Fiordland is a World Heritage Area and the largest National Park
in New Zealand. The Park covers 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million
acres) and has natural wilderness on a grand scale, where
waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres into pristine, forested
valleys, and glacier-carved fiords indent its coastal boundaries.
The Milford and Doubtful Sounds provide visitors with unequalled
experiences of the natural beauty and wilderness of New Zealand. Te
Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park and is a 2 hour
45 minute drive south-west of Queenstown. It is a progressive and
attractive holiday resort on the shores of the South Island's
largest lake, Lake Te Anau. Lake Manapouri and Manapouri township
is a 20 minute drive from Te Anau and is the departure point for
Recognition of the outstanding natural values of the area was
granted by UNESCO in December 1990, with the formation of the
Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. This area incorporates
Mt Cook, Westland, Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks, and
covers 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) or 10 percent of
New Zealand's land area.
Vast, remote and isolated, Fiordland is an incomparable
wilderness of calm lakes, majestic, snow-laden peaks, dense forests
and steep-sided fiords. The variety of habitats in Fiordland allow
diverse flora and fauna to thrive and its isolation has encouraged
endemism - over 700 plants are found only in Fiordland and it is,
or has been, home to a diverse range of bird species.
In the 1960s and 70s Fiordland was the scene of one of New
Zealand's most important conservation battles: that of raising the
water level of Lake Manapouri. The hydroelectricity industry was,
in the end, prevented from raising the level of the Lake and it
remains one of the Park's scenic highlights.
There are many short walks available in the Park. The first part of
some of the more extensive track systems (such as the Manapouri end
of the Kepler Track) make enjoyable short walks or day trips.
Contact the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre for other
options. While most people know about the famous Milford Track,
there are many other options for longer trips into the back
country. Visitors can choose to walk independently (freedom
walkers) or join a guided excursion. Freedom walkers carry their
own gear and need to purchase hut passes, and if walking the
Milford Track and Routeburn track they need to book themselves onto
the track in advance
The most famous and accessible of the grand, glacially carved
fiords along the South Island's lower western coast. Mitre Peak is
the jewel of the Sound with its steep sides rising up from the
depths of the fiord. In recognition of the very special nature of
the Milford Sound marine environment, one entire area of the fiord
has been designated a marine reserve, named the Piopiotahi Reserve.
This status preserves Milford Sound's remarkable marine
communities. Visitors can access Milford Sound in a number of ways:
The road to Milford is a wonderful alpine drive. From Te Anau the
road winds through the Eglington and Hollyford Valleys, then
through the Homer Tunnel before being greeted by Mitre Peak
towering from the glassy waters of Milford Sound.
The deepest of all the fiords, Doubtful Sound has ancient
rainforest and abundant wildlife. Virtually untouched by man, the
Sound is a wonderful place to visit. Captain James Cook sighted the
entrance to Doubtful Sound on his first voyage to New Zealand in
1770. He called the place Doubtful Harbor. Today one of the most
popular of all Fiordland excursions is the return one-day trip from
Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Modern launches leave Pearl Harbour at
Manapouri (20 minutes from Te Anau) and cross Lake Manapouri to
West Arm, where visitors can see the underground power station
before heading over Wilmot Pass and on to Doubtful Sound.
Increasingly popular with visitors to Fiordland are overnight
cruises on Doubtful Sound, ranging from one to multiple nights.