden coves and getting up close to cascading waterfalls. Overnight kayaking trips offer a more immersive experience.

  • Heli-Hiking: Elevate your adventure with heli-hiking. Access remote and untouched areas by helicopter, then embark on a guided hiking adventure in the alpine wilderness—a journey into the heart of untouched landscapes.

  • Fiordland Canyoning: For the ultimate adrenaline rush, descend into pristine canyons, navigating through waterfalls, pools, and natural rock formations. Fiordland canyoning is an exhilarating experience that puts you in direct contact with the park's raw energy.

  • Backcountry Skiing: In winter, when Fiordland's landscapes are draped in snow, adventurous souls can partake in backcountry skiing and snowboarding. The stunning alpine terrain becomes a canvas for winter enthusiasts seeking an adrenaline-fueled descent.

  • Fiordland Horse Trekking: Saddle up for a unique adventure! Explore Fiordland's trails on horseback, gaining a unique perspective of the landscape while embracing a sense of adventure.

  • Fiordland Jet Boating: Combine exhilaration with stunning scenery as you experience high-speed jet boating on Fiordland's rivers. This adventure seamlessly blends adrenaline-pumping moments with the natural beauty that surrounds you.

  • Rock Climbing: Climbing enthusiasts will find their calling amidst Fiordland's rugged terrain. Explore challenging rock faces and cliffs, embracing the thrill of conquering nature's vertical landscapes.

Indulgent Experiences: Relaxation Amidst Natural Beauty

For those seeking a more leisurely or luxurious exploration, Fiordland National Park caters to diverse interests:

  • Luxury Lodges: Choose to stay in upscale lodges that blend comfort with stunning views. Some lodges offer spa services, gourmet dining, and exclusive amenities.

  • Scenic Cruises: Opt for leisurely cruises on the fjords, where relaxation on deck, gourmet meals, and breathtaking scenery define the experience.

  • Helicopter Tours: Elevate your adventure with helicopter tours, offering a luxurious and scenic exploration of Fiordland's remote corners without the trekking.

  • Fine Dining: Indulge in gourmet dining experiences offered by lodges and accommodations, allowing you to savor delicious cuisine amidst the park's natural beauty. Rata in Queenstown or Kepler Restaurant in Te Anna

  • Hot Springs: Unwind in hot springs, providing a soothing experience amidst the wilderness. There are no springs inside the park, but there are many in the surrounding towns where you might make your home base. Hot Tubs Fiordland in Te Anau, provides private hot tubs with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

  • Private Guided Tours: Customize your exploration with private guided tours, ensuring a personalized and luxurious encounter with Fiordland's stunning landscapes.

For more personalized recommendations tailored to your preferences and interests, feel free to reach out to me, your dedicated travel advisor! I'm here to make your Fiordland National Park experience truly unforgettable.

Must-See Sites

Check out these must-see wonders:

  • Milford Sound: Brace yourself for the jaw-dropping beauty of this fjord. Hop on a boat cruise or take to the skies for breathtaking views of cliffs, waterfalls, and reflections.

  • Doubtful Sound: Dive into the tranquility of another stunning fjord. Consider a cruise to soak up the serenity and spot some captivating wildlife.

  • Milford Track: Lace up your boots and tackle one of New Zealand's Great Walks. Traverse diverse landscapes, from rainforests to alpine meadows.

  • Sutherland Falls: Hike your way to the grandeur of one of New Zealand's tallest waterfalls, nestled in a remote and pristine setting.

  • Key Summit: Take a short hike for panoramic views, offering a delightful taste of Fiordland's alpine beauty.

  • Lake Te Anau: Lose yourself in the scenic views of New Zealand's second-largest lake. Opt for a boat cruise or a leisurely stroll along its shores.

  • Routeburn Track: Immerse yourself in stunning alpine scenery on another Great Walk, with Routeburn Falls stealing the spotlight.

  • Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre: Kick off your adventure by delving into the region's ecology, geology, and history at this informative center.

Be sure to make time to veer off the traditional tourist trail a bit and explore these hidden gems in Fiordland:

  • Homer Tunnel Viewpoint: Marvel at sheer cliffs and peaks from this stunning viewpoint near the Homer Tunnel.

  • Lake Manapouri: Discover tranquility and scenic beauty in this lesser-explored lake, offering boat cruises and serene surroundings.

  • Gertrude Saddle: Conquer a challenging but rewarding hike for panoramic views of mountains, valleys, and lakes.

  • Dusky Track: Escape the crowds on this less-traveled hiking trail, revealing remote wilderness and diverse landscapes.

  • Lake Marian: Uncover a hidden gem through a scenic walk, surrounded by lush rainforest and providing a serene escape.

  • Greenstone and Caples Tracks: Enjoy quieter Great Walks with beautiful river valleys and beech forest.

  • McCracken's Rest: Capture breathtaking views of Fiordland mountains and valleys at this roadside stop.

  • Ivon Wilson Park: Experience peaceful walks along Lake Te Anau's waterfront in Te Anau, offering a different perspective of the lake.

These hidden gems promise a more secluded and intimate experience, allowing you to truly connect with the untamed beauty of Fiordland.

When to Visit

Choosing the perfect time to experience Fiordland National Park is all about aligning with your interests and desired activities. Generally, the austral spring and summer months (September to February) are favored by most visitors. Your ideal time to visit depends on whether you seek the vibrancy of summer, the tranquility of autumn, or the serene beauty of winter landscapes. Here's a breakdown of each season:

Spring (September to November):

  • Embrace mild temperatures and witness blooming flora.

  • Encounter young wildlife; playful seal pups are often visible.

  • Enjoy the tranquility with fewer crowds compared to the bustling summer months.

Summer (December to February):

  • Warmest temperatures, making it ideal for outdoor adventures.

  • Lively peak tourist season

  • Opportunities for boating, hiking, and wildlife spotting.

Autumn (March to May):

  • Cooler temperatures and fewer crowds than summer.

  • Beautiful fall foliage.

  • Ideal for hiking and savoring the changing landscapes at a leisurely pace.

Winter (June to August):

  • Cooler temperatures and the magic of snowfall in higher elevations.

  • Quieter period with fewer fellow explorers around.

  • Keep in mind that some hiking trails may have limited accessibility due to snow.

Keep in mind that Fiordland National Park has a temperate maritime climate, and weather conditions can change rapidly. It's essential to be prepared for varied weather, including rain, and to check local forecasts.

Where to Fly Into: Gateway Airports to Fiordland

Fiordland National Park doesn't have its own airport. Travelers typically fly into nearby airports, with the following options:

  • Queenstown Airport (ZQN):

    • The closest major airport to Te Anau, situated approximately 2.5 to 3 hours away by road.

    • Well-connected with both domestic and international flights.

    • A popular choice for its larger size and better connectivity.

  • Invercargill Airport (IVC):

    • Another option, about 2.5 to 3 hours away from Te Anau by road.

    • A smaller regional airport primarily serving domestic flights.

Sutherland Falls - samuel-ferrara

When deciding on your arrival airport, consider your travel plans, flight availability, and transportation preferences. Queenstown Airport often offers a convenient and well-connected entry point to begin your Fiordland adventure.

Need to Know

When it comes to where you'll rest your head in Fiordland National Park, you've got choices as diverse as the landscapes. Accommodations here cater to every taste, from camping under starlit yurts to basking in 5-star resort opulence or finding solace in a private rental. It's important to note that accommodations within the park are limited, making beautiful surrounding towns ideal alternatives for a stay. For an extra dash of magic, consider spending a night on the fjords themselves. Picture yourself aboard a cruise ship, sailing through the serene waters under the night sky. And if you're contemplating a grander New Zealand tour, Fiordland is your southern entry (or exit) within the vast Te Wahipounamu experience. To make sure your dream trip becomes a reality, give me a shout early, and let's lock in your journey to your new favorite place in Fiordland!

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to New Zealand. In need of further inspiration? Check out Mia McGraw Figueroa’s trip report, Bay of Islands, New Zealand: A Journey Through History, Culture, and Seaside Splendor.

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Travel Advisor

Jasmine Jackson

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