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 Doubtful Sound.

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

Milford Sound:
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.

Doubtful 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.

 

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