My high 16 issues to do in Fiordland for an unforgettable journey
Fiordland is magic. Usually 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 folks too.
Fiordland has earned her fame time and again.
Whereas I’ve shared lots of my Fiordland adventures through the years, 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 perfect of the perfect.
1. Spend the night time on the water in Uncertain Sound
I’ve completed 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 nasty 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 through the years, as soon as in winter and as soon as in summer time, they usually have 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 non permanent waterfalls tumbling down the mountains, which didn’t appear actual.
Uncertain Sound has a singular story. It was the place of one in every of New Zealand’s first vital conservation rulings. Within the 1960’s it was proposed the increase 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 Go, New Zealand’s most costly highway, which connects Lake Manapouri to Uncertain Sound for the ability 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 straight, 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 surprise with towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and implausible wildlife.
You’ll undoubtedly see fur seals; if fortunate, you may 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 completely recognize 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 enduring Milford Highway
There are various methods to reach in Milford Sound, and by highway has lengthy been my favourite. New Zealand has no scarcity of fantastic roads, many with spectacular views. However when you’ve pushed alongside the hanging valleys and crossed by the Milford Tunnel – nowhere tops it.
Many individuals head to Milford Sound as a day journey (3.5-hour drive a technique from Queenstown or 1.5 hours from Te Anau), and if you happen to ebook the Milford Sound day trip with RealNZ, their glass roof bus stops at the perfect spots on the way in which to your day cruise. Your different choice is to self-drive, which I extremely advocate.
Just a little secret from me – ebook 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 usually could have in every single place 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 every of 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 worth 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 convey heavy frost all the time harken a vivid and sunny, cloudless day. Although typically, it could possibly 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 simple. Clocking in at 31 kilometers, most individuals stroll it in three days. You additionally get a little bit of the whole lot 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 all the time use Easy Hike to relocate my automotive for me.
5. Go to the native chook sanctuary, Punanga Manu o Te Anau
Fiordland is residence to a few of our most treasured, uncommon native chook 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 inconceivable to see a number of the uncommon species within the wild in New Zealand (many reside 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.
Working on donations, the sanctuary is free to the general public. The birds in aviaries right here have both been injured or can not survive within the wild, and others are a part of captive-rearing applications. The injured birds are rehabilitated and, if potential, launched again into the wild.
6. Hike as much as Lake Marian for a picnic lunch
Whereas selecting a favourite day hike in Fiordland is tough, 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 by the dense temperate rainforest will convey you out alongside the shores of probably the most picturesque alpine lake. The views are unreal in one in every of 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’re, nevertheless it’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 feel it’s even higher when it’s moody. And the perfect? Pouring down with heavy rain.
Usually lots of of non permanent 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 definately’ll expertise Fiordland at its most interesting. You too can 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 treasured 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 probabilities of seeing these clowns down in Fiordland. The Homer Tunnel main into Milford sits round 1000 meters above sea stage. Since kea are inclined to reside and dangle across the alpine space, it’s a wonderful 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 automotive 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 actually recognize the size and enormity of the landscapes in New Zealand, it is advisable to get your self on a scenic flight above Fiordland.
If you happen to haven’t been right here earlier than, you’ll rapidly notice there aren’t plenty 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, if you happen to’re quick 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 too can do helicopter flights which I really like much more than the small mounted wings. Fiordland Helicopters are actual legends, they usually 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 monitor or climb as much as Luxmore Hut on a day journey
The Kepler Track is one in every of New Zealand’s Nice Walks and is definitely accessed from close by Te Anau. A 60-kilometer-long loop monitor and most of the people stroll it in summertime over three to 4 days. The surroundings is spectacular and various; you by no means get bored.
The monitor begins alongside the shores of Lake Te Anau, traversing lush forest earlier than climbing up by the bush to the Fiordland peaks like Mt Luxmore. The views are spectacular in any climate. If you happen to solely have a day, you’ll be able to climb as much as Luxmore Hut and past to Mt Luxmore for some unbelievable views. It’s an amazing spot to look at for kea however be vigilant together with your belongings.
11. Go offline and spend per 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 stunning 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 usually solely accessed by helicopter, you may as well get your repair for scenic flights too. If you happen to’ve been to Fiordland earlier than or if you happen to’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 challenge 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 enduring Milford swing at sundown
I’m not fairly positive when the Milford swing on the waterfront grew to become a factor, nevertheless it’s simple to see why it’s so well-liked. 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.
Going through straight out in direction of the enduring and mighty Mitre Peak, it’s comparatively simple to search out. Simply stroll alongside the Forest Stroll footpath alongside the foreshore of the fiord from Freshwater Basin. Crossing the little bridge, stick with the correct. There’s a small opening out onto the sandy seashore space (tide pending) the place you’ll be able to stroll out and see the swing in your proper. It’s not marked, however you’ll be able to simply discover it.
It’s a type of follow-your-nose conditions, finest visited throughout low tide. I used to be there within the summertime at sundown and had the entire place to myself, besides for roughly 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 likely one of the locations you could have a extremely good probability of seeing them within the wild. The whio (pronounced “fee-oh”) was discovered in every single place 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 may simply kill them. In actual fact, 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. Often called 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 likely one of the few areas with highway entry, although it’s not all the time for the faint of coronary heart. Unsealed, slender, and steep, it’s not really useful for campervans, and 4WD is often the perfect. The highway was constructed to take care of the ability strains 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 far more accessible than others in Fiordland. It’s additionally residence to some of the botanically various 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, stunning and thrilling.
15. Climb Gertrude Saddle and search for rock wren
Considered one of my favourite day hikes in New Zealand is the enduring Gertrude Saddle, which leads you to the saddle of the Gertrude Valley, trying down into Milford Sound. The view is epic, nevertheless it’s a difficult tramping monitor. There have been many accidents and deaths on this monitor through the years.
It’s a must to climb up, typically with chains, and stroll on substantial rock slabs which are slippery in something however dry climate. It’s additionally comparatively simple 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 if you happen to’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 chook (kea nest within the bush).
16. Dive beneath the waters of Fiordland searching for black coral
Scuba diving is one in every of my favourite journey spots, and I’ve dived in lots of locations around the globe, all of which have 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. House to the uncommon black coral, crayfish, fur seals, and greater than 150 fish species. Because of its insane quantity of annual rainfall, Fiordland has a phenomenon the place a number 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 reside close to the floor.
Diving with Descend Diving in Milford will convey 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!